When you adopt a new dog or puppy, the crate (also known as an airline kennel) can be an invaluable tool. The crate is great for teaching a dog how to behave appropriately inside the house and is one of the quickest ways to house train.
Dogs enjoy being with their family, that is why it is so important to teach your dog how to behave inside. Dogs that are outside all the time may become destructive due to boredom. Digging, chewing and barking are all fun activities for dogs. It is extremely important that dogs have appropriate items to chew, know when it is okay to bark, and dig when at the beach or in a designated area. Left to their own devices, dogs will get into mischief, especially if they are under the age of two.
A crate can provide a safe den for your dog when you need to be away from the house, or are too busy to supervise your dog. Until your dog is trained or over the teenage period, (between 6 months and two years) it is better to set boundaries for your dog and allow them to succeed, not fail.
The crate is meant for short term use. It is not a location to keep your dog in for hours on end while you are at work. A long term confinement area can be easily created if you are working all day. Keep your puppy confined to a fairly small playroom. For example, in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or section of the room cornered off by an exercise pen. In your dog’s area should be a bed, a bowl of clean water, plenty of chew toys (Kong products and sterilized bones stuffed with dog food), and a doggy toilet in the farthest corner from his bed. A dog toilet can be a large litter box with a pee pad inside.
An adult dog should not be left in a crate for more than four to five hours at a time. Puppies should not be left in the crate longer than they can hold their bladder, which depending on their age and breed may be only an hour or two. Remember, the crate is a short term confinement area. Most dogs do not need to even use their crates when they have learned the rules and are over the age of two. Also, make sure you are giving your dog plenty of exercise, mental and physical.
If you are consistent, an adult dog can usually be house trained within three to five days using a crate. Puppies will take longer due to their smaller bladder capability. A dog is not reliably house trained until he is at least 8 months old. The more consistent you are, the more you will see a difference.
Your new dog should be kept in the crate or tethered to you any time that you cannot watch it 100% of the time. This means that you are able move him quickly outside if he starts to eliminate. By tethering your dog to you, use the dog’s leash to tie the dog to you. Remember, this is temporary until you have house trained your dog.
For puppies, let them out of the crate approximately once every hour or so. You can go for longer but the more opportunities you give the puppy to be reinforced for going outside, the quicker they will learn. Take them outside immediately from the crate. Do not even give them an opportunity to eliminate inside. Have some good treats with you. When you are outside, try to stand in one general area and give your dog the cue (Hurry up, go potty, etc.). Most puppies will eliminate within five minutes of taking them outside.
If the puppy eliminates, give him some of the treats, praise him calmly and happily, and take him back inside. It is ok to let the puppy run loose in the house, as long as he is supervised by you 100%. After about an hour, you can put him back in the crate, and restart the whole process again within the hour.
If the puppy does not eliminate, take him back inside and put him in the crate for another 10 min. Say nothing to him and do not give him treats. Then take him back outside to the same place and try again.
If you are consistent with this pattern, your puppy will quickly learn that he will be rewarded for eliminating in the appropriate place.
As your dog starts to demonstrate an understanding of the new rules, you can begin to phase out the food treats and replace with praise.
Always make the crate a comfortable place for your dog to be. Set him up in the crate with some toys and then set the crate near where you will be. If you planning on watching a TV show, set the crate up near the couch. Be sure that it is in a cool location, or have a fan available if it is warm. There are even fans that are made for crates. If your dog is already housetrained and your dog is not a chewer, you can add some soft bedding, such as towels, blankets, or a dog bed inside the crate.
Another way to help your dog to enjoy the crate is through the use of toys that you can stuff with food such as the Kong, Busy Buddy or Buster Cube, among others. You can stuff the hollow rubber toys with food treats and then give the toy to your dog when he goes in the crate. Most dogs will become very fixated on getting the food out of the toy and will forget about the fact that they are in the crate. You can stuff these toys with a little bit of peanut butter and their kibble, cream cheese, plain yogurt, dog biscuits, etc. Be creative! You may even try to freeze it, as this makes it harder for the dog to get the food out and increases the time his attention will be occupied. Make sure that the toy is a sturdy one that will not break or be digested by the dog while he is in the crate with it and you are unable to supervise him.
The crate should be big enough for the dog to stretch on his side, and get up and turn around without his head hitting the top. A crate that is too big is better than one that is too small. For an adult dog, you can measure from the tip of the dog’s nose to the base of his tail for the proper crate length, and from the ground to the top of his skull for height. For puppies, do the same, and add about 12” for his anticipated adult height. With puppies, you may want to block out the extra area of the crate so that he does not eliminate in the far corner. You can buy a smaller crate and buy a new, larger one when he becomes an adult.
Most dogs take about two days to acclimate to the crate. Do not release your dog from the crate when he is barking or whining. Wait until he is quiet. Don’t leave your dog’s collar on when he is crated. A collar can catch on the metal grating and accidentally injure him. Don’t put the crate in a high traffic area of your house. Find a nice, quiet area for your dog so he will not be overly stimulated by noise and activity passing by him. Don’t let children, adults or other animals in the home tease your dog when he is in his crate.
Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety should not be crate trained. If you think your dog may have separation anxiety you should consult a professional.
Once you have successfully trained your dog to accept the crate, you can leave the crate open in your house. You may find that your dog will go into the crate and lie down there on his own with the door open, as dogs are “den” animals and instinctively enjoy a nice cozy place to escape.
Be consistent and your dog will quickly learn that the crate is a safe place to be.