Learning how to crate train a dog is essential for any pet parent. It provides safety and security, aids in training, and gives dogs a lifelong space of their own to rest and relax. Unfortunately, pet parents don’t always know enough about dog crates to select and use them properly.
IMPORTANT DECISIONS WHEN CHOOSING A DOG CRATE
How to choose the right size: Make sure the crate is only a few inches larger along each of your dog’s dimensions (length, height, width). Just enough room for your dog to be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. Dogs will relieve themselves more often in crates that are too big for them. Manufacturers typically have guides to help you select a crate size. These are helpful, particularly if you do not know the ultimate size of your puppy.
Plan for adulthood: If you’re getting for a puppy, choose a crate that will fit your dog when she is fully grown to avoid buying a new crate in the future. Make sure however, the crate comes with a puppy divider or something similar to reduce the size of the crate until she’s fully grown to avoid the oversized issue discussed in the first bullet above.
Make sure the crate is suitable to your lifestyle: You’ll have the dog crate a long time (typically 8-15 years) in a central part of your home – make sure you like how it looks and works, and that the quality is high. If you have limited space in your home or plan to travel with the crate, get something lighter and/or collapsible. If you plan on putting your dog in a crate for flights or car trips, make sure the crate is explicitly rated for use in planes or cars.
Crate Training Your Dog!
Never force your dog into the crate: You want your dog to love her crate. Forcing her in when she’s not ready will only make her fearful of it. You need to follow a steady process (see below) and decide when she’s ready to be kept in her crate for extended periods of time.
Use progressive steps to get your dog comfortable: We recommend a 4-step process: (1) Start by putting treats in the crate and letting your dog walk freely in and out. (2) When she feels comfortable going into the crate herself, close the door for short periods of time (just a few minutes). (3) Next you need to leave the room for short periods of time (just a few minutes) and slowly increase the time you spend away while your dog is in her crate. (4) Once you can do this for longer periods of time, your dog may be ready to be left alone while you’re out of the house (as always, start with short trips away) or overnight while you sleep. If you sense your dog is becoming anxious (e.g., excessive whining, barking or yawning, tail between her legs), move back to the previous step.
Don’t cave to cries: There will be times, particularly early-on, when your dog cries for you to let her out of the crate. This typically happens at nighttime in the first few days. You must not cave and let her out when she cries because otherwise she will learn that whining will result in her being let out. If you want to let your dog out and comfort her, make sure you wait until she stops whining. If you’ve followed the 4-step process properly, whining should be minimal. If your heart is too soft to your dog's crying, read our trainer's crate truth for some extra comfort that this is not a bad thing.