Crate training is an old standby for house training a dog, but it is also an important skill for any dog to learn. When used correctly, a crate is an excellent training tool and an especially good resource for use with an anxious dog. In this article, we discuss correct crate training and explain how it can be used to help dogs suffering from anxiety. Read on to learn more.
Isn’t It Cruel To Lock A Dog In A Crate?
Dogs instinctively like to have a den or a safe place to hide away, rest and be comfortable. When you introduce a crate correctly, your dog will learn to love it and will turn to it for safety and security. Crate trained dogs can feel comfortable in a wide variety of circumstances as long as the crate is handy.
Many people use crate training to house train their dogs, and this is a good plan. Dogs naturally do not like to make a mess in their sleeping places, so crating your dog while you are away or sleeping can help prevent a wide variety of undesirable behaviors such as making messes in the house and tearing up your furniture and personal belongings.
Crate Training Can Prevent Problems With Separation Anxiety
If you begin to crate training early on, your dog may never develop problem with separation anxiety because he or she will have a safe place to be when you are not there.
Dogs experiencing separation anxiety may become so frightened and overwhelmed that they have accidents in the house even if they are well house trained. Dogs who do this are not happy with themselves, and naturally their owners are not happy either. When this happens, it's important to pinpoint the source of the anxiety and take steps to eliminate it.
Separation anxiety can be caused by a wide variety of factors, such as health problems or changes in environment. Dogs may be very anxious in new settings. For example, if you move to a new house and then go off and leave your dog loose in the house, he or she may become extremely anxious in this new and unfamiliar setting. You may come home to find your belongings and your home in a state of sad disarray.
This is a situation in which crate training can be extremely helpful. If your dog has his or her own space that is always safe, it will go far toward helping alleviate fear and anxiety.
Can Crate Training Be Used for Dogs Who Already Have Separation Anxiety?
If your dog already has separation anxiety, crate training could make it worse unless you handle the matter very delicately. In the case of a dog who already is experiencing separation anxiety, the crate must be introduced as only a place to retreat voluntarily when the dog is afraid.
A mature dog suffering from separation anxiety will need a large, comfortable crate that is very well-equipped with all of his or her favorite things. You can introduce the dog to the crate gradually by feeding him or her in the crate with the door open. Be sure the door is securely propped open so that it will not swing shut accidentally while your dog is inside.
The crate must only be used as your dog's private room and safe space until he or she is entirely comfortable with it and goes in willingly and voluntarily any time that he or she feels afraid or anxious. Once this happens, you may be able to use the crate to keep your dog contained while you are out.
Until your dog is completely comfortable staying in the crate with the door closed, you will need to come up with other solutions for keeping your dog from making messes and tearing things up while you're away. For example, you may need to leave your dog with a sitter or doggie daycare until his confidence level improves enough that he or she can be left at home alone in a crate.
What Kind Of Crate Is Best?
As a private, safe space for your dog, plastic flight kennels are best. Alternatively, you may wish to build a custom wooden kennel for your dog. The idea is for the dog to have a comfortable, enclosed, safe space. Solid kennels are structurally stronger than metal cages or collapsible fabric kennels. They also provide more of a sense of safety and security.
How Big Should A Dog’s Crate Be?
Be sure that your dog’s crate is large enough for him or her to be able to stand and turn around comfortably. If you are training a puppy, begin with the smaller crate that is appropriate to your dog’s size. If you begin with a very large crate, your puppy may move to one end of the crate to relieve himself and then move back to the other end to sit. This will defeat the purpose of crate training. You must be sure to move up in size to larger crates as your dog grows.
How To Crate Train A Dog
Follow these guidelines when crate training your dog:
It can take quite a while to effectively crate train your dog. Be sure that the crate is always available and introduce it positively. Never punish your dog by placing him or her in the crate. Remember that the crate is supposed to be your dog’s private, safe space.
Make sure the crate is comfortable with some sort of padding on the floor. If you're starting with a puppy, you may want to just put down a thick layer of newspaper because puppies tend to tear things up. It's better to have to throw away torn up newspaper at the end of the day than to have to throw away an expensive crate pad.
You should also provide your dog with something appropriate to chew on in the crate. A Nylabone bone or other tough chewy toy that can't be destroyed and swallowed is a good choice.
You can leave your dog with a bit of dry food and a water bottle if you're going to be gone for longer than five or six hours. For shorter periods of time, it may be better not to leave food and water as it's not really necessary for three or four hours, and having food and water may cause your dog to need to relieve himself.
To get your dog to enter the crate willingly, you may want to toss in a favored toy and/or some favorite treats. Once your dog is in the crate, close the door and praise him for being in the crate.
The first few times you crate your dog, it should just be for a few minutes. Gradually extend the amount of time you leave your dog in the crate by stepping out of the room and closing the door.
Start with five or ten minutes and then extend to fifteen minutes to half an hour, an hour and longer. Take your time with this as your goal is to encourage your dog to think of the crate as a safe and comfortable place and not a place that he or she wishes to escape.
Limit the amount of time that you leave your dog in the crate. Dogs cannot be crated 24/7. Your dog needs exercise, socialization and more. If you are not able to keep your dog out with you, take him for walks and pay attention to him, you should not have a dog.
If your dog is very young (under six months old) don't leave him in the crate for more than three or four hours. A very young puppy cannot control its bowels and bladder for long stretches of time. If you leave a puppy crated up for too long, you will sabotage house training and anxiety training. He will not be able to prevent making a mess, and will feel anxious about it.
When your dog matures enough that he or she does not engage in destructive chewing, and when he or she is thoroughly housetrained, you should not crate him or her on a regular basis. Allow your dog free range in the house once he is mature enough to enjoy it responsibly.
Leave the crate in place and open so that your dog can go in to eat, sleep and retreat to safety. Having a crate set up at all times is a good idea in case you want to keep your dog separate when you have company, have a repair person in and so forth.
Be Patient And Calm
As you're training your dog, always be sure to keep your own emotions and voice quiet and calm. Be positive and praise your dog for going into the crate willingly and staying in the crate quietly.
Never scold or punish your dog for barking or whining about the crate. Simply stay quiet and wait until your dog is quiet to praise him. Remember to always praise the behavior that you want and eliminate unwanted behavior by ignoring it.