Using a crate to train your dog is essential to a successful training program. Dogs by their nature are den animals and like to be in secure safe spaces. A crate fills that need. But how do you go about correctly using the crate?
First off, never use it as a punishment. Using it as a punishment will deter the dog from feeling safe and secure in its environment. The dog will see the crate as a “prison” and not a “safe space”. You want to use the crate positively.
Next, the size of the crate is important. You want the crate to be just big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around. Nothing more and nothing less. If the crate is too small, the dog will be uncomfortable and if it’s too big, the dog may relieve itself in an area of the crate they don’t have to lay down. That will defeat the purpose of the crate.
Another use of the crate is to help with potty training your dog. A dog will not soil where they sleep. The puppy will learn to hold its bladder. But remember, a puppy will need to relieve itself every a couple of hours, so don’t leave your puppy in its crate all day. You may have some middle-of-the-night potty breaks to deal with. Older dogs may be able to go 6-7 hours without a potty break. If you work long hours, this is where hiring a dog walker or having a pet sitter make some drop-in visits to let your dog or puppy out.
You should start crate training when your dog is a puppy. Don’t expect instant results overnight. It will take time and patience to get your puppy used to its crate. Start by putting the puppy in the crate a few hours before going to bed. It will help to sit next to the crate or keep the crate in an area you will be in. Don’t isolate your puppy. Putting a blanket over the crate at night will help calm the puppy. Also, feeding your puppy treats in the crate will help them adjust. Never leave your puppy’s meals in the crate. It will defeat the purpose of potty training and the puppy is prone to make a mess with their food. Eventually, your puppy will learn to love its crate and it will become their “dog cave”.
The last dog we had, Luke (his picture is above), loved his crate and looked forward to his fortress of solitude. He was always in it and seemed to treat his crate as a staycation. With proper training, patience, and perseverance, your dog will love its crate also.