How to crate train your dog in 4 steps

Learn crate training tips to ensure a positive experience for your dog.

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If you have a new puppy or dog, crate training can help them feel safe and supported in a new environment. By crate training your dog, you can also prevent unwanted accidents, as well as damage to your furniture or home fixtures. 

This guide covers everything you need to know about crate training a dog, from selecting the proper crate to crate training an older dog.  

Step 1: Choose the right crate size.

Crates come in different sizes and designs. Make sure to choose the right crate for your dog’s size. As a general rule, the crate should provide enough room for your dog to sit, stand, and lie down comfortably. But you also don’t want the crate to be too big. Otherwise, your dog may use one end to go to the potty and the other to rest and sleep. 

Extra tips: 

  • Consider renting a crate or buying second-hand if you have a growing puppy. This way, you can keep upgrading your crate while saving costs as your dog grows. 
  • You can get a crate specially designed for transport if you travel a lot. 

Step 2: Make your dog’s crate comfortable.

cosy dog crate with blankets

A crate is not just a cage to put your dog in; It also serves as your dog’s sanctuary, and you want to make sure they don’t feel endangered or stressed when they’re inside. 

You can put your dog’s bed in the crate, as well as blankets, a cushion, or their favourite toy. Also, you can put in an old t-shirt or any object that smells like you to give your dog a sense of comfort and security. 

Step 3: Introduce crate time. 

Place the crate in a place your dog finds safe and secure. If your dog enjoys napping in the kitchen, for example, then you can put the crate in there. When crate training overnight, you can place the crate in your bedroom to ease your dog’s anxiety and keep them from wandering off at night. 

  • Call your dog to the crate and use a friendly, excited voice. You can drop treats or even let your dog eat their meals inside the crate. Doing this can reinforce a positive experience for your dog. 
  • Be patient. Allow some time for your dog to get used to the crate. Crate training can take a few weeks, depending on the dog’s temperament and age. 

corgi puppy inside crate

Try these steps when crate training a rescue dog:

  • Call your dog to the crate and reward them with a treat once they enter. 
  • Praise your dog and close the crate.
  • Sit next to the crate quietly for a minute or two.
  • Go into another room and leave your dog in the crate for about five to 10 minutes.
  • After a while, come back, unlock the crate, and let your dog out.
  • Praise your dog and give them a treat as well, so they feel rewarded for the experience. 

Crate training dos and don’ts 

Never yell at or scold your dog if they whine while in the crate. Instead, calmly ignore your dog until the whining stops. 

Whenever your dog whines, you’ll have to make a judgement call: Is your dog whining to make you let them out or to go to the potty? 

  • If it’s the former, letting them out too soon won’t give your dog enough time to get acclimated to the crate. 
  • If your dog needs to go to the potty, let them out. Regular potty breaks, stretching time, and socialising are essential. 

Step 4: Slowly increase crate time. 

Once your dog is fine with staying in its crate for up to 10 minutes, you can increase the crate training time to 30 minutes or longer. Keep in mind that dogs are social, and isolating them for too long can negatively impact their health and well-being. 

German Shepherd inside a fabric dog crate in trunk of car

If you plan to use the crate when driving or travelling, you can crate train your dog for car rides.

  • Encourage your dog to enter the crate when you’re in the car. 
  • Drive around for a few minutes or bring your dog to a happy place like the park or beach before driving back home.

Putting your dog in the crate only when you go to the vet or anywhere unpleasant can upset your dog and make them anxious about the crate. 

ultimate guide to dog care Also read: Your Ultimate Guide to Dog Care – Everything you need to know about caring for a dog, from grooming to training 

Crate mindfully and stay open to alternatives. 

Every dog is different, and crate training may not work for every dog and pet owner. Some dogs come to love their crate and rest in it even with the door open. But some dogs are anxious in nature and would always feel miserable in a crate. 

In case of the latter, consider other options like a pet sitter or doggy day care. Make sure to find professionals who know how to work with your dog’s temperament. 

You might also like: 25 Dog fence ideas for indoors and outdoors 

Not quite sure if crate training is right for your dog, or do you need some expert advice on how to go about training? Get in touch with local dog trainers by posting a task on Airtasker. 

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FAQs on crate training a dog

It’s best to crate train your anxious dog while you’re at home. Your dog is likely to feel anxious about staying in the crate if you only put them there whenever you leave the house for work or errands. As much as possible, crate train your dog when you’re around and in your dog’s field of vision. This way, you can ease your dog’s separation anxiety, and they’ll feel comfortable inside the crate. 

You can crate train an older dog by doing the same steps above. If your dog is not treat-motivated, try rewarding them with lots of praise and encouragement. Also, let your dog out immediately if they panic soon after you crate them. avoid keeping your pet in the crate for too long, as senior dogs can have weak bladders and need to go more often. 

Crate training an older dog can be particularly challenging, especially since senior dogs tend to already have habits that are hard to break. Be patient and remember that crate training an older dog can take a few weeks up to a few months. 

Crate training is one way to keep your dog from doing unsafe or undesirable behaviour when they’re alone. In a way, a crate can function as sort of a babysitter if you can’t always afford a pet sitter or dog day care. What’s more, a crate can keep your dog away from rowdy children or aggressive dogs. A crate can also be a safe haven for rescue dogs recovering from injury or surgery. 

Adult dogs should not be in a crate for more than 8 hours at a time, according to Adopt-a-Pet.com. But crate time should be much shorter for older dogs and puppies, as they need more frequent potty breaks. Regardless, a dog should not spend most of their time in a crate, as dogs naturally need to be around their humans often. Long-term confinement is harmful to dogs’ health and well-being. 

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