Crate training is a great way to help your dog adjust to life’s expectations in their new home.
Although no one said it’ll be simple, it can be made an awful lot easier, with a few handy crate training tips when it comes to the best things to look out for.
Whether you’re just starting out, or looking for some additional things you could do to help with training, you won’t be disappointed with these expert tips.
Having many years of experience crating dogs, we have pulled together the following list of crate training do’s and don’ts that are the most important (and most helpful) when it comes to making life easier for you and your dog.
For information on the basics and fundamentals of what you need to know, you can read our Complete Crate Training Guide here.
How Do You Succeed at Crate Training?
Without a doubt, a dog owner’s preparation, patience, and consistency (in their delivery of crate training) play a key role in determining whether it’s likely to be a success.
Crate training a dog becomes much easier if you have fully prepared yourself for what to expect.
So long as you can dedicate enough time for training and follow your own guidelines, you WILL see progress being made.
24 Crate Training Tips: Do’s and Don’ts
These crate training tips are relevant to puppies and older dogs, and can be used regardless of your experience with crating.
If you stick to the basic principles, there’s no reason why you couldn’t train your dog to love it’s crate.
A little preparation, patience, and understanding is all you need in order to make crate training a success, and here’s just how we do that…
1. Do Get the Right Size Crate
Our first crate training tip is a pretty important one, and that is to ensure you get the right size crate for your dog.
The correct size crate will ensure that your dog has a tightly confined space, much like a comforting small den that they would seek out in their natural habitat.
Potty training is also much easier with a smaller space. Dogs will generally not want to soil the area in which they sleep, and if given a crate that is too big, they will find a corner large enough to potty in.
A crate should just be big enough to allow your dog to sit, stand, turn around and lie down.
You can buy an adult-sized crate with a wire divider (to section off a small part) in order to avoid purchasing multiple dog crates as your puppy grows.
Metal crates are the best type to choose as they are indestructible and will last for many years.
2. Do Choose the Right Spot for the Crate
Dogs will always want to be near their pack, so placing the crate in a quiet corner of the busiest or most used room is best.
This way, they get to see you and the rest of the family going about your daily lives, whilst also having the opportunity to take themselves off for some peace and quiet.
Crates should be placed somewhere without any extremities in temperatures, direct sunlight, draft, and away from noisy appliances (such as washing machines).
Top Crate Training Tip
On the first night, place the crate by the doorway to your bedroom, and gradually move further away until it is in its permanent location.
3. Do Try to get Mother’s Scented Blanket
If you’re picking up a puppy that has so far spent its whole life with mama and its siblings, then try to get a mother’s scented blanket.
This great crate training tip can go a very long way in helping puppies adjust to their new surroundings with a familiar smell, and will make them feel a little more at ease.
Provide your breeder with a blanket or piece of fleece before you collect your pup so that enough time has passed for the mother’s scent to be imprinted onto it.
4. Do Introduce Them Slowly
No one likes to be rushed into the unknown, so a little patience will be required whilst introducing them slowly to the crate.
Whether they are new pups or older dogs, a gradual introduction will ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the experience, and will help create a more positive environment.
Too much, too soon, is likely to create stress and separation anxiety in your dog, so patience plays a big role here. Have confidence that they will get used to it, and will need a period of time to adjust.
5. Do Keep Experiences in the Crate Positive
Always ensure that any experience your dog has with its crate is positive.
This means never leaving them in their crate for too long, or scolding them for any unwanted behavior.
Creating positive experiences inside the crate will help prevent separation anxiety as they learn to trust that this is their happy place and somewhere that they can safely rest.
6. Do Feed them Inside the Crate
One of the best ways to create a positive association, is to feed your dog inside of the crate.
Eating food is almost always a positive experience for dogs, so providing meals in the crate is a fantastic way to help your dog love their new home.
Pop their food bowl inside and close the door whilst they are eating, they’ll be totally distracted and most likely won’t even care!
Top Crate Training Tip: If they are reluctant to go in the crate, place the bowl near the door and gradually move further into the crate until they are completely comfortable.
7. Do Keep Giving Treats and Praise
Our next tip is an easy one – keep giving your dog treats and praise whenever they make their way into the crate successfully.
Did we mention that food is a great way to reinforce a positive experience?!
Top Crate Training Tip
Alternate with a chewy stuffed toy, filled with treats as an exciting incentive, and always reward them once they are inside the crate, not before.
8. Do Take Them Out for Potty Regularly
Crate training a puppy is quite different from crate training an adult or senior dog, as puppies have little control over their bladders and bowels until about three months of age.
