This week we will be discussing crate training!
Every dog should be desensitized to a crate should it be needed for transportation, hospitalization, or other reasons. Some dogs need more structure and a clearer routine to help them settle into the home and think clearly, for those dogs we would use a kennel for bed time and for times when the dog will be unsupervised. I also like to use a kennel and playpen combo during potty training to lessen the chances of accidents in the home.
First you must pick a kennel that is of an appropriate size. The kennel must be large enough that the dog can stand and turn around comfortably, but not too large that the dog can walk around too much. Owners often buy crates that are too large which in turn detracts from the usefulness of the crate as a training tool and removes the feeling of security the dog gets
from having a smaller space. For example while potty training if the crate is too large the puppy could still use a corner of their crate rather than trying to train their bladder. I like to recommend these crates, they have two doors which help with the beginning stages of crate training, and come with a divider so you can start the area out smaller and then have it grow in size at the same rate that your puppy is.
Now that you have acquired a crate of the appropriate size for your pup let's get into the fun stuff! As with introducing any new training tool, you must add it into your training regime slowly and positively.
Start with your dogs favorite blanket, towel, or small bed on the floor of the new crate with both doors open.
For dogs that are pretty confident walking into the crate the first time seeing it, feel free to skip to the next paragraph.
For the dogs that are timid to the crate for the first session, start with rewarding the small victories. For example, if your dog is so nervous that they don’t want to go in right away, start with verbal praise for just looking into the crate and taking steps towards it, your dog or puppy will quickly realize that the crate equals reward. Once you have established a positive connection with the crate you can ask for a little more, ask your dog to walk through using leash guidance if necessary, praise when the dog is in the kennel. Once you have done this a couple time positively you can ask him to stop while in the crate for just a couple seconds at a time and praise heavily! For the most timid dogs, this may take a couple training sessions for them to be standing in the crate confidently.
If your dog is pretty confident with the crate the first time out, you get to have the process sped up a bit! Ask your dog to go in the crate, leaving doors open, and wait for a couple seconds and then praise heavily, repeat this until your dog is happily walking into the kennel and waiting for your reward.
After your dog is comfortable being in the crate with the doors open, try closing the doors for just a couple seconds at a time, again remember to praise heavily both verbally and with treats. From here you can start extending the period of time your dog is in the crate slowly working up to a couple hours at a time.
For day-to-day use I recommend only using the crate for times the dog will be unsupervised like while you are at work or overnight, but make sure you aren’t leaving them in there for too long, and they have ample opportunities to access water and go potty.
I cannot stress enough the importance of taking it slow and not getting frustrated, your dog will not want to go to a place that they are being forced into and they are not 100% comfortable in, slow and steady is the key.