Crate Training 101:
Want to avoid accidents and chewed up furniture? Crate training is one of the most effective ways to prevent accidents and household destruction while away from the home. A common form of behavioral training for dogs, crate training is surprisingly easy and even fun for your pet if done correctly.
For dogs, the natural inclination is to find comfort in a small, enclosed habitat known as a den. Typically, a den has three sides, with a clear opening in the front. The standard dog crate imitates this design, making the introduction of your pet to its new home a smooth transition. Another interesting fact is that dogs instinctively will not soil their den space. Therefore, crate training will assist you in house training your dog as well.
When it comes to the actual step-by-step process of crate training, planning ahead before the purchase of your puppy is a must. Crates of all sizes and shapes are sold at most pet store locations and can also be found online. Setting up the crate and making it comfortable with bedding or dog blankets is essential for a successful crate training experience.
Once you have the puppy in your home, use dog treats and a signal phrase such as "crate time" to coax the animal into its new "den." Putting a treat inside and calling the dog by name is a good way to start. It is important not to close the door the first several times the dog enters the crate. You want them to feel safe and comfortable, not afraid of being held captive. Be sure to praise your puppy for being so obedient!
After several times coaxing the puppy into the crate, you can slowly close the door and walk away, leaving the animal in the crate for increasing intervals of time. Start with five minutes, then ten minutes, then twenty minutes, etc., until you have worked your way up to the recommended maximum crate time of 5-6 hours. This should be a gradual progression and, when done correctly, is not completed for at least two weeks. It is a good idea to leave the house for short periods of time during the crate training process to ensure your puppy will grow accustomed to being alone in the crate.
Above all, do not come to the dog's rescue if he or she begins to whine. This is a normal crate-training occurrence and should not evoke a response. This is one reason why leaving the house is helpful – to avoid the temptation to release your puppy before it has had ample time to appreciate having a quiet corner of the house reserved just for him or her. Over time, you should see your pet seeking out "crate time" even when you or the rest of the family is at home.
An important reminder is to never leave your dog enclosed in a crate for more than six hours at a time! This will leave him or her feeling abandoned and neglected, and may lead to destructive behavior around the house. More often than not, your pet will welcome and enjoy the crate training experience, as will you when you consistently return to a clean and intact home.