Crates can be a great training tool for dogs. If used properly, a crate can become a safe and secure place for your pup to call their own. This makes crate training one of the fastest ways to housebreak a new puppy, as they won’t want to make a mess in their own domain. In addition, crates can help ease the transition to new environments for your pet, such as a hotel room, keep them safe when you are out, and can be used for older dogs with mild forms of separation anxiety.
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when considering crating your puppy or mature dog:
Crate size –
It’s important to give your dog a crate big enough for them to stand up and turn around in. However, too much space may result in them using the extra area as a ‘toilet.’
Show them where to go –
Once you return home and take them out of the crate, take them outside immediately so they learn where to do their business. Once they successfully ‘go’ outside, praise them or give them a treat to reinforce their good behaviour.
Try two crates –
Some trainers support the concept of two crates: one in the family area so your dog can participate in family activities; and another one in a quiet place, such as in your bedroom.
How long for crate training –
According to Andre Yeu, dog trainer and owner of When Hounds Fly, in most cases, once a dog is over 4 months of age, they can hold their bladder for eight to nine hours. Ideally, Yeu recommends crating for four to five hours at a time. He also recommends building up your dog's tolerance to a crate, starting in short increments and gradually building up to longer periods of time.
Keep it positive –
You want your dog’s crate time to be a positive experience. Make sure you give them lots of praise and attention before putting them in, and reward them with a special toy or blanket that they only get when in their crate. This will make the crate a more appealing place to be. It’s also important that you never use the crate as a punishment, as this may make your dog wary of your intentions the next time they go in.
Stay removed on removal –
Try not to make a big fuss when removing your dog from the crate. Give her time to go outside and calm down before you praise, welcome or initiate play.
These are basic guidelines for kennelling and crating your dog, but they may not be appropriate for all types of dogs. For dogs with separation anxiety and other illnesses, you should consult your veterinarian or a pet behaviourist for specific advice. For the average dog though, provided you establish a routine and stick to it, your dog should be ‘crate-broken’ in no time.