Crate training is an effective method for tackling common doggy issues like pottying in the house and separation anxiety. Crate training — like any type of training — takes time. Many new pet parents wonder, "How long will it take to crate train my dog?" The answer to this question isn't a straightforward one since training length depends on many factors.
Age, history, and past experiences all play a part in how quickly a dog takes to their crate. Young dogs tend to pick up on crate training faster than old dogs who are set in their ways. Rescues with a history of neglect or abuse may fear the crate and require extra patience from their pet parents.
So, where should a pet parent begin, and how long does crate training usually take? Read on for the answers to these questions and tips to help you stay sane throughout the crate training process.
The first step in crate training is to introduce the crate the right way. When you set the crate up, load it with blankets, pillows, and toys to make your dog feel comfortable. If you can, place the crate in a high-traffic area of your home, like the living room, so your dog won't feel alone. Remove the top or leave the door open to the crate so your dog can explore it as they please.
Praise and treat your dog every time they show interest in the crate, even if it's just looking at or sniffing the crate. Put treats inside the crate if your dog seems uninterested. The more positive associations you create, the more your dog will want to interact with the kennel. Never force your dog inside the crate since this can make them fearful of it and not want to use it at all.
The introductory phase will usually take between 2 and 7 days.
The next step will take a little longer, usually about 1 to 2 weeks. Begin feeding your dog all their meals in the crate and leave the door open while they eat.
If your dog is uninterested or fearful of entering the crate, try feeding them just outside the crate door and gradually move the food bowl closer until it's barely inside the crate. Eventually, your dog will begin to associate food with the crate and be more willing to interact with it.
Continue moving the food bowl further and further into the crate until it's at the back wall of the crate. Once your dog is comfortable eating in the back of the crate, begin closing the door while they eat. Do not lock Fido in the crate while they eat, and make sure to let them out as soon as they finish.
Once your dog is comfortable being inside the crate for mealtimes, start increasing the amount of time they spend in the crate while you're home. Now is also a good time to start introducing cue words like "crate" or "kennel" when placing your dog inside the kennel.
Lure your dog with treats and give them gentle praise when they go inside the kennel on their own. Over time, your dog should go to the crate in anticipation of treats when you use your cue word.
Start with short periods in the crate — think 5-minute stints. Gradually add 5 minutes at a time until you work up to 30 minutes or an hour in the crate. This step should take anywhere from 7 days to 2 weeks before you move to the next step.
Now that your dog is comfortable with staying in the crate while you are home, it's time to start experimenting with short crate stays while you're away. This step will take between 1 week and several months to complete.
Tell your dog to go to the crate 15 minutes before your departure. When it's time to leave, keep the goodbyes short and sweet. Exaggerated greetings and goodbyes will only make separation anxiety worse.
Start by only leaving your dog for 30 minutes to an hour at a time and gradually work up to longer stays. Within a few weeks, your pup will be staying in their crate like an old pro!
It's important to mention that puppies can only hold their urine for 1 hour per month of life, up to 8 hours total. You should never leave your dog in a crate for longer than their bladder can handle. If you need someone to take your dog out while you’re away, consider hiring a dog walker.
Some dogs love their crates right away and sail through the crate training process with no problems. Other dogs, particularly older and rescue dogs, can take months to warm up to being crated. You should go into crate training expecting it to take two months or more.
Most dogs will adjust to their crates in no time — and that's great. But you should start crate training with the mentality that it will take some time and work on your behalf. After all, crate training is a training process, and not all dogs learn at the same speed. Eventually, your dog will realize that their crate is their safe space, and they will learn to be at peace there.
Never shove or push your dog into the crate — this will only make them scared to enter the crate in the future.
Pick a crate that is the right size for your pup. Your dog should be able to stand and turn around comfortably in its crate. Using too big of a crate will increase the likelihood that your dog has accidents in their kennel.
Do not punish your dog for pottying in their crate, but rather make sure they have time to relieve themselves immediately before and after going into the crate.
Know how long your pup can hold their bladder. If you will be gone for longer than Fido can hold it, you should find a dog walker or sitter.
Know that it can take months for some dogs to become completely comfortable with their crate.
For some dogs, crate training seems to take forever, whereas other dogs take to it right away. One thing is for certain — crate training is possible with time and patience. Remember, take crate training in baby steps so as not to overwhelm your dog. Pick the right crate for your dog's size to minimize the chances of accidents. Never force or punish your dog to get them to interact with the crate. Most of all, just be patient with your dog as they learn to love their crate.