Think about your favorite place in your home—your bedroom, living room, basement or even your garage or shed. It’s your happy place; you feel comfortable, relaxed and can unwind from the things in your life that stress you out.
That’s what a crate is designed to be for your dog. When your dog has been properly trained, they enjoy being in their crate and understand it as their safe space. Proper crate training also offers multiple practical benefits for you and your dog, but doing it the right way requires two important things: patience and time.
To help dog owners better understand the what, why, when and how of proper crate training, we’ve answered a collection of the most frequently asked questions.
Why should I crate train my dog?
Dogs are den animals, so they naturally crave the type of space and environment that a crate creates for them. Rather than being a place of confinement, a crate becomes part of a dog’s everyday life and somewhere they want to be.
Crate training also provides a number of practical benefits.
What are the benefits of crate training?
A crate is a multi-faceted training tool. It’s beneficial in several ways and can have a positive impact on the lives of you and your dog, helping you both to build a better relationship.
Here are five benefits to kennel training:
1. Safety and security in the home — When you’re not home, a crate keeps your dog safe and ensures they won’t do any damage to your home or other property.
2. Easiest way to potty train — Using a crate will help to establish the repetition or pattern a puppy needs to be properly potty trained.
3. Helps establish boundaries — Like with potty training, a crate is the easiest way to teach your dog boundaries within the home.
4. Works as a management tool — A crate can be a valuable tool to keep your dog out of situations where they could exhibit problem behaviors, such as jumping up or barking.
5. Helpful for traveling – If you need to travel with your dog, whether for a trip to the vet or in an emergency, crate training will help make transportation safer and easier.
Does crate training help with separation anxiety?
Crate training alone won’t fix a dog’s separation anxiety, but using a crate can be a big help in managing it. It gives the owner the ability to take control of their dog’s environment when they’re not home.
In many separation anxiety cases, a dog arrives at a new home and has too much room to roam, which leads to the anxiety. In more severe cases, this anxiety can lead to a dog showing damaging or dangerous behaviors that can potentially lead to injuries. Giving the dog one small spot that’s theirs will help establish a boundary that helps reduce a dog’s anxiety and ensures they’re safe when no one is home.
Think about it like this: if a parent gets home at night and discovers their child has snuck out of the house, they are struck with a feeling or anxiety—a fear of the unknown. A dog’s feeling of anxiety is kind of like that. If a dog is given a lot of space in a home, it’s just too much for them. A crate shrinks that space down to a positive place where only good things happen, reducing their anxiety.
Are there any cons to crate training?
Unfortunately, there are some common misconceptions about crate training that are worth addressing here. Firstly, as mentioned above, when done properly, crate training is not cruel or inhumane. Rather than being a place of confinement, a crate should be a dog’s safe space. Secondly, teaching your dog to go in a crate does not lead to anti-social behavior. Dogs want to have their own place and kennel training can work as a tool to improve problem behaviors.
While it has numerous benefits, crate training can be difficult if it’s done with a crate that doesn’t fit your dog’s needs. It’s important that you do the research necessary to get the right crate for your dog. For advice on what kind of crates are the best options for your dog, speak to a balanced dog trainer like those at Koru K9.
How big should a dog’s crate be?
Like the type of crate you use, the size of your dog’s crate is important.
As a rule of thumb, your dog should be able to stand up comfortably, turn around and lay down in the crate. However, it’s pivotal your dog’s crate isn’t too big—especially during a puppy’s potting training stage, when they can go to the other side of the crate to do their business then return to the clean side of the crate if it’s not the right size.
When should I start crate training my dog?
As with any type of dog training, it’s preferable to start crate training as a puppy when your dog has a clean slate. Crate training can be a simple process but it’s not a quick process—it takes time and patience—so puppies are the easiest to crate train because there aren’t any behaviors established yet.
For puppies, crate training is also the easiest way to work on potty training because it helps to build up duration and establishes a pattern of repetition. If you leave your puppy free to roam around the house at night, then it’s very likely they’ll pee or poop somewhere. If you keep them in their crate overnight and take them outside immediately in the morning, it not only ensures they won’t go to the bathroom in the house but establishes the pattern or daily routine of coming out of their crate and going outside to pee and poop.
