How to Crate Train Your Dog

By PetcoBlogger on Apr. 24, 2017

Petco_Steps-to-Crate-Your-Dog_Primary-Image_573x430.v1.pngLike learning to sit and stay, crate training is a vital skill for your puppy or dog. From helping with potty training to providing your pup with his own personal safe spot to making traveling easier, crate training is an essential component of your dog’s training “firsts.”

There are times when your dog may need a dedicated space such as a crate to enable him to kick back, chill out and feel safe. That could be when you’re away, when your dog needs to take a break from houseguests or needs a dedicated place to sleep. Other uses for crate training can include stress relief and the prevention of destructive habits (ie: chewing or eating your sofa).

When you are crate training, keep two things in mind:

  • You always want your puppy or dog to think of his crate as a happy, pleasant and enjoyable place to hang out.
  • “Crate training” itself is actually a series of small training sessions.

Here’s how to get started:Petco_Steps-to-Crate-Your-Dog_Step1.v1.png

 1: Introduce your puppy or dog to his crate

  • Put his crate in an area of your home where your family spends a lot of time, like your family room. Place a soft pad, blanket or towel in his crate.
  • Bring your dog over to the crate and talk to him in a happy tone of voice. Have the crate door open and securely fastened, so it won’t hit or otherwise frighten your dog.
  • Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats near it. Then place some just inside the crate door. And, finally, all the way inside the crate.
  • If your dog refuses to go all the way in the crate at first, don’t worry. But also don’t force him to enter. Just continue tossing treats into the crate until he walks calmly all the way into the crate to get the treat.
  • Have a pup who isn’t interested in treats? Try tossing a favorite toy into the crate instead.



2: Feed your dog or puppy his meals in his crate

  • After introducing your dog to his crate, begin feeding his regular meals near his crate.
  • If your dog is already entering the crate when you begin this step, put his food dish all the way in the back of the crate.
  • If your dog is still reluctant to enter his crate, put the dish only as far inside as he will readily go without becoming nervous. You can alleviate the “nerves” by placing his food dish a little further back in the crate each time you feed him.
  • Once your dog is standing comfortably in his crate to eat his meal, you can slowly close the door while he’s eating. At first, open the door as soon as he finishes his meal.
  • With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until he is staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If he begins to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly.
  • Next time, try leaving him in the crate for a shorter period of time. If he whines or cries while he’s in the crate, it’s important that you do not let him to make him stop. If you do, he’ll learn that the way to get out of his crate is to whine, and he’ll keep doing it.Petco_Steps-to-Crate-Your-Dog_Step3.v1.png


3: Condition your puppy or dog to stay in his crate.

  • Once your dog is eating his meals in his crate without any sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine him there for short periods of time while you’re home.
  • To do this, call your dog over to his crate and give him a treat. Give him a cue to enter such as “kennel up.”
  • Encourage him by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand.
  • Once he enters, praise him, give him the treat and close the door.
  • Sit quietly near his crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes.
  • Return and sit quietly for a short time.
  • Let him out of the crate.
  • Repeat this process several times a day.
  • Gradually increase the length of time you’re out of site and you leave him in the crate with each repetition.
  • When your dog will stay quietly in his crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight the majority of the time, you can begin leaving him crated when you’re gone for short periods and/or letting him sleep in his crate at night. Note that getting him to this spot could take several days or several weeks.Petco_Steps-to-Crate-Your-Dog_Step4.v1.png


4: Crate your puppy or dog when left alone

  • Once your puppy or dog is spending about 30 minutes in his crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can start leaving him crated for short periods when you leave the house.
  • To do this, place him in his crate using your regular cue along with a treat. You also might also want to leave him with a safe, durable toy.
  • At this point, you might want to vary your “getting ready to leave” routine. While your dog should not be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate him between five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don’t make your departures emotional and prolonged; make them matter-of-fact. Praise your dog and give him a treat for entering the crate and then leave.
  • When you return home, don’t reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to him in an excited, enthusiastic way. Keep your arrivals low-key.
  • Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you’re home so he doesn’t associate crating with being left alone.
  • Your dog should not be left alone in the crate for more than four hours at a time during the day.Petco_Steps-to-Crate-Your-Dog_Step5.v1.png


5: Crating your dog or puppy at night

  • Put your puppy or dog in his crate using your regular cue and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or in a nearby hallway. Puppies especially often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you’ll want to be able to hear your puppy when he whines to be let outside.
  • Older dogs also should initially be kept nearby so that crating doesn’t become associated with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to a preferred location.

6: Cleaning crates

  • Your pet’s crate should undergo a regular cleaning. How often depends on the way your pet uses the crate.
  • Because most pet crates are plastic or wire, they should be relatively easy to wash with a mild detergent and hose outside, or with a sponge and towels inside. To fight bacteria, using a disinfectant that is a solution of one part vinegar to one part water works well. Let the disinfectant sit on the crate surfaces for 10 minutes and then rinse thoroughly.Petco_Steps-to-Crate-Your-Dog_Infographic.v1.png


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