How to crate train a dog in 5 simple steps

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Crate training encourages proper behaviour in a new puppy or dog. A crate can help your dog feel safe and supported in a new environment. What’s more, a crate prevents unwanted accidents and furniture damage from an energetic and teething puppy! 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to crate training your dog, from choosing the crate type to crate training an older dog. 

How to crate train your dog 

Step 1: Choose a suitable crate for your dog.

Crates come in different sizes, shapes, and designs. Make sure to select the right crate for your dog’s size and breed. 

  • Measure your dog’s length from the tip of their nose to the base of their tail when standing.

  • Measure your dog’s height from the top of their head to the floor when they’re sitting. 

  • Add four inches to these measurements to get an appropriate size for the crate. Remember: The crate should serve as a safe space for your dog, with enough room to sit, stand, and lie comfortably. 

empty metal dog crate

You can choose from wire crates, plastic crates, soft-sided crates, and wooden crates. Be sure that the crate has enough ventilation. If you travel a lot, consider purchasing a travel dog crate specially designed for flying or driving long distances. 

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 your dog to the crate.

When you have everything set up, you can now introduce your dog to the crate. 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 there. Or, if you don’t mind, you can place the crate in your room so your dog feels close to you as you start crate training. 

corgi puppy inside crate

Follow these steps when introducing your dog to the crate: 

  • Bring your dog to the crate and use a friendly, excited voice. 
  • To reinforce a positive experience, you can drop treats or even let your dog eat their meals inside the crate. These tricks can help your dog get more comfortable with the crate.

Getting your dog used to the crate takes a lot of patience, and it may take a while before your dog starts feeling at ease. This step can take a few days or up to a few weeks, depending on your fur baby’s disposition, personality, and temperament. 

Step 4: Encourage your dog to stay in the crate.

Once your dog feels safe and comfy in the crate, you can train them to stay in it for a longer period. 

  • Call your dog to the crate and reward them with a treat once they enter. Afterwards, 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. Make sure not to leave your dog any longer, as this can make them feel anxious or upset. 
  • After 10 minutes, come back, unlock the crate, and let your dog out. 
  • Praise your dog and give them a treat so they feel rewarded for the experience. 

If your dog cries or whines in the crate, avoid yelling at them. Calmly ignore your dog until the whining stops. 

Step 5: Crate your dog. 

German Shepherd dog in crate

Once your dog is fine with staying in its crate for up to 10 minutes, you can try increasing the crate time to 30 minutes or longer. One way to do this is to encourage your dog to sleep in their crate overnight. This is more achievable if you place the crate in your bedroom or the hallway next to your bedroom door. Bear in mind that dogs (especially young puppies) are social animals, and isolating them entirely in another room might make them feel afraid. 

German Shepherd inside a fabric dog crate in trunk of car

If you plan to use the crate when driving or travelling, you can also put the crate in your car sometimes. 

  • 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. 

More tips for crate training your dog 

It’s best to practice crating your dog when you’re at home. Suppose they associate the experience with you leaving (say, you always crate your dog right before you leave for work or for errands). In that case, your dog might feel anxious when you call them to enter the crate. Let your dog stay in the crate when you’re at home while you’re in their field of vision. This way, you can ease your dog’s separation anxiety, and they’ll feel more satisfied and safe. 

How to crate train an older dog 

You can crate train an adult dog by following the steps above. If your dog is not treat-motivated, use a lot of praise to encourage them to enter and stay in the crate. If your older dog panics when you leave them in the crate for a bit, let them out immediately. 

Crate training an older dog can be particularly challenging, especially since they’ve had many years to learn particular habits. Be patient and remember that crate training an older dog can take a few weeks up to a few months. Senior dogs, however, should not be kept in their crate too long as they may have weak bladders and special needs that require immediate attention. 

The benefits of crate training a dog

If you have a new puppy, crate training is essential to housebreak them properly. Crates can also help puppies feel safe and provide them with a designated place to play or rest. What’s more, crate training ensures that your pooch stays safe when you’re travelling, whether you’re in a car, on a plane, or on a boat. If your dog falls ill or is injured, their crate can be a place for them to destress and recover. 

What to do if you don’t have time to watch your dog 

If you have a busy schedule, you can book a dog sitter to watch and care for your dog while you’re out. Your dog sitter can feed, play with, and walk your dog when you are unable to. You can also provide instructions on crate training your dog, so your dog sitter can help you out in this process.

Suppose it’s not possible to bring your dog with you on vacation or when you go on a business trip. In that case, you can hire a dog boarding service to pick up and care for your dog while you’re away. Your dog boarder can give you constant updates about your precious pup, so you won’t have to miss them too much!

Need help crate training your dog?  

If you’re struggling with crate training your dog, then you’re just like any frustrated pet owner! Thankfully, you can hire a professional dog trainer to help successfully crate train your dog. All you have to do is post a task, and you’ll get connected with dozens of local dog trainers near you. You’ll have a happy, well-behaved, and stimulated fur baby in no time. 

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