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The Dos and Don’ts of Crate Training

Crate training a dog doesn’t need to be scary! If used properly, a crate can be one of the most beneficial tools in your dog’s training and can keep them safe, give them their own space, help with potty training, and manage or prevent problem behaviors in your house.


Pick the Right Crate for Your Dog

It’s important to pick an appropriate size for your dog’s crate. In order for your dog to be completely comfortable in their crate, they should be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around in their crate. If you have a growing puppy on your hands, be sure to choose a crate that will fit them at their fully-grown size and utilize a crate divider to slowly give them more space in the meantime.


Set Your Dog Up for Failure

Recognize that your dog’s crate is a cage and not a den. Many dogs won’t naturally go to their crate if it has no previous positive association, so don’t expect your dog to always want to be in their crate. Here are some realistic scenarios that can occur while crate training a dog, so be sure to keep them in mind to avoid setting up your dog for failure: 

  • Most dogs are communal animals, which means they don’t like being left alone. Since they’d prefer to sleep with their family or be in the same room as you, putting their crate far away can make the crate a lonely or scary place to be. In order to avoid this, ensure you put the crate in a place that’s comfortable for both you and your dog.
  • You never want to let your dog “cry it out” in their crate as this only makes the crate a negative place to be. Instead, teach your dog that the crate is a pleasant place to be and let them out when they are calm, happy, and quiet.
  • The crate should never be a punishment for your dog. With that being said, your dog’s crate should not be used for timeouts or as a way to reprimand their behavior.


Make the Crate a Positive Place

Make the crate the comfiest place in the house by using a cozy bed and giving your dog all of their favorite treats and chews while they’re in their crate! It can be really beneficial to give your dog a special bone or food-filled toy to chew while inside their crate to help them learn that great things happen in the crate.

Try setting your crate up in a spot that your dog naturally likes to be. Many dogs want to be in the same room as their human(s) while in their crate. This can help your dog feel more comfortable being in their crate because they won’t feel alone.

If your dog likes peace and quiet, covering their crate with a blanket can help them feel settled in their crate. You can also utilize some music or white noise to drown out distracting or startling noises. Many times, I suggest using a snuffle mat or chew in your dog’s crate before they need to sleep to help them decompress. Be sure to never leave your pup with chews unattended.


Enrich Before Crating

It is absolutely necessary that you make sure their needs are fully met before crate training a do. This means making sure they’re already physically and mentally exercised and have received enough enrichment. A few timely things to consider before you putting your dog in their crate include:

  • Wait until after they’ve eaten or drank.
  • Give your dog a proper bathroom break.
  • Ensure their communal and relational needs have been met.
  • Play with your dog.
  • Only crate a tired and satisfied dog.
  • Usher your sleepy dog into the crate to help them learn where they should rest and get comfortable.

If you’re having a hard time meeting your dog’s needs, reach out to a dog trainer, dog walker, or doggie day care to ensure that your dog is fulfilled.

Overview of the Dos and Don’ts

Overall, crate training can be great for your dog if you take the time and precautions to ensure that it is a positive experience! Utilize things that your dog loves for crate time and never use a crate as punishment for your dog. Make sure your dog’s crate is a good place to be, not bad. And, most importantly, don’t rush the process. Take crate training slow and go at your dog’s pace. Let your dog take their time and remember that short, positive experiences are the most beneficial for your dog.

Cats Can Be Crate Trained Too

Don’t forget about the furry felines! Crate training can be extremely helpful for cats and cat parents as well, especially to prepare them for travel, moving, or vet visits. Many of the same do’s and don’ts discussed for dogs are applicable to cats, too.

About the Author

Amber Oliver Aquart is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Studio Animal Trainer, Pet Lifestyle Expert and Influencer. Amber and her pet family have been featured on Animal Planet, and in several films and productions. Amber helps  educate and inspire others to develop a better relationship with their dogs through positive-relationship based tips and techniques.

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Amber Oliver Aquart was paid for her time, but all opinions remain her own.