Training your dog to use a crate or cage is a great idea for your dog and your property’s safety. A crate provides a safe, comfortable haven for your dog, like a play pen for a toddler. It should never be used as a form of punishment.
Benefits of a crate or confinement-trained dog
- Limits the damage your pet can cause to itself and your property
- Helps when training about acceptable chewing
- Increases safety when travelling
- Provides security
How big should a crate be?
Crates come in many different designs. It must be large enough for the dog to move around and stand upright comfortably.
Where should I put the crate?
Dogs are very social in nature. Therefore do not put the crate in an isolated place.
I want to use the crate for ‘time out’
Then it may be better to have two crates to avoid your dog developing a negative association with all crates. Or you could use a collapsible type so you can move it to a different location.
If you need to gradually acclimatise your dog and reward them so they see the crate as a positive experience. Encourage your dog to sleep, rest, and play when in the crate. Be reasonable though. When they are hungry, need the toilet or requires exercise you can’t expect them to be confined.
- Introduce the dog to the crate as early as possible. Place a few treats, toys or food in the crate to encourage them to enter.
- Make the crate as comfortable as possible – it can help to place it where your dog usually sleeps.
- Put the dog in the crate after exercise.
- If you find the dog inside the crate praise them heavily.
- When the dog is willing to enter voluntarily, you can close the door for short periods. But at first don’t leave them alone. You can then gradually increase the time the door is shut.
Remember, as with all training, use praise immediately when your dog performs the right behaviour.
Can I feed my dog when it’s in the crate?
Yes, but regularly place the dog inside the crate before you give them treats or chews. Remember to always leave fresh water with the dog in the crate.
Can my dog sleep in the crate at night?
Yes, at night you can allow your dog to sleep in the crate. But in the early stages do not close the door.
Can I use command training?
Yes, just make sure you combine command training with a cue for them to enter, such as ‘go to your crate’. Give the command calmly and without any hint of annoyance in your voice. Remember it is not to be used as a punishment.
You can use also the settle command when using the crate.
We’ve just started crate training and my dog barks a lot. Is this normal?
During the initial confinement period there will be a mild amount of barking and whining from your dog. However you should stop using the crate immediately if your dog shows increased destructive behaviour, anxiety or violent attempts to break out.
When can I leave them alone in the crate?
Once your dog regularly goes into the crate without showing reluctance you can leave them unattended for short periods of time. However do remain close enough to hear them. You can then gradually extend the time they are alone until they are completely at ease with being in the crate with a closed door. Congratulations! You have successfully trained your dog.
When to seek help
If you experience problems, please talk to your vet who may refer you to an animal behaviourist.