Crate training also called kenneling, is a common training method employed by dog owners and trainers alike. Unlike other methods, kenneling works in conjunction with your pet’s animal instincts. Dogs are descended from wolves, and so they are naturally den-forming creatures. Giving your dog a space of their own can soothe a variety of behavioral issues, but starting something new can be intimidating. Here are a few things you should and shouldn’t do to help you get started.
Make it comfortable
The crate is your dog’s personal space, and it should feel homey and safe. Placing a dog bed or comfy blanket in the bottom of the crate will help your pet feel more at ease when they’re inside. A few toys, especially durable ones for any anxiety chewing, can also help your puppy feel at ease.
Take your time
Crate training can be a long process that can take weeks, possibly months! If your dog is new to it, they might have some nerves at first. Introduce the crate into their environment, and then allow them to explore entirely on their own before any training begins.
The right mindset is everything, for you and your dog. Remember that every dog is different just like every person. Your pet may need a little more time and effort to train successfully, and that’s okay. Don’t give up, and stay calm. Animals take their cues from us, and if we get frustrated so will they.
YOU SHOULD NOT:
Use the crate as punishment
The whole point is to make the crate feel like a den. Your dog should want to spend time there. Throwing your dog in a kennel when they misbehave can lead them to resent and fear the crate, making training almost impossible.
Leave your dog for hours on end
A dog is a living creature, not a toy. Your pup can’t be put away on a shelf when you’re done playing. You wouldn’t want to spend long hours in a small box, and neither does your dog. Think of the difference between being sent to your room as a child versus going there voluntarily.
An older dog that has been successfully crating trained can be left comfortably for longer periods of time, but a small puppy should never be left longer than their little bladders allow.
TIPS TO GETTING STARTED
We’ve already mentioned that crate training is a process, but don’t let that discourage you. A few simple tricks can grease the wheels.
Positive vibes only
Be sure to praise your dog when they show an interest in kenneling. Using happy tones of voice whenever they get close to the crate will let your pet know they’re pleasing their owner. Dogs as a species are usually family-oriented. They want to make you happy and don’t like knowing you’re displeased.
Food and treats
Feeding your dog while in the crate is an awesome and easy way for your pet to associate it with pleasant feelings. Using treats can also help a pup that is afraid to enter the crate at all. A “breadcrumb” trail of their favorite treats leading inside can help coax your dog into exploring when that puppy curiosity just isn’t enough.
Have I mentioned that training takes time? Part of the reason for that is you have to set realistic goals that you and your pup can actually achieve together. Let a dog enter and leave the crate on their own a few times, and then start closing the door behind them. Only leave the dog in the crate for short intervals, 5 minutes or so at first. Gradually work your way up.
Depending on the temperament of your pup they may respond well to the timed exercises, or they may cry and whine. Letting a pup out just because they cry will teach them to perform on cue. Young animals can learn to self-soothe, just like human babies. You can let them out once they’ve calmed down.
Keep Fido au naturale
Any time you plan to leave your pup alone in the crate, be sure to divest them of anything hazardous. This can include collars, hankies, harnesses, doggy sweaters, or anything that could be caught on the crate itself. Coming home to a choking dog is the stuff of nightmare fuel, so always make sure your pup is naked when he’s crated while home alone.
Separation anxiety isn’t just for your companion. Many pet parents feel significant nerves the first time they leave a dog kennel on their own. Check-in on your baby with a nanny cam. Many recording devices come with an app you can download to check the cam remotely. While you’re out for that first errands run all you have to do is check your camera.
This does more than just put your mind at ease, it can also provide valuable insight into the training process. How’s your dog handling the crate while you’re not home? If they’re taking it well, you can reward them. If they weren’t quite ready for you to be away, you can soothe them.
So you decided crate training is right for you, and you’re mentally prepared for the time and effort it will take. Now you probably have some questions, like what kind of crate is best for my dog? Where do I put the dog crate in my house? How big should a dog crate be, and can it be too big? Don’t let the questions overwhelm you. Each one has an answer.
