I’m a big advocate of crate training dogs, because when it is done right, it provides your dog with a secure and happy place they can go to when they want a rest or are feeling anxious.
It helps keep your dog safe and prevents escaping while traveling, or may also be used to keep them safe during thunderstorms or fireworks.
However should they be extremely anxious, you need to be sure that they see their crate as a safe haven and that you ideally also put it in a quiet room where you can block out the noises that they may react to. Click the link for my tips to deal with thunderstorm and fireworks phobias.
Crate training is great for puppies
Crate training also helps with toilet training puppies, as dogs don’t generally like to soil their beds, and helps to prevent the dog from wandering unsupervised throughout the house, where they may sneak off and eliminate.
Putting a puppy in their crate for some alone time helps them learn not to expect constant human attention and can help prevent separation anxiety as they get used to spending time alone in there.
Slow and positive is key
To ensure your dog comes to love their crate and sees it as their ‘safe place’ it must be done slowly and positively.
- Start by placing the crate in a central area, where the dog is comfortable and still able to interact with family members. A quiet corner of the lounge/family room or in the same place as the dog’s current bed is preferred.
- To promote the dog’s feeling of security in regard to the crate, ensure that children do not climb in or on top of it.
- Our first aim is to build a positive association with the crate so it is always done with the door open. You can drop treats in, start to feed or leave with chew toy or long lasting chew treats or place bedding.
- Always praise and /or reward when the dog approaches it, goes inside and ‘up’ the rewards if it starts to voluntarily go in there or lay down etc.
- Whilst in the early stages of training, we never close the crate door until the dog is calm and comfortable. This will vary depending on the puppy or dog.
- When your dog is putting itself in there, start closing the dog for short periods of time.
- As the dog becomes more comfortable with the crate, you should extend the time the dog remains in there, with the door closed.
- We must remember to reward appropriate behaviour and ignore any inappropriate responses such as whining, scratching, etc. so the dog should never be let out of the crate if it is demanding you let it out. Instead, wait until the moment it quietens down and then reward their quiet behaviour by letting them out.
Choosing a Crate
When selecting a crate, it is important to find one that is appropriate for the size of your dog. The dog needs to have sufficient room to stand up, turn around and lay down, while not being so big that it is cumbersome to store / transport, reduces the security experienced by the dog, or affects toileting control.
If purchasing a crate for your puppy, you may want to plan ahead and select a size that is also going to be suitable for them as an adult. If doing this, you may want to use a divider to reduce the area inside during the early stages of their life.
There are 3 common types of crates, the one best suited to your dog will vary according to your individual circumstances, as well as the breed and behaviour of your dog.
I prefer the collapsible wire crates like the Lexi & Me brand found at your local PETstock store, as it is nice and open so it is easier for crate training, plus more resistant to chewing. You can easily throw a blanket over the top to provide some warmth and security and place a mat or blanket in there for comfort.
Collapsible Wire Crates
Collapsible wire crates like the Lexi & Me ones are well ventilated and fold down flat for convenient storage and transport. They enable the dog to have a clear view of its surroundings and most brands come with optional covers to provide added security or protection against inclement weather.
While suitable for the vast majority of dogs, wire crates need to be considered carefully should you have a highly reactive dog that is able to bend or break the wire to avoid injury under high stress moments.
An added benefit to wire crates is that many come with a divider for use during puppyhood. If you do have a new puppy, read our articles on how to puppy proof your home as well as the importance of puppy socialisation.
Soft crates are light weight, easy to carry and most fold down to a convenient size. They are great for small dogs or those who are completely comfortable with the crating experience. They are not recommended for dogs that chew or are likely scratch or push their way out of their crate, when they want to get out or become excited / aroused by the activity of nearby dogs / people.
Airline Approved Crates
Airline approved crates or Vari kennels, provide a safe alternative for dog that tend to be reactive and / or require more secure housing. They are made of a lightweight plastic and include windows / vents for increased airflow / cooling. The double pinned door also ensures that dogs cannot push through the mesh or bend it in the corners to escape.
The main disadvantage with this type of crate is that it does not fold down and requires a significant amount of storage / transporting space. If your dog requires a large size, you should ensure that your car will accommodate the crate, prior to purchase.
View the range at your local PETstock store
They also have wire playpens if you want to give your puppy room to move during the day but still keep in a contained space.
If you do need some help with puppy training, ask about joining PETstock puppy school as well.
About the Author: Lara Shannon is a NDTF certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training and boarding business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of Eat, Play, Love Your Dog.