How To Crate Train a Dog Successfully In 10 Easy Steps

A dog laying down on its bed in a crate
(Photo: pimmimemom/stock.adobe.com)

Crate training is essential for managing your dog’s environment and preventing destructive habits from developing. As a dog owner, you may be concerned about the effects that a crate’s cage-like appearance may have on your dog. It is natural for us as humans to question things we do not understand. However, contrary to popular belief, crates actually foster the type of environment that dogs find most comfortable.

I spent some time researching and speaking to other dog owners about any tips and advice they may have to aid you with crate training your dog.

Many dogs respond quickly to crate training, while others take considerably longer. With this article, I hope to assist dog owners who have had a more difficult time with crate training than they anticipated. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to crate train a dog successfully.

Step 1: Choosing the Best Dog Crate

When crate training, it is crucial to choose the best crate for your dog. It must be comfortable, durable, and simple to use for both you and your dog. The personality and temperament of your dog will determine the type of crate that is most comfortable for them, whether it is a plastic or a wire crate.

If your dog values their privacy or is sensitive to the sound of thunderstorms, they may prefer a plastic crate, but if they like to see what is going on around them, a wire crate is better. You may be tempted to get a large crate for your dog, but it’s ideal to purchase one that’s large enough for their adult size to avoid any potty training difficulties. It must be large enough for your dog to lie down, sit, and turn around comfortably. When your dog is a puppy, the crate may still be too large; however, you can rectify this by adding a divider to control the amount of space they will have as they get older.

Step 2: Consider Your Dog’s Attitude Towards the Crate

Your dog’s crate should be a comfortable place for them. You can contribute to this positivity by building value for their crate.

Playing games with your dog that require them to engage with the crate is one of the best ways to do this. Other ways include placing food or your dog’s favourite toys inside the crate and leaving your dog to find them on its own. Teach your dog that their crate is a safe and comfortable area for them. They should view it as somewhere they can go whenever they want to relax and unwind.

Step 3: Make Your Dog’s Crate Comfortable and Safe

Your dog’s crate is basically like their bedroom. That said, you’ll want to make it as comfortable as possible for them. Many accessories, such as a crate liner or a dog bed, can be added to do so. Ultimately, it is up to your dog to decide what kind of additions they will be satisfied with. As dog owners, we always want the best for our furry pets, but having too many accessories in the crate isn’t always the best thing to do, and you’ll do well to remember this.

In addition, you may not realize it, but the position of your dog’s crate within the house influences how comfortable your dog will find it. To make it more comfortable, I recommend placing it in a busy location during the day and closer to your room at night. It should be strategically placed so that your dog does not feel separated or alone at any time of day.

Finally, never let your dog into their crate while wearing a leash or wearing a collar, as this is unsafe and can lead to harmful complications for your dog.

Step 4: Introducing the Crate to Your Dog

First, bring your dog over to the crate and let them sniff and examine it alone. If the time you offer your dog to explore the crate does not result in a positive relationship, I can assure you that treats and toys will.

Begin by dropping the treats close to the crate’s door, then progress to dropping them all the way inside. Continue using the treats until your dog is able to enter all the way. However, you should never force your dog to go inside if they aren’t willing to. It will take some time to develop a positive relationship between your dog and its crate.

Step 5: Make Your Dog Accustomed to the Crate

You can begin feeding your dog in the crate when they can enter and exit it without fuss. The more comfortable your dog becomes, gradually move their food bowl to the back of the crate. Once they’re standing comfortably and eating their meal, you can close the door.

At first, you’ll want to open the door as soon as they finish their meal, but after each subsequent meal, you can gradually increase the duration you close the door by more or less 10 minutes. If your dog doesn’t like this and starts whining, you may have increased the time by too much. In the future, only close the gate for a time your dog finds comfortable.

Step 6: Experiment with Crating for Longer Periods of Time.

You can proceed to the next step once your dog has settled into its crate and can eat its meals with the door closed without fear or anxiety.

To begin, encourage your dog to enter the crate by tossing some treats inside. Close the door(s) and grab a seat where your dog can see you. For 5 to 10 minutes, sit quietly. If your dog sees you relaxed, they will relax as well. After that, try going to another room and returning after a few minutes. Repeat this process many times a day, gradually increasing the length of time your dog spends in their crate and the amount of time you spend in another room.

Your dog will soon become accustomed to spending extended periods alone in its crate.

