Deciding to crate train your dog is a great way to start the new year. It can reduce household stress, help with housebreaking a puppy, and improve overall dog behavior.
Though a relatively simple form of dog training, crate training does have its challenges. In recognition of National Train Your Dog Month this January, Kit Darling, infection control coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has advice and tips to help make the process easier.
“Crate training can help with house training, prevent destructive behaviors, provide a safe way to transport your dog in a car, and provide a safe, calm place for your dog during hectic times such as holiday meals and parties,” Darling said.
She explained that when traveling, it is helpful for dogs to see the crate as a familiar place, which will reduce the stress they may feel when away from home. If they are in an environment where other dogs are present, such as a veterinarian’s office or dog competition event, crates can help keep everyone present safe and relaxed.
When purchasing a crate, there are several options to choose from, including plastic, wire, and fabric. Darling recommends starting with a sturdy plastic or wire crate for dogs that are new to crate training.
She added that many dogs feel more secure in a plastic crate with solid walls or a wire crate with a blanket draped over the top. Wire crates are also convenient for traveling, as they can fold down when not in use.
“The crate should be just large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably,” Darling said. “If you are training a puppy, you can buy a crate large enough to accommodate the dog as an adult, then place a divider in the crate to accommodate the puppy’s size as he grows.”
Darling said dogs usually will not soil the area where they sleep, so using a crate without extra space can help with housebreaking.
One of the challenges of crate training is getting the dog to see the crate as a safe place, rather than a punishment. Darling recommends associating the crate with toys or treats, feeding the dog in the crate, and making the crate comfortable with a soft pad and blankets.
To begin crate training, Darling said to place the crate in an easily accessible location in an active part of the home. Treats or toys can then be used to slowly encourage the dog to enter the crate.
Once the dog is completely comfortable being inside, begin shutting the door for short periods of time, gradually increasing the length of time the dog is kept inside.
“At first, do not leave the room when the crate door is shut,” Darling advised. “Once 10 minutes has been successfully achieved, begin leaving the room. If the dog starts to whine, ignore him, and let him out when he is calm.”
Crate training can be helpful in many situations, but should not be used for excessive amounts of time or to punish the dog. Darling also advised limiting crate time for puppies to one hour for each month of age, and letting the dog outside to exercise and go to the bathroom before putting it in the crate.
Darling said that if the crate training process is done slowly and without stress, the dog may even come to enjoy spending time in the crate when the door is open. If you are still having difficulties with crate training, a veterinarian or licensed dog trainer can provide more advice.
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