Breeders and Vets Recommend Crate Training Your Dog

Although many dog owners may feel guilty for crate training their canine companion, enclosed spaces create a shelter for your dog to rest and relax. In fact, dogs instinctively seek small spaces to create protective shelters for themselves. Crates are useful training tools for puppies, safe havens for senior dogs, and lifesavers for emergencies.

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Most veterinarians, trainers, and breeders recommend crate training dogs from a young age. Crate training is an essential part of house breaking puppies, as dogs don’t like to soil their sleeping quarters. They learn to hold their bladder while they’re in their crate, so you won’t have to clean up messes.

“We recommend crate training every dog because you never know what’s going to happen in the future,” says Christine Kroh, intake coordinator at Beagles to the Rescue.

In emergencies, crate training can be the difference between safety and uncertainty. You must be able to evacuate your dog efficiently, so having a cooperative dog get into a crate quickly saves crucial time. Having dogs secured during evacuations reduces the chance of them getting lost or injured. It also allows your dog to stay with you during an emergency, since dogs typically have to be crate trained to remain in shelters with their owners.

Crate Training Makes Life Easier

For dogs that aren’t crate trained, crates may be the scariest part of a harried situation. Crate training can help prevent compounding a dog’s stress during emergencies. In worse case scenarios, dogs may be required to be on crate rest when recovering from surgery. Dogs are less likely to have complications following surgery when they can peacefully relax rather than accidentally aggravate injuries because they can’t settle down in a crate.

Crate training comes in handy during everyday life for dogs who might need a break from a bustling household or a familiar place to rest. Crates help dogs learn to self soothe, or deal with their anxiety, during situations where they become distressed, like during fireworks, a thunderstorm, or construction. Dogs can retreat to their crates when situations are too chaotic or scary. It also helps dogs confront new situations successfully, like the addition of a new baby having company over.

“If the dog’s freaking out, they think: ‘I can go hide in my crate and it’s safe here and nobody’s gonna bother me’. That helps them out for their lifetime,” says Kroh.

Crates make it easier to safely transport your dog by car or by air during long-distance travel or vacations. Crate training makes long car rides more pleasant for both humans and canines. Crates allow dogs to lay down and sleep without distracting the driver. It’s especially important for a dog to know how to behave in a crate during a flight since dogs must be contained on airplanes. You want to avoid sedating dogs during air travel since the American Veterinary Medical Association advises that sedation can increase the risk of heart or respiratory problems.

Crate Training Benefits Dogs of All Ages

Crates keep curious puppies safely sequestered when you’re not able to supervise them. Dogs instinctively try to keep their sleeping areas clean. As such, the crate helps puppies learn to hold and strengthen their bladder and bowel muscles, making housebreaking less of a chore for you and your dog.

“When they’re puppies, the crate really is the major tool that will help you house train,” says trainer Heike Purdon. “It teaches them that freedom is a privilege and you get more space as your house-training skills become better.”

Crate training early in a dog’s life prevents introducing unnecessary stress later. When older dogs are dealing with illnesses like incontinence, arthritis, or canine cognitive dysfunction, they don’t need the additional stress of learning new rules.

Crate training helps senior dogs deal with health issues by providing a restful place to rest their joints or take frequent naps, prevents nighttime wandering, and makes transporting them to vet appointments easier. Crates also create safe havens for older dogs. They may be especially in need of this when surrounded by rambunctious children or other dogs.

Crate Training Benefits All Types of Dogs

For rescue dogs a crate provides a safe space to adjust to their new surroundings as well as the luxury of not having to fight for their own space. Crates provide comfort to rescue dogs, since some are fearful around certain people or environments. This is particularly true for dogs with a traumatic past of neglect or abuse. Crates allow rescue dogs to know they have their own territory and no one will hurt them in it.

“With rescue dogs, the biggest behavioral issues we see are barking and being destructive,” says Kroh.

Many rescue dogs don’t have socialization skills, which can result in problems with destruction or barking. Crate training will improve their confidence and curtail problematic behavior.

Crate training benefits hunting dogs, keeping them comfortable during hunts and on the road. Of course, this also benefits hunters, since they’ll appreciate containing wet and muddy dogs. Many hunting dogs have spent most of their lives outside and have had little interaction with humans. Kroh advises crate training them the same way you would a puppy.

Since dogs feel responsible for their own territory, insecure dogs need less space to protect. A crate (rather than the entire house) means less territory to patrol, making it easier for them to relax.