Step 7: Night Crating

Encourage your dog to enter their crate, but avoid using toys at this time because your dog may become confused and assume it’s playtime.

When it comes to sleeping time, the location of your dog’s crate is vital. While it is convenient to have it in a busy area during the day, having it closer to your room at night is preferable. You can better monitor your dog this way. Puppies need to eliminate regularly, so keeping their crate close to you will help in this regard. A closer crate also prevents your dog from feeling isolated or experiencing the separation anxiety that a farther crate might cause.

It may take some time for your dog to become acclimated to sleeping in their crate, but once they do, you can start moving their crate to a more suitable area for both you and your dog.

Step 8: Crating Your Dog When You Leave the House

Once your dog can stay in its crate for 30 minutes without becoming anxious, you can start leaving them crated at home for short periods, such as when you leave the house. Remember to leave them with their favourite toys to keep them entertained.

Take note of the amount of time you crate your dog before leaving. This should be between 15 and 20 minutes. Make sure that your departure is not too playful. Use a treat to encourage your dog to enter the crate and leave. A dog who perceives its owner’s departure as playtime will likely struggle to cope with their absence.

Step 9: Keep a Record of How Much Time Your Dog Spends in Their Crate.

It is essential that you not leave your dog crated for extended periods. Older canines may be able to tolerate being left alone. Puppies cannot. As a result, crate schedules become valuable tools. They assist you in tracking the length of time your dog has spent in their crate and helping you in making any necessary adjustments.

A dog confined to a crate for a long time does not get enough exercise. Furthermore, crating can feel like a punishment for certain dogs. Therefore, if your dog is crated for several hours at a time, it will become anxious. There are, however, many effective methods to limit the amount of time your dog spends in a crate.

Consider taking your dog to a local pet care facility or hiring a pet sitter to care for your dog while you are away. Crating your dog at home is not always required, even if you are not directly overseeing them. Doggie doors and playpens are excellent options since they do not confine your dog to such a tight space.

Step 10:  Have Patience

You will need to learn to be patient while crate training your dog. They will most likely not get used to their crate right away. Regardless, stay focused on what you want your dog to learn. Crate training typically takes several days or weeks. For some dogs, you should plan on six months of training.

You must be calm and loving to your canine companion. With your guidance, your dog will learn to embrace their crate and recognize what a special place it can be for them. Remember that there is nothing wrong with seeking assistance, so speak with your dog trainer or a friend who has had experience with crate training.

Considerations When Learning How to Crate Train a Dog

The Importance of Regular Exercise Prior to Crating

Before introducing your dog to a crate for the first time, make sure to exercise them. Your dog should also not spend several hours in a crate without first getting plenty of exercise. If your dog is a high-energy breed, don’t skip this step. Physical activity makes a dog more cooperative and less anxious when entering its crate.

Whining

If you let your dog out of the crate while whining, they will learn that making noise gets them out, and will most certainly whine again in the future. It is crucial that you wait until your dog is silent again, or at least for a lull in the whimpering, before letting them out.

It can be difficult to tell whether your dog is whining because they need to eliminate or want to annoy you. Ignore it at first, but if your dog is still moaning after a few minutes, they probably need to go. Take them out quietly. When taking your dog out, it is critical not to be too playful. The trip should only serve its intended purpose, which is for your dog to eliminate.

Separation anxiety

Avoid crating a dog that suffers from separation anxiety. In an attempt to escape, a dog suffering from mental health issues may panic and hurt itself. To address your dog’s difficulties, consult with a trained behavioural specialist.

Don’t Use Your Dog’s Crate As a Form of Punishment.

It is critical not to use your dog’s crate to punish them.
To get the most out of your dog’s crate, make sure they only associate it with good things. Any negative experiences will have an adverse effect on the success of your dog’s training. As a result, anytime you crate your dog, offer incentives such as treats or toys.

When Will Your Dog be able to Stop Using the Crate?

Your dog does not have to use their crate forever. When your dog can be left outside the crate for extended periods without having accidents, it is time to stop.

Getting rid of the crate should be a progressive process in which you gradually increase the amount of time your dog spends outside. So, first 15 minutes, then 1 hour, and finally for periods, such as 6 hours.
During this phase, you must keep notes on your dog’s behaviour to assess whether or not your dog’s time in a crate is genuinely over or if they still need it.

What to Do Next?

Do you feel more confident about crate training your dog now than you did before reading this article? If you do, read our post on how to house train your dog to be confident about that too.

Further Reading