What kind of crate is best?
“Best” is a sliding scale. The kind of crate that works for you may not work for someone else. Knowing upfront what kind of training you’re giving your dog will make it easier to decide. There are three basic types of crates most people choose from: plastic, cloth, and metal. Each one has its pros and cons.
Also called “flight kennels,” plastic crates are the kind most suited for travel and portability. The ones for smaller dogs even have handles on the top. Using the same kennel at home and while traveling can help cut down on any vehicular anxieties your pet may have. An anxious pup that needs to see their parents may not like this style, as they tend to be the least transparent. Other dogs like it dark, and may really love it.
Soft-sided kennels are like popup tents for your dog. They have soft fabric or netting stretched over a rigid frame. These crates are open and airy, great for outdoor play, but probably not an option if chewing is one of your reasons for training.
A metal crate is a solid option no matter what your personal dog situation is. They are made from collapsible wire grids with a plastic bottom and come in a wide variety of measurements. These tend to be more heavy-duty, and should probably be the first choice for larger breeds.
You can look out for reviews to find what will be the best. One of those is at https://thepamperedpup.com/best-strongest-indestructible-dog-crate-reviews/.
Where do I put the crate in my house?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question. If your dog spends most of their time in a particular room that would be a good place to start. For a small puppy, the crate should probably be as close to your bedroom as possible, especially overnight. You can’t let them out to do their business if you can’t hear them whining, and having an accident in the crate will set your training back.
Leave the crate once you’ve put it in its place. Breeding comfort and familiarity is the name of the game. Your dog needs to know the crate is always the same and in the same spot.
What size does my dog need?
To determine the best crate size for your dog it’s best to just go ahead and measure your dog. Holding a playful or anxious dog still long enough to run a tape measure over it might not be the most happening time, but there really isn’t a better way. It’s doubtful the store will let you open one and try it out, after all.
Where to measure
You will need measurements from the tip of your pet’s nose to the base of the tail. Then the height from the ground to the top of the head. Depending upon age and breed go ahead and add 4-6 inches to both height and length for adult dogs, and up to 12 inches for a puppy to properly estimate the size you need.
How much room will my dog need?
Keep in mind your dog will need space to lay down, stretch out, and turn all the way around. It’s also helpful to know your dog’s weight as most crates will have an estimate of appropriate poundage on the box. Generally speaking, small crates are from 18 to 25 inches for dogs up to 25 pounds, medium crates are 30-40 inches for dogs up to 70 pounds, large crates are 40-50 inches for dogs up to 90 pounds, and extra-large is basically everything on up. All dimensions may vary based on manufacturer standards.
Don’t despair if you have a large breed. They really do make crates large enough for 100 pounds, or larger, dogs. Even a gentle giant can have the crate they need.
Can a dog crate be too big?
Yes, actually, they can. Dogs are naturally averse to voiding where they live, which is what makes crate training such an effective housebreaking tool. However, a crate that is too large may provide just enough room to make a mess in the back and still sleep in the front. Obviously, that would be counterproductive, so proper sizing is key. As a rule of thumb, though, too big is better than too small.
Some crates come with replaceable panels that can decrease the available space. This is a great way to save money on a crate for a large-breed puppy. Just take out the divider as the puppy grows up, and there’s no need to purchase a second crate.
Selecting the right crate for your dog isn’t as complicated as it may seem. Measure and weigh your dog, decide on a crate style, and then go shopping. Just remember not to spend too much time debating. Deciding on a style and size is the easy part.
The training’s where all the work is. Commit to the process with a patient heart, and never blame the dog for being a dog. Your pet’s success depends on you! But with the right attitude, and the right crate, your pet will be the happiest doggo in the whole neighborhood.
Pat Givens is a business owner and a homebody. She is a mom of two and is happily married to Mark.