Saturday, January 23, 2010

Crate Training 101

How many times has your family been out for a day of fun only to return home to trash scattered throughout the hallway, new shoes chewed into pieces and potted plants potted no more?

These scenarios are all too familiar to many families.

We love our dogs, but we often set them up for failure. Crate training can solve many of the problems common to dog ownership and create a safe environment for your new puppy to grow up in.

As a veterinary technician, I can’t tell you how many household items I have surgically removed from dogs, both young and old—peach pits, socks, kids toys, bottle tops, towels—the list could go on. That doesn’t include the times I’ve had to pump a dog’s stomach because they got into something they shouldn’t have: medications, illegal drugs, holiday candies, even cleaning supplies. Then there are the countless preventable deaths from owners not arriving home in time.

Crate training is the easiest, most effective and, in the long run, cheapest solution to keep an inquisitive puppy or bored adult dog safe.* Here are a few steps to follow to get your four-legged friend happy and safe in his/her “own room”:

1. Pick the right size

It’s simple: you want your dog to be able to stand up and turn around completely. That’s it! Dogs do not need to be able to run a marathon in their crate. If a crate is too big, your dog will likely go to the bathroom in it.

2. Introduce your dog to his crate

Set the new crate up in an area of the house familiar to your dog. Put a few of his favorite treats in there and let him sniff around it and go in as he/she wants.

3. Put your dog in the crate

You may have to force Fido into the crate the first few times. Go ahead, you won’t hurt him/her. Once in the crate, feed a few treats through the crate door and walk away. It’s best if you leave the room. If your dog is quiet, go back after 30 seconds, let him/her out and praise them for being so well-behaved. Repeat every few minutes and praise your dog each time. If your dog begins whining or barking, wait a few seconds to see if he/she will stop. If your dog does not stop, enter the room and give them a stern “NO” and exit the room. If you need to you may gently kick the side of the crate like a soccer ball while saying “NO.”

4. Time to leave the house

Put your dog inside the crate and close the door. Give your dog a few treats before you head out. Don’t talk to your dog, apologize or make a big deal about him/her being locked up. Dogs can sense your anxiety. You want this to be a smooth transition.

5. Upon your return

Let your dog out of the crate and take him/her to where he/she can relieve him/herself. Be sure to praise your dog when he/she “goes.” Again, don’t make a big production about him/her being in the crate while you were gone.

There are a few other things worth mentioning.

Chain or prong collars are not safe to have on your dog while in a crate. They can get caught in the bars and cause choking (I’ve seen it). The same goes for toys and chew bones. They are meant to be given to your dog when there is adequate supervision in case of choking. Crate training will give your dog an understanding of what it’s like being caged and will create a stress-free experience in the event of an unexpected hospitalization.

Happy crate training! Let us know how it works out for you.

*A secure outdoor dog run can be just as safe as a crate.


  1. Good run-down of crate training. I also think it's wise to take the dog outside for the toilet before putting him in the crate, and for some nervous dogs, feeding a few meals in the crate with the door open before locking him in.

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