If you crate a puppy (or any dog) and leave them for too long without giving them the chance to potty, they will have an accident in their crate – which you want to avoid as much as possible.
General potty breaks for dogs should be:
- 8-10 weeks: 30-60 minutes
- 11-14 weeks: 1-2 hours
- 15-19 weeks: 2-4 hours
- 20+ weeks: 4-5 hours
Whether you’re crate training a puppy or adult dog, it’s important to let them relieve themselves in their potty area, either on a puppy training pad (away from the crate) or outside in the yard.
9. Do Exercise Them Before Crate Time
If you want crate training to be a real success, we’ll let you in on a little secret. Your pooch needs to be exhausted!
A dog shouldn’t be crated for more than 4 hours at any one time, and before they are, it’s important to give them plenty of exercise.
If you crate your dog soon after an outdoor romp or game of fetch, it’s more likely that they’ll sleep like a baby, and less likely that they’ll kick-off.
Crate Training Tip:
You can exhaust your dog through physical AND mental exercise, here’s 13 Fun Ways to Keep a Dog Mentally Stimulated.
10. Do Consider Covering the Crate at Night
Dogs will naturally seek out confined spaces when looking for somewhere comfortable to relax. A crate is therefore a great substitue, if we can make it the best place for them to be!
Covering the top and sides of the crate at night with a blanket or bedsheet can help them adjust to bedtime, and can provide additional security and warmth (which most dogs love!)
It can also reduce any stimulation from their surroundings and helps them associate the blanket with ‘sleep’ time.
Top Crate Training Tip:
Be sure to make adjustments if it’s already too warm in the house, as this could potentially make them uncomfortable.
11. Do Leave the Crate Door Open During the Day
When your dog is not confined to their crate, always leave the crate door open for them, just in case they want some alone time, and particularly if they are stressed or anxious due to lots going on in the home.
Watching your dog carry themselves off to their crate is one of the best ways to tell that crate training is working, and is a huge milestone to achieve!
Top Crate Training Tip:
Use a carabiner hook (or similar) to prop the crate door open so that your dog has easy access at all times.
12. Do Leave Toys in the Crate
When you are at home and able to supervise them, leave a favorite toy inside the crate for your pup.
Leaving toys in the crate (that your dog loves) will help with creating that positive experience and association, and fun times are extremely important!
Important Crate Training Tip:
Toys shouldn’t be left in the crate when dogs are unsupervised, as they can cause choking or blockage to their intestines if accidentally ingested.
13. Do Keep Them in the Crate Whilst at Home
Most people can be forgiven for thinking that crate training involves confinement only when their dog is left at home alone.
An important aspect of teaching your dog about family life and boundaries, is to help them to learn that crate time is expected (and rewarded) when you are at home.
These should only be for short periods of time (30-60 minutes) a couple of times a day, and ideally soon after plenty of exercise.
Getting your dog used to being in their crate when people are at home will teach them to understand that it is part of their normal daily life. This will do wonders to help with the prevention of separation anxiety when they are subsequently left at home alone.
14. Do Clean up Accidents Quickly
Dogs generally do not like to live or sleep in areas that have been soiled by their own bodily fluids.
And one sure-fire way to ensure they hate their crate is to leave them in there for long periods with soiled bedding!
You can normally tell if there has been an accident by assessing your dog’s body language.
If they are squashed up against a corner of the crate, with their bedding pushed to the other side. This is likely to mean they couldn’t hold it any longer.
Handy Crate Training Tip:
Have at least two sets of suitable crate bedding available at a time, so that if one is being washed (or has been destroyed), then you always have a spare.
15. Do Be Consistent and Persevere
No one ever said crate training was going to be simple, but it can be made a whole lot easier if you prepare yourself for what to expect.
Not all puppies and dogs respond to the crate in the same way, and it’s very possible that yours may drive you to the brink of throwing in the towel.
Don’t give up!
Crate training needs to be delivered consistently for at least two weeks in order to determine whether you’re making any progress, and can take up to six months before your dog is completely content with it.
Ensure anyone else that is responsible for crate training (or has an impact on the outcome) also understands what is expected, including children.
With consistency and perseverance, you should start to see a huge difference in a short space of time.
16. Don’t Use the Crate as a Punishment
If you want your dog to love their crate and treat it as their safe space, then you should never use it as a punishment.
Shouting, yelling, or scolding your dog (followed by confinement) means they will associate the negative experience with their crate – causing stress, anxiety, and distress for them.