We also recommend leaving your puppy’s crate in their exercise pen and keeping the crate door open. That way, you can throw kibbles or treats into the back of the crate and, as they come and go as they please, they learn the crate is a safe space for them.
While it’s ideal to crate train as a puppy, it’s also important to note that even if you have an older rescue dog, it’s beneficial to work on crate training. It’s good for dogs of all ages.
How do I crate train my dog?
Before we dive into the how-to of crate training, make sure you keep two things in mind while you work on your training: don’t force your dog into the crate and let your dog dictate the pace of training. Don’t move too fast and remember that proper kennel training will require your time and your patience.
Here’s how to crate train your dog through a series of training sessions:
Use Food to Begin Training
Using a piece of kibble, lure your dog inside of the crate—right to the back so they’re going fully into the crate. Leave the door open so that once they’ve gotten the kibble, they come back out of the crate. Repeat this training session over a period of a couple of days until your dog is comfortable.
Introduce a Closed Door
Repeat the training session above but begin to briefly close the door while they’re inside retrieving the kibble. Lure the dog in, close the door briefly, open the door, allow the dog to leave the crate. Repeat that session over a period of a couple of days until your dog is comfortable.
Teach Control and Calm
We want to teach the dog to come out of the crate under control and calm, so next you should work on having them pause at the crate’s threshold. Teach them to pause at the threshold, then when they come out, they get a kibble. Lure them back into the crate and give them another treat. Repeat this session as needed.
Build Up Duration
Usually at this point, your dog will be going in and out of the crate by themself, offering the behavior because you’re rewarding them every step of the way.
As you continue to work on the training, start to build up duration. As you build duration, you can start to leave your dog in the crate for longer periods of time. Start with shorter time periods and build up slowly.
Along with time and patience, proper crate training requires a lot of work. If you’re unable to commit to what it takes to correctly crate train your dog, a balanced trainer like those at Koru K9 can help you get your dog where you want them with crate training and beyond.
How long can I leave my dog in their crate?
It depends on the age of your dog. With puppies, you don’t want to leave them in for too long but determining exactly how long hinges on how well potty training is going. For an adult dog that is fully crate trained and potty trained, an eight-hour workday in a crate is OK. However, if you’re working 12–16-hour days, it’s worth looking into dog sitters or dog walkers.
Before leaving your dog in a crate for any extended period, make sure to take them out for a solid walk, to the bathroom and ensure that they’re fed. Once you return home, calmly take them out of their crate and for a walk, a bathroom break and a feeding.
How do I stop my dog from crying during crate training?
First of all, never take your dog out of their crate when they’re crying. If you let them out when they’re exhibiting unwanted behaviors, your dog is going to think they’re behavior worked and is more likely to repeat it.
If your dog is crying or showing any signs of discomfort in their crate during training, it’s often a result of moving too quickly with their training and it’s time to take a step or two back. So, slow down and go back to earlier training steps to make sure your dog is comfortable with their crate.
When is the best time to stop crate training?
As with most training, it depends on the dog. If you’ve done all the proper crate and potty training as a puppy and they’re not showing any behavior issues, a seven-to-eight-month-old dog can be allowed to roam free during the night. However, if there are any behavior or potty-training issues, we recommend keeping the dog in their crate throughout the night.
Generally, it’s beneficial to make sure your dog is always crate trained and it should never be “stopped” completely. If your dog ever must go in a crate for an emergency reason, you want them to be familiar with going in and out of it calmly and safely.
Is putting my dog in their crate an effective punishment?
The short answer is no. At Koru K9, we never advise dog owners to use the crate as a punishment tool. The crate should be a great place to go—a safe and fun space.
If the crate is used as punishment, there can be instances when the dog will begin to see the crate as a bad place to be. If an owner is angry and puts their dog in a crate to discipline them, the dog can pick up on that energy and a type of avoidance can develop over time.