To some of us, no matter what we are told, crate training seems cruel-none of us are likely to be relaxed being confined, but dogs learn to truly like their crates, with rare exceptions…Indeed, it becomes their private “pad”. We have two dogs, and one of them takes her treat into her “carrier/tent” that she has, so her sister can’t take them away from her, and when they come to work with us, they sleep in their crate of their own volition.
Being comfortable in a crate not only gives them a place to “get away”, but it is also the safest way to transport your pet in the car, and many states now require that your dog be restrained in a moving vehicle. Even if it is not spelled out as illegal in a state, you can be charged with “distracted driving” if your dog is loose in the car. And, if your dog is going to travel by air, then they need to be able to relax in their crate.
The most important part of crate training is to start young, when you first bring your puppy home…and never use the crate as a punishment, or leave your dog confined for excessively long periods of time. Can you go eight hours without going to the bathroom? I didn’t think so….the general rule used for training is that an adult dog can stay in a crate for 6 hours during the day, 8 at night. For a puppy, max time in the crate should be their age in months plus one, so a 3 month old can be crated for 4 hours.
If you must leave your dog for longer periods of time, then use an exercise pen or gated area should be provided so the dog is not forced to relieve himself in his bed.
When you first start to crate train, set up the crate and leave it open. Place treats inside the crate and allow your puppy to approach the crate, rewarding him with praise as well as treats when he goes in.
After he has become comfortable going into the crate, begin putting his treats further in to take the treat, and again, reward him for venturing in. Praise him for as long as he stays in the crate.
When he becomes comfortable, begin gently closing the gate, give him a treat, and re-open the door. If he whines or cries do not open the door or reward…you don’t want to reward behaviors you do not want.
Gradually increase the amount of time he stays in the crate-when he is comfortable with several minutes, you can start leaving the room for short periods of time-start with one minute, and gradually increase the time.
When reentering the room, keep your greeting low key, so you don’t give him excited.
Done right, crate and carrier training can be a blessing for both of you-my Chihuahuas even motorcycle in a carrier with the strap around the back of my neck and resting on the gas tank of my bike!