9 Ways on How to Crate Train Your Dog

on November 23, 2022

 How to Crate Train Your Dog

Maybe you wouldn’t want to sleep in a crate--but you’re not a dog! Crate training your dog is not teaching your dog to live in a prison. Crate training creates a happy, well-behaved dog who goes to the bathroom outside, can be left alone for short periods of time, sleeps well, travels well, and doesn’t tear up your house.

Do those sound like qualities you want in your dog?

Then crate training is for you!

It can take a few months to crate train your dog successfully. So, read on and learn how a little patience and practice gets you a calm, well-trained dog.

Why Crate Train Your Dog?

Today’s dogs in their strollers or Halloween costumes may not much resemble their ancient wolf ancestors, but they retain some commonalities. From these pack creatures we get terms like alpha male, lone wolf and dog pile. Indeed, wolves like to sleep huddled together for warmth, in a dog pile. This may explain your fur baby’s love of cuddling up next to you on the sofa.

Just like their wolf ancestors, dogs like to sleep in a cave-like environment. They will naturally “do their business” somewhere else. Their cave gives them security, which is why crate training often makes a dog calmer. They like a consistent schedule, which you can do when you let them out of their crate.

So crate training your dog does them a great service!

Crate training benefits include:

  • Better sleep - Dogs will learn to sleep on your schedule when crated.
  • Potty training - Dogs do not like to go to the bathroom where they sleep. So, if you crate train properly and then let them out on a schedule, they can “hold it” while in the crate. Unfortunately, this is why pet store dogs sometimes have more trouble with potty training--they’ve learned to go potty in their crate, against their usual nature.
  • No damage to the house - If your dog is in a crate, they cannot tear up your shoes or your decorative pillows when you go out to dinner!
  • Great for travel - If you want to take your dog with you, they can travel in the car or an airplane in a crate. Many pet-friendly hotels also require crating when you are out of the room, or if you want room service.
  • Guest safety - If you have people over, like small children or people who are uncomfortable with dogs, crating your dog helps everyone stay more comfortable. Dogs who growl, bark or lash out at people often do so out of an instinct to protect you and the home. Your guest might exhibit their discomfort, causing your dog to get suspicious of them. Rather than to chide your dog, you can crate your dog, and keep everyone calmer.

If any of these reasons fit your needs or lifestyle, then crate training your dog is a good idea!

How to Crate Train Your Dog

So how do you crate train your dog? We’ll list here 9 things to keep in mind for a great crate training experience. But beyond these steps, keep in mind that patience, consistency, and positive associations with the crate, will make it easy for you and your pet. 

Most of all: if you don’t want your pet to see the crate as punishment, make sure you don’t treat it as one!

Step 1: Buy the Right Crate

Your dog should be able to stand up and move in a circle in the crate, but not much more. For a puppy: buy the right adult-sized crate for when your dog is full-grown, but a divider to subdivide as they grow.

Note: if you plan to travel, make sure you choose an approved kennel or airline crate.

Step 2: Choose What Goes in the Crate

You can buy a crate bed, but it’s not required. Dogs will sleep just fine on the floor--many of them prefer hard surfaces! They might also tear up a bed or pee on it.

A simple towel or a single toy as a crate companion may comfort your dog. This step frequently requires some trial-and-error.

Just like humans: some dogs also sleep better in the dark, so you may need a towel or blanket to cover the crate.

Step 3: Doggy Wears Nothing in the Crate

In terms of what goes in the crate, make sure your dog goes in naked--no clothes (or costume), no tags or collar. 

This point is about safety. If you’re not home and something got caught or stuck, your pet could get hurt. So crate train naked.

Step 4: Give a Crate Treat or Toy

In order to establish the crate as a relaxed, happy place, you should reward your pet for going in the crate. It also works well for them to have an activity when they go in the crate. If you give your dog something that takes some work, like a rubber toy with peanut butter inside, or a “bone” which takes longer to chew, they will associate the crate with the rewarding activity. 

Note: remember that real bones are not safe for dogs. They can damage teeth, cause choking, or get shards stuck in their intestines. Chew toy bones work great!

Step 5: Make the Crate a Game

Give your pet a game, especially with a puppy. Maybe toss in a toy. Leave the door open. Let Spot come and go freely, exploring his little cave. If there’s a towel or a blanket in the crate, hide a favorite ball or toy under it. 

The important thing is to keep crate training fun and interesting for your pet!

Step 6: Gradually Increase Crate Time

Your pet cannot spend all night in their crate, until you’ve trained them to do so. Be sure to crate train with gradiently increasing time! Bring them to the crate when they’re calm and ready for a restful chew on that rubber toy. Start with just 10 minutes at a time. Praise Fido for going in the crate, and again upon exit.

Step 7: Keep an Eye on the Time

In addition to slowly increasing the amount of time your dog stays in the crate, be sure not to exceed the time they can go without going to the bathroom.

A general rule with puppies is “one hour per month old.” This means a two-month old pup should not be expected to go more than two hours without going to the bathroom. Some dogs take over a year to make it more than 6-8 hours without a potty break! 

So, for crate success (and to avoid messy crate accidents), keep an eye on the time for outings.

Step 8: Take Short Trips

Once you start seeing success in your crate training with the dog, you can leave for short periods of time. Just go on a little walk or coffee break, for starters. When you get back, let your dog out for a bathroom break and praise. You want to help your dog release fear or anxiety about you leaving.

If you plan to travel with your dog, also start this with small steps. Just take a quick car ride, and build up the travel time, before expecting your dog to accompany you on long road trips or airplane rides.

Step 9: Be Realistic

Finally, keep in mind that crate training will likely take at least 6 months. You may have short periods of success, only to feel like your dog backslides and has accidents.

Be patient with yourself and your pet!

Your consistency will pay off. Eventually, your dog will successfully crate train.

Calming Treats for Dogs while Crate Training

Rewards are an important part of successful crate training! Our calming CBD-infused treats pull double-duty: providing a reward, with some added calm.

Help ease your dog into crate training with Bad Dog calming treats for dogs.

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