Home Within a Home: Your Dog’s Crate

February 27th, 2007 by Dan

We’re preparing for a new puppy right now: collecting good toys and treats, planning a (highly specialized, in this case) diet, looking for a sturdy dog bed and a good harness. We already have many of the things we’ll need when he arrives in early April, including his crate. Crate-training is not an easy subject for many to think about- it may seem cruel or unnecessary, even neglectful. However, when done properly, crate-training gives your dog a den that will be a safe, comfortable and peaceful space.

The advantages:

What to do:

Choose the crate & start with an inviting space. We prefer all-metal crates to plastic ones, for durability and airflow. When choosing the crate for your puppy, keep in mind how fast they will grow. If you want to get a crate that will accommodate them once they are full-grown, it’s a good idea to put a divider in it while they are still small. The idea is to give your dog just enough room to lie or stand comfortably, and no more. Pad the bottom of the crate with a soft blanket and add some toys (only ones that are too large to be swallowed and cannot be torn apart). Some people choose to have special toys for the crate only. We recommend a Kong, filled with peanut butter or ‘Stuff’n’ made for that specific purpose. The crate should ideally be in a public space in the house-the living room or bedroom are common choices.

Leave the door open at all times in the beginning. If your dog wanders in to explore the crate, reward with a treat. You can also place treats in the crate, so the dog is automatically rewarded when s/he enters and finds the treat. Feed your dog in the crate as well- if they are reluctant to go into the crate, place food in front of the
door, and gradually move it into the crate as their comfort level increases.

The first time you actually crate your dog (with the door closed), stay nearby for a few minutes, so they do not immediately associate being crated with being left alone. Continue to do this during the day, and start leaving the room for a few minutes while your dog is crated. Once they are used to being crated in this way, you can start crating while you are going for short periods of time (NOT all day).
*If you need to crate your puppy at night for housebreaking purposes, it is best to put the crate in your bedroom.*

Once the dog is old enough and comfortable enough to be left alone in their crate, the recommended guideline for time is:
number of months in age + 1= number of hours they can spend in a crate.
That means a 3-month old puppy can spend no more than 4 hours in the crate. For very young puppies (under 9 weeks), crate time must be kept minimal. At this age, puppies have minimal control over their bodies, and need to relieve themselves 8-15 times a day.
When your dog is older and able to be left alone during the day, a maximum time of 6 hours in a crate is recommended.
Widget eats a treat
Widget eats her treat

What not to do:

Don’t ever force, or physically push, your dog into the crate. Give them the time to become comfortable entering and remaining, and then tell them to go to their box (or any other word of your choosing) when you are leaving- reward with a treat every time.

Being in a crate is not punishment; don’t send your dog to the crate when they’ve done something they shouldn’t have.

Don’t make a big production out of entrances and exits. When you are leaving for the day and your dog goes to their crate, give a treat, a toy, and leave calmly. When you come home, let them out and head outside right away. Resist overjoyed greetings (even though it is hard to resist!). This is done to ensure that your dog does not associate happy excitement with being left alone or with exiting the crate.

This is intended to be a basic guide to crate-training; there are, of course, as many variations as there are dogs. Some dogs might be hanging out in their crate after a few days (like Cricket, below), some may need months of time and training to get used to being in their crate. Dogs that do not take to their crate through this method might have greater separation anxiety or other behavioral issues that need attention. Many people (including us) eventually phase out crating as their dogs become adults and are thoroughly trained/beyond the puppy phase of absolute destruction (if you’ve had a puppy, you know what I’m talking about!)

While crating may take some getting used to, it is a very valuable thing to do with your pet, and is well worth the effort in the long run.
crick crate 3.jpg
Cricket likes to sit in her crate (in the bedroom) with a bone

3 Responses to “Home Within a Home: Your Dog’s Crate”

  1. Saydrah Says:

    Excellent summary of crate training. My Corgi pup has been crated since weaning, and now sleeps in the crate about half of the time- the rest of the time I am a weak dog-mom and let him sleep with me. He is eager to hear the command “Bedtime” and head to his crate for a special treat to chew on, which I vary nightly. My only complaint: He insists on sleeping UNDER the mat instead of ON it! Maybe I should not have let him under my covers that time, huh?

  2. Ask The Dog Guide: Crate Training A Puppy | Dog Reflections Says:

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