This is also likely to be damaging to the relationship you have built with your dog.
The end goal of the training is all about teaching them to understand, love, and choose to spend time in their crate voluntarily.
17. Don’t Force Them Inside the Crate
To avoid creating yet another negative association, you should ensure that your dog is never forced or pushed into the crate.
There are many ways to entice a dog into the crate – with plenty of tasty treats in hand, patience, and empathy.
Just as humans would, if dogs are forced into any space, they’ll end up resenting it (and you) for not giving them the freedom of choice.
18. Don’t Use Puppy Training Pads Inside the Crate
One of the tops reasons for crating a puppy is to help with potty training or housebreaking.
Using puppy training pads (or newspapers) in the crate will undo all of your hard work, as this will teach them that it’s ok to go potty there.
Your puppy will not want to relieve themselves in the area in which they sleep (if they can help it), and would prefer to go potty a fair distance away from their crate.
Crate training teaches your dog how to control its bladder by only encouraging them to go in a designated and suitable area.
19. Don’t Put any Items on your Dog
Whenever your dog is crated, they should be left ‘naked’ and without any attachments on their body.
Collars, harnesses, leashes, or any other items on your dog can prove fatal if they accidentally get caught in the wires. Harm can occur as a result of your dog panicking and trying to frantically set itself free from the attachment.
20. Don’t Tip-Toe Around Them!
One of our best crate training tips is to go about your daily routine without worrying over whether you are being too active or making too much noise in the home.
Part of the crate training process is teaching dogs that their crate is their space to relax and chill out, and that being confined is a normal part of daily life.
Let them experience their crate time and environment in exactly the same way as they would outside of the crate.
Useful Crate Training Tip:
When you leave your dog crated alone at home, have the radio or TV on so that they still feel like they have some company. This also helps to reduce any stimulation from noises occurring outside, which could create some anxiety in them whilst you are away.
This amazing Dog Radio plays classical music which has been clinically tested and proven to be calming, and helps reduce separation anxiety.
21. Don’t Let Them Out When Whining
Not letting your dog out when it’s whining can be an extremely emotional and difficult task, but it is one of the most important processes in training that will help your dog associate crate time with a calm environment.
If you react favorably to them as soon as they start to bark or whine, it is highly likely to become their go-to method in order to get their own way.
Only let your dog out of its crate once they have stopped and appear to have calmed down.
Top Crate Training Tip:
Whenever your dog starts to whine, walk away or turn your back, and only turn around to let them out once they have stopped for a short period. They will begin to learn that staying calm is the best way to gain a little more freedom.
22. Don’t Let Them Sleep on your Bed
Once dogs have got a taste of sleeping on their owner’s bed, it becomes very difficult to subsequently confine them to their crate at night.
If you are serious about achieving crate training success, then you should avoid human bed naps at all costs, no matter how tempting this may be!
Until your dog has matured and started to transition away from its crate, it shouldn’t be allowed to share your bed.
23. Don’t Make a Big Deal of your Arrival or Departure
Coming home to your gorgeous and playful pup gives you plenty of reasons to jump around in excitement, but you may unwittingly be creating future separation anxiety in your dog.
Being too playful on your departure will leave them feeling like they are missing out, causing them to become frustrated at being left behind.
The crate should be a place of calm whenever you are leaving or returning. Once you have let them out for potty – then you can make a big deal!
24. Don’t Abuse the Crate
Crate training requires patience, consistency, and empathy in order to work successfully for both you and your dog, and should never be used to confine them at every given opportunity.
If you abuse the crate, not only will you ruin your relationship with your dog, but they will also never learn to love their crate – which is what effective crate training is all about.
Transitioning Away from the Crate
After all of this hard work, there will come a time when you need to gradually start transitioning away from the crate.
I know, I know, it sounds counterproductive right?
Well crate training is never meant to be a permanent solution for any dog. When done properly, it will teach your dog to understand the boundaries and rules of safely sharing your space with you.
And once they have learned how to do this, they will have gained their right to more freedom in your home.
For additional help with crate training, you may want to try one of these transformational online dog training courses.
Summing Up Crate Training Tips
Crate training your dog is a highly effective way of managing their expectations and building a better relationship with your pup through understanding and compromise.
It helps with separation anxiety on both parts (for you and your pooch), safe in the knowledge that you’re coming back to a dog (and a home) that will be in one piece!
We have sworn by these crate training tips for years, and so long as you can manage with most of the do’s and don’ts, you’ll be on your way to having a dog that will learn to love its crate as its own little home.
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