One of a dog’s 4 basic needs is for shelter, its own space or den. In Australia and New Zealand, it is common for dogs to live indoors with their human family, so they have shelter from the all types of weather. This way they are part of your family and part of a pack. If your dog does live outdoors then they will need adequate shelter from the elements.
Dogs need a little extra in terms of shelter, at the very least, most dogs like to have their own bed where they can retire to and know that they won’t be disturbed. Some dogs appreciate something more than this; they like a small dark space to go to where they feel safe. This is where a crate can be useful and fulfils a dog’s need to have its own space, which is the equivalent to a den. It also helps provide a level of security for dogs for dogs that are destructive or fearful of storms and fireworks etc.
By providing a crate, making it comfortable and cosy inside, and covering it with a blanket to create a dark, cave like environment, you are giving your dog a dedicated small space. This is a space just for your dog, where they can feel safe and don’t have to share it with a human.
Select the right crate for your dog
Many dogs love a crate and will naturally seek it out. You will need to source one that is small enough to be cosy, but large enough for them to stand and turn around. Place your dog’s toys in the crate, as it helps the feeling of security. Some dogs may be unsure at first so choose somewhere to set up the crate in the house that is accessible but not in a busy part of the house and to begin with, leave the door open so that your dog can enter and exit as often as they wish. Every time they enter, say something like: “go to your bed”, and praise / reward him once they are in. Allow them to come out, and repeat the exercise until they are confident and comfortable about this new “den”. Another idea is to introduce the crate at feeding times and feed your dog in the crate. This will help to create a positive association and it will let your dog know that they can eat undisturbed by other pets or children.
Only when your dog is happy to enter and remain in the crate, can you start to close the door for short periods. Best to start this at feed times. You should never close the door if your dog is getting stressed or use your dog’s crate as a form of punishment. They need to feel comfortable with the crate first. You can close the door short times when you are eating or, especially if introducing a crate to a puppy, whenever they have a nap during the day. Gently place your dog in the crate and close the door. Your dog will soon become confident that they are safe and that you will be available to release them when they are ready. Gradually increase the length of time to wait before releasing them.
It is worth remembering, however, that not all dogs will like crates. You need to stick to your training plan while your dog becomes accustomed to the crate, but if your dog panics they could harm themselves. Open the door and let them out and go back to having the crate door open for a while longer. Don’t force your dog into a crate that they are clearly uncomfortable with – some dogs may never take to it or you may want to consider hiring the services of a professional trainer such as Bark Busters®
Never leave a dog unattended in a crate for long or extended hours, this is unfair and could lead to barking or toileting issues.
Properly managed, crates can assist with toilet training
As with all training it’s better to start early when your dog is a puppy, but it’s never too late to try to accustom your dog to a crate. If they seem comfortable with the crate, you can use it to help with sleeping through the night and with toilet training. Dogs do not generally like to soil their own beds so, as soon as they wake up, be ready to take them straight outside to toilet. This may mean that you are disturbed during the night for toilet duties, but it will help you get your puppy house trained much more quickly, and will gradually stop. Dogs will get used to spending the night in their safe den knowing that you will reappear in the morning.
Providing adequately for crated dogs
If you leave your dog or puppy in a crate for any length of time, you must make sure that water is available. Specially-designed water bowls are available to fit inside crates so that there is no risk of the water being overturned. Apart from overnight, it is not advisable to leave a dog of any age in a crate for more than four hours. If you are out during the day for longer than this, it would be best to leave the crate door open and allow you dog the run of one room such as the kitchen or utility room. We don’t recommend crates in hallways as the dog can become disturbed by postmen and passers-by which can lead to guarding and barking issues.
The benefits of crating your dog
There are several benefits to crate training your dog. One of these is travel. If your dog is happy in a crate, then the crate can be used for safety in the car. It also means that your dog’s familiar sleeping place always travels with him if you are staying somewhere new. Additionally, a dog accustomed to a crate will be much happier being crated for airline travel.
Additional Crate Training Tips
Don’t put the dog in a crate as a punishment. You want the dog to think of it as a happy place to be.
Crate training is most effective when it isn’t rushed. Be sensitive to your dog’s feelings toward the crate as they get used to it. If the dog is clawing or manically chewing to get out, patience is required, or training might be in order.
- If your dog is tired, they will be more willing to go in the crate.
- Exercise is an essential ingredient in any dog training program, whether it be in a crate or otherwise.
If your dog has a medical condition or is ill resulting in their lack of bladder or bowel control, they are going to soil the crate. In this instance, crate training might not be the best idea.
DO NOT use the crate as a kennel by keeping your dog confined for days.
A crate can be a fabulous tool for providing a designated resting and sleeping place. As with all training, do your research, be consistent, and never try to force your dog into something that frightens him. Your local Bark Busters® trainer can help you with all aspects of crate training, obedience and behavioural modification.