If you are a potential new dog owner preparing your home for a new puppy, one of the questions on your mind may be in regards to crate training. You will get mixed advice if you ask others, but that’s because everyone has an opinion. With that being said, crate training advice can be boiled down to 2 perspectives: those who think it is mean and those who think it is effective.
A Few Reasons Why Crate Training is Not Cruel:
There are 2 common social habits of wild dogs: they travel in packs; and they are raised in dens.
Even as a pet, your dog is a wild animal that will stick to their natural instincts.
Crate training is about providing a safe zone where your dog can go when (s)he feels tired or wants to be alone.
Understanding that third point is critical because crate training can be cruel when abused or misunderstood.
Crate Training is Not About Punishment!
On one hand, crates (also known as kennels or cages) can be very effective in helping housetrain a puppy. However, it’s not in the way you think.
In fact, when (not if, when!) your puppy has an accident in the house: the worst thing you can do to react is lock it in the crate as punishment.
On the contrary, the function of a crate is to provide a comfortable environment for your puppy, and dog. It is never a good idea to leave your dog in a crate too long, and puppies (under 6 months) should never stay in a crate for longer than 3 hours at a time. There are many benefits that come with crate training as early as possible, including the ability to travel long distances.
In a nutshell, the crate is somewhere for your dog to feel safe. When you use a crate improperly as punishment for bad behavior, it is cruel and ineffective. When done properly, the crate will be a safe zone that your dog enters voluntarily whenever they want to be alone and rest.
How to Crate Train Properly
Choose a crate that is the right size
A dog’s den should be big enough to turn around and lie down in, and that’s it. It is okay to choose a crate that your puppy will grow into (so you don’t have to buy a new crate later on). However, as a puppy you must make the crate environment small enough that (s)he can only turn around and lie down. A puppy will not want to go potty where it sleeps, but it will not learn to control their bodily functions if there is enough room to go potty without sleeping in it.
Associate the crate as a pleasant experience
It is okay to feed your dog near the crate. (Not inside the crate, but near it.) You may also give your dog a treat when (s)he enters on their own. The process of crate training is to establish an association that the crate is a pleasant place. You are essentially training your dog to enjoy the crate, which shouldn’t be hard as it is natural instinct. As long as you don’t taint that environment by using the crate improperly, then the long term result is that your dog should enter the crate on his or her own whenever (s)he desires.
Crate training can take days, or even weeks. Consistency is key, so maintain the crate as a pleasant place and know that training should take place in a series of small steps. Don’t try to rush it!
Your puppy may whine during crate training at night
It can be difficult to tell if your puppy is whining to be let out of the crate, or to be taken outside. This can be tricky because you don’t want to “reward” your puppy by letting him out. Try to ignore the whining when this happens. Do not yell or hit the crate!
Crate training does not work for separation anxiety
Sure, a crate may prevent your dog from being destructive but he may injure himself in an attempt to escape from the crate. Separation anxiety problems can only be addressed through counter-conditioning and desensitizing processes. If separation anxiety has become a major problem, please consult with an animal behavior specialist for help.