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There are many good reasons to crate train your dog and there are also some reasons not to!  The number one thing to remember is never use the crate as punishment!

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Reasons why and how to crate train your puppy or dog

Some of the advantages of Crate Training: 

  • Provide a safe, cosy den for your dog – somewhere for him to relax and feel safe.
  • House Training.  A dog doesn’t usually soil the area they sleep in so a crate can be a great aid in toilet training, but remember you mustn’t leave puppies in the crate for too long.  They can’t control their bladders or bowels and it is cruel to expect them to do so.
  • Avoiding destruction of your furniture by a teething puppy.
  • A safe way to transport your dog in the car or on planes, trains, boats.
  • Introducing a new dog to the household.
  • Hotels are much more likely to welcome you and your pet if they are crated when left in the room.

When not to use a crate: 

  • If your dog suffers from Separation Anxiety.  The crate may prevent your dog from being destructive but it could increase his anxiety and he may injure himself attempting to escape.  If your dog suffers from separation anxiety problems then you need to use counter-conditioning and desensitisation procedures.  You may also want to consult a certified animal behaviourist.
  • If your dog suffers from other fears or anxieties, like thunder phobia.  Your dog may well choose to go in their crate during a thunderstorm but this should be his choice – the door should be open!  Again you need to help your dog to cope by using counter-conditioning and desensitisation procedures.
  • If you must leave your dog for long periods of time – crating for excessive periods every day could affect your dog’s mental and physical well-being.  I would never leave a dog for more than four or five hours.  If you can’t get home in the middle of the day then please make arrangements for a pet sitter or a dog walker.
  • If your dog has diarrhoea, vomiting or is otherwise unwell.
  • If your dog is too young to have bladder or bowel control.  (The crate can be used as a training tool but you mustn’t leave your dog confined for long periods and expect them to cope.)
  • The temperature is too high.
  • Your dog hasn’t had sufficient exercise.
  • Your dog hasn’t had sufficient companionship and socialisation.
  • Never use a crate to contain your dog simply because they are a nuisance or require attention!  It’s not only unfair but also cruel to lock him up rather than provide the attention and training he needs!

Do not put your dog in his crate as punishment!  A dog’s crate should be his den, his happy place, his sanctuary.

 How long can a dog be crated for?

The ASPCA has the following guidelines:

Age:             Maximum time in crate:

8-10 weeks                 30-60 minutes.

11-14 weeks                 1-3 hours.

15-16 weeks                 3-4 hours.

17+ weeks                     4-5 hours.

At night when a dog is sleeping their bodily functions slow down and they can go all night without eliminating once they have sufficient bowel and bladder control.  A very young puppy shouldn’t, however, be expected to go all through the night and you should wake up to take them outside.

Selecting a Crate:

There are several types of crate available and which one you choose will be dependent on what you are using it for:

  • Rigid, plastic crates (sometimes called “flight kennels”).
  • Collapsible, lightweight, fabric crates.
  • Collapsible, metal crates.

Whichever style of crate you choose it should be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably.  If your dog is still growing and you buy a larger crate to accommodate his adult size, then block off the excess space so that you don’t encourage him to sleep at one end and eliminate at the other.

Remember to get some nice comfortable bedding to put in your dog’s new crate and some chew toys to keep him occupied!  Put the crate in a room where you spend lots of time but out of the way of foot traffic.  You want your puppy or dog to be able to relax out of the way but you don’t want him to feel isolated.  The nice thing about a crate is that you can move it, so it might be in the corner of the kitchen during the day, in the living-room while you are relaxing in the evening and then in the bedroom once you go to bed.

How to Crate Train your dog: 

The first thing to remember is that the crate should always be associated with good things and that training should take place in small steps!  Don’t go too fast and make your dog feel uncomfortable!  Here are a few tips to set you and your dog on the right path:  Make sure to leave the crate door open and every so often throw some tasty treats into it for your dog to find!  Try small pieces of hotdog, chicken, cheese or other tasty titbits that your dog loves!  Leave your dog’s favourite toy, a delicious chew or a stuffed kong in the crate for him to discover!  The more times your dog finds something amazing in the crate the more likely he is to want to go into it!  Try feeding some of your dog’s meals in his crate.  You can start by putting the food just in the doorway and as your dog feels more comfortable you can move it further in.

Here is a link to a video that shows you how to crate train your dog using Positive Reinforcement Training:  How To Crate Train Your Dog or Puppy.   

Remember to remove your dog’s collar before leaving them in their crate, as not to do so could be extremely dangerous.  If leaving your dog crated for more than a couple of hours, you must also provide them with drinking water.

Please remember to exercise your dog before crating him and to make sure that take him out to toilet both before crating and as soon as you let him out.

Continue to give your dog tasty treats, kongs, chews and his favourite toys during crate time.   Make sure to leave the crate door open so that he can have access at all times and you’ll find that your dog may choose to rest in his crate even when he has the option to be elsewhere!

Will my dog always use a crate? 

Once your dog is toilet trained and has been taught to only chew or destroy his own toys then you should begin to give him more freedom.  Make sure to dog-proof your home first though!  Put the rubbish bin away and don’t leave any items out for your dog to chew (apart from those he is supposed to!)  Make good use of baby gates and doors.  Initially just try leaving him for five minutes or less and if he is successful you can add on to this time.  He should still have access to his crate but you can now leave the door open.

 Article by
Louise Stapleton-Frappell

Trainer for,  Jambo – The Staffy Bull Terrier Trick Dog. First “EVER” Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be a Crowned Trick Master Champion. for more details click the link HERE.