Tips for Successful Crate Training

The first and most important step in crate training is making it a positive experience. Try feeding them meals or treats in their crate so crate time feels like a reward. Never leave dogs in their crate all day. Limit crate time based on how long they spend in their crate daily, their age, and level of house training.

Understanding the need for crate training is just the first step, but the training itself is another matter entirely. Make sure to do extensive research on how to crate train your dog, and be sure to stick to your plan to ensure the greatest chance of success.

How to Crate Train Your Dog in Nine Easy Steps

Key Points

  • Crate training isn't "imprisoning" your dog. It gives them their own space and can calm anxiety.

  • Create positive associations with the crate through the use of treats and games.

  • Be patient — crate training can take six months of consistent training.
     

We all want a well-behaved dog that doesn’t tear things up and goes to the bathroom outside — and dog crate training is an important part of that. A crate creates a safe environment for your dog and a space that belongs to them.

While many people view crates through the human lens of being “caged up,” dogs are naturally den animals and most enjoy being in small, enclosed places. A crate provides them with a feeling of security, and when trained to use them from an early age, crates can help calm anxiety.

We talked to Anna Flayton, senior dog trainer for PUPS Pet Club in Chicago, for her advice on how to crate train your dog.
 

Step 1: Choose the Right Crate for Your Dog

Finding the best crate for your dog is key.

“You want to get one that’s durable, comfortable, and flexible with whatever training you’re doing,” says Flayton. For dogs that prefer to sleep in the dark, she recommends kennel or airline crates (which are more enclosed), while wire crate work best for other dogs. It’s important, she notes, that you don’t buy a crate that is too big for your dog. “Depending on how big your dog is going to get, buy the right crate for their adult size,” she advises. “Then get a divider so you can build the space and grant them more and more space.”

A good way to determine the correct size is to measure your dog's height when standing (top of the dog's shoulder to the floor) and length (tip of the dog's nose to the base of its tail). Then, add 4 inches to the dog's measurements to determine the best dog crate size.
 

Step 2: Establish the Proper Mindset

“The more the dogs associate the crate with a relaxed mindset, the more they’ll ultimately enjoy hanging out in there,” says Flayton. If you put the dog in the crate when they’re playing, then they’ll want to come back out and continue to play. But if you bring them in it when they’re calm, they will likely view it as a place of rest. Start by bringing them in for 10 minutes at a time and work your way up from there.
 

Step 3: Determine How Your Dog Will Be Most Comfortable

Some people use dog beds or towels to create a comfy environment, but that may not always be the best option. Once again, it’s trial and error. “Depending on the dog you have, they may tear a dog bed apart or they may use it to pee on,” she warns. “It’s not a bad thing for them to just sleep on the crate mat itself. Dogs actually do prefer hard surfaces.”

 

Step 4: Give the Dog a Treat After They Go Into the Crate

 

Once again, positive association rules. One of Flayton’s favorite tricks is giving the dog a KONG toy filled with peanut butter that she’s put in the freezer. “When they’re hanging out in the crate, they have something that stimulates them, but they have to work down the frozen peanut butter,” she says. It gets the dog used to being in the crate for a longer period of time, while also associating it with an enjoyable activity.
 

Step 5: Keep an Eye on the Time

Your dog needs time outside the crate to play, eat, and use the bathroom. Dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep, but if there’s too long of a stretch without a walk, they might end up doing so.
 

Step 6: Play Crate Games

The dog shouldn’t see the crate as a negative place. To ensure this, incorporate the crate into fun games where the pup goes in and out of the open crate at their own will. Flayton likes to throw the ball in the crate when playing fetch or hide treats inside for the dog to find.
 

Step 7: Keep Your Dog “Naked”

“Dogs should never, ever have collars or tags or anything on when they’re in the crate,” warns Flayton. If the tag gets caught in the crate the dog could strangle.
 

Step 8: Set Your Dog Up for Success

Once you are ready to give your dog more time inside the crate, do it in small steps. “You don’t want to go out to dinner for six hours,” cautions Flayton. “Maybe just go get a cup of coffee and come back.” She also advises using a recording device to determine what your dog does while you’re gone. “Are they anxious? Are they pacing? Or are they calm?” she says. “Then you know — and when you come back, you can reward them.”
 

Step 9: Be Patient

Prepare yourself for at least six months of training. There will be ups and downs since dogs aren’t linear learners, but success will come, says Flayton. “Even when it feels like you’re banging your head against a wall, as long as you stay calm and consistent in your methodology, your dog will eventually look for the reward and you’ll have the opportunity to reward them.”

All information has been borrowed from the AKC website.