Crate-Training your Dog

Dogs that have been crate-trained in a positive manner often learn to love crates. We would hate them so many people that have not trained their dogs in crates cannot believe that dogs would actually like this. But, they love them.

Years ago, I didn’t know anybody that crate-trained their pets. I had never used one. It seemed cruel to me at the time. I thought of it like caging my animal. It seemed to be a type of jail. I couldn’t imagine doing that to my family pet. I wish I had! A couple of years ago, I got Betty, my border collie. She was a year old and had been crate-trained by her foster family at the Border Collie rescue group. I didn’t think I needed a crate though. Well, I brought Betty home that first day and she was scared. She was pacing and nervous. She did not settle down at bedtime. I tried putting her in the bathroom because she was not completely potty-trained and I didn’t have any pens or crates yet (I didn’t realize I was bringing her home that first night. I thought I was just going to meet her.). She cried all night. She scratched. She chewed things. What had I gotten myself into? I tried letting her in the bed with me and she wanted to sit on my head. It was a rough first night. The next day at work, I was talking to a co-worker that had crate-trained his dogs. He offered me the use of a spare crate. It was the right size. I accepted the offer after he told me a little more about it. That night, I brought the crate home and set it up. Betty went right in and settled down. What just happened? I couldn’t believe it. She had terrible nightmares the first few months, so I closed the doors and she never had a problem with it. I was learning. She slept well in her crate. So, I started reading up on crate-training. I learned that dogs actually like a private den-like space to relax in. Wolves sleep in dens in the wild and dogs, like their ancestors, enjoyed a nice cozy sleeping spot. I found that she settles down in her crate and will go in it to relax when she needs some space. Here are a few things that I learned as I explored this whole crate-training thing for Betty:

  • Get the right size. A crate should be large enough for the dog to walk into, turn around and lie down easily. A larger crate won’t feel as cozy to a dog and a smaller size will be too cramped. Dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep. A crate will make potty-training much easier. A blanket or crate cover helps make it even more private and den-like. You can find crates at pet stores or online easily. Great places to get a crate at a good price are garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. There are also a lot of great designs to camouflage the crates and make them look more like furniture. I love looking for ideas like this on Pinterest.
  • Find the right bedding. My Betty runs hot and doesn’t like anything too fluffy. I bought a beautiful, expensive crate mat when I purchased her crate (I had to return the borrowed crate). I heard Betty pushing the mat around at night. Betty ate the mat when she couldn’t scrape it to the side one day while I was at work. She also ate a very lovely dog bed. It was about a year before she stopped eating beds. Some of the dogs that I boarded would bring their own crates and mats. One of my customers had the great idea to use a small area rug instead of a crate mat. Betty kept going into this pet’s crate when he visited us. So I put a fluffy microfiber bath mat in her crate. It was a perfect fit and Betty didn’t eat it. This was washable too. Find what your pet likes.
  • Location matters. An ideal spot for a crate is quiet and not too hot and not too cold. I keep Betty’s crate in my room near me. I don’t close the door anymore and she can spend a little time with me when we first go to sleep. She always goes back to her crate to really get some good sleep though. In the beginning, I closed the doors at bedtime and when I would go to work. She loves the spot by the patio door at my mom’s house even better with her crate by the fresh air.
  • Start slow. I was fortunate that someone else had already exposed Betty to a crate. A dog that has never been in a crate won’t take to it instantly. Start by having the crate in the room and putting them in for short times. Gradually increase the time.
  • Good things happen in the crate. Many people give special treats and toys that the dog only gets while in the crate. Many people feed their dogs in their crates. I save messy chews for the crate.
  • No punishment in the crate. Do not ever use the crate as a time out spot. You do not want the dog to associate the crate with punishment. You want the dog to want to go into the crate.
  • No kids in the crate. The crate is the dog’s sanctuary. Teach your kids that the dog needs a spot to have quiet time.
  • A crate is a safe place. If you have an ill or injured dog, a crate keeps the pet calm and contained. If you have a chewy or destructive pet, the crate keeps your furniture and home safe. It also keeps the pet from ingesting things that it should not. Thunderstorms and fireworks frighten most dogs. A crate is a nice safe cozy place for them to wait out these scary events. When I visit family I bring Betty’s crate. It comes in handy to keep her out of places that she doesn’t belong and away from kids or pets that become overwhelming. Most of my family has pets so it was nice to have a crate handy when introducing Betty to new canine family members. Betty was happy to go into her crate when we were teaching the kids to be gentle and unafraid of dogs as well as desensitizing her to small children.
  • If you ever need to board your dog, being crate-trained will reduce the anxiety of boarding because kennels and most private pet-sitters and boarders will crate your pet at bedtime at a minimum. Being able to separate animals into crates will also keep them safer. Many pet-sitters prefer crate-trained pets. There is always a risk of injury if the animal is allowed to roam at night because they are unsupervised while the humans are sleeping and can get into things. If there are other dogs present, fights can occur. I am not boarding animals currently -but when I did, I never allowed pets from different households to roam freely together at night. It was far too risky for the pets and my furniture. I have a client that I pet-sit that enjoys having Betty come provide companionship during our visits. I bring Betty’s crate for overnight sleeping. She sleeps better and doesn’t roam the house. I can sleep better know both dogs are safe while I sleep.

Not every dog will “love” their crate. Some rescued dogs that were abused and crated will have negative associations with crates. I do believe that every dog should have one available for emergencies and to keep them confined as is sometimes needed when injured or recuperating from an illness or injury. Having them acclimated to a crate ahead of time will reduce the stress of being crated.


Originally published at mrycpetcare.weebly.com.

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