Crate training. Some people praise it, while others view it as the devil in disguise as an inanimate object. Today, I will share with you what’ve I wished have known about crate training before traveling with my pet, and how to crate train a dog.
There is no doubt that crate training is a very controversial practice, but it’s not cruel whatsoever. It can be misused, and so it could turn into a torture device. However, if used correctly, it will be your dog’s haven.
Think of crates as safety pins. When mishandled or used with an ill purpose, they could potentially poke and hurt someone.
A safety pin is a tool used to hold two pieces of fabric in one place, without hurting or poking whoever is wearing it. Once upon a time, a safety pin was used to secure a baby’s diaper.
Now that we’ve established how crates aren’t a tool of torture, let us jump into all of the questions related to how to crate train your dog.
How to crate train a dog- What does it mean?
Crate training is the process of familiarising and teaching your dog to accept the crate as a safe space. It starts with you, so don’t think of crates as cages.
Do you still feel a bit iffy about putting your best friend in a closed area, especially cause if you think of it by putting your place in your dog’s paws?
Totally valid; however, humans tend to like open, spacious areas. Dogs, on the other hand like dark, closed spaces.
Dogs are actually denning animals, which means that they feel most comfortable in small closed areas. They even convert certain spots around the house into their denning areas. That is why you often find them chilling under tables.
How to crate train a dog- Reasons to do it
There are a couple of reasons why you should consider crate training your puppy. Today, I will discuss with you the three major ones, which are:
- Behavioral Training
- Potty Training
- Travel training
I’m going to start with behavioral training. Behavioral training includes things like barking and destructive chewing behaviors. Does your dog bark at ungodly hours of the night and wakes you up from your peaceful sleep?
Maybe he chews your furniture or even your favorite pair of slippers. What about that one time when the dog ate your daughter’s 1000 word essay?
Think of behavioral training as setting the rules for your dog. You can’t just do it by telling them what to do and what not to do.
You don’t technically speak the same language, so just telling them not to do something is not really that effective. Sometimes words will fail you.
Remember when you argued with a colleague or a friend? Weren’t you both speaking in the same language, but your emotions and irritated state of mind prevented you from comprehending each other.
If that didn’t work out, then why do you expect just talking to your dog, who speaks in a different native tongue, to comprehend any of what you are saying.
With crate training, you’re able to reward good behaviors and prevent the practices that you don’t want to see displayed in your house. Stay tuned because I’m going to tell you how to crate train your puppy later in this post.
How to crate potty train a puppy
Crate training is also going to be very helpful when it comes to potty training your puppy, mainly because dogs don’t like to poop where they sleep. They’ll learn to hold it until they’re taken out to their pooping spot.
Of course, you’re not going to leave them for long hours in the crate, but puppies tend to go to the bathroom more frequently than older dogs.
How long you leave them in for potty training purposes and how often you need to get them out to poop if they’re already potty trained depends on how old they are. Please note that those are twocompletly different scenarios.
I will give you a quick summary on how often you should take your puppy out to poop according to their age, but I highly recommend that you check out our Puppy Potty Training Tips You Probably Don’t Know blog post as well.
Understanding how often you should take you dog to poop
It is very simple. All you have to do is use your puppy’s age in months to know how frequently they need to go out.
We can create a range where the first number is your puppy’s age in months, and the second number is the puppy’s age in months plus one. This calculation might sound a bit complicated, so let me give you an example.
Imagine if your puppy is two months old, then you should take them out to go to the bathroom every 2 ( their age in months) to 3 ( their age in months plus one) hours.
If they’re five months old, then take them out to poop every 5 to 6 hours.
After seven months; however, the frequency is set to every eight hours no matter how old they are.
The eight hour period is how often you should take them to poop, and not how long you could keep them in the crate. Keeping your dog for eight hours straight in a crate is inhumane and is considered to be animal abuse.
Travel training covers a lot of things. You could be traveling from one country to another via a plane, or even taking a road trip to a camping area that is a couple of hundred kilometers away. It could also mean just visiting the vet for yearly check-ups, vaccinations, and appointments.
If your dog is crate trained, that reduces the amount of stress and anxiety they would have while visiting an unfamiliar place for a prolonged duration. The crate becomes equivalent to a child’s safety blanket. It is a safe space where they could feel home although they’re technically so far away from home.
Before I start telling you exactly how to crate train your dog, I would like to share with you a personal story that taught me a lot. If I had this knowledge back then, my beloved pet would have had an easier time coping with what was going on.
My personal story
My fluffy friend is a cat and not a dog, but I still believe my experience is valid because all pets could experience that type of isolation distress and anxiety.
I’ve never crate trained my cat because I never really knew about it. We did have a plastic crate at home mostly for vet visits.
We also knew that someday we’re going to forever bid our farewells to the country that we were living in at the time, and go back to our home country. So we knew we’re going to need it to take her with us.
But somehow, the only time it clicked for me that there should be some sort of a preparatory routine for my cat before taking her on such a long journey, was a couple of hours before our flight.
Before that, we only used the crate to take her to the vet to get her vaccination shots and just regular check-ups. If we’re going on a holiday, we would take her to a friend’s house for that duration in which we’re gone.
She never really stayed in it for longer than 30 minutes at a time, and she really despised being in that crate.
Things got so much worse, though on our travel day. She was meowing the whole time, going on for hours and hours. I tried to pat her with whatever of my hands I was able to squeeze through the small holes on the door.
I could feel her warm breath on my hands; she was panting out of fear, and I could even hear her heartbeat.
We made it to the plane, where neither the panting nor the meowing has stopped. When our meals were served, I took that as an opportunity to calm her down with food. I almost felt hopeless when she refused to eat the chicken, but I didn’t give up.
I smooshed a bit of cheese on my finger and gave it to her. She licked it and finally stopped meowing. I fed her my piece of cheese as well as my sister’s. When we were out of cheese, I gave her butter, and she ate the entire stick.
This was one hundred percent stress eating! My cat didn’t just eat one butter stick, but two entire ones.
When we ran out of butter, I moved to jam. She ate it, despite the fact that she doesn’t even like sweet food. The stress eating session helped calm her down and stop meowing for a total of twenty minutes. Soon though, she was back at it again.
We eventually landed and picked up our luggage. On our way to the cab, she started banging her body at the door and managed to break it and escaped halfway through. I managed to catch her before she runs away.
All she wanted is to be out of that crate, even though the sound of cars around us should have scared her. But no, she was in so much distress, and nothing else mattered.
I reattached the door and put her back in. During the two-hour cab ride, she continued meowing, and she only stopped once we freed her from the crate when we arrived home.
If only I knew about crate training earlier, I would have prevented all of the stress and anxiety that she had to endure on that flight. I hope you don’t make the same mistake with your puppy and actually crate train your puppies.
In case you are wondering, she is fine now. Here is a picture of her. Isn’t she a cutie?
How to crate train a dog- What you’ll need
You’ll need a variety of things and not just the crate. Here is all of what you might need while you crate train your dog:
- A Crate
- A crate mat pad
- A harnessing vest
- A Kong dog toy
- Dog food
- A Water bottle
- Peanut butter or cream cheese
For the size, make sure that your dog is able to stand tall and move around. You could invest in bigger crates to avoid buying a new one when your puppy grows up and out of it.
Now that you have an idea on what you’ll need, let us discuss the different types of crates available.
Plastic crates are also known as travel crates. It is a good choice as a dog’s first crate. They are easy to clean, disassemble, and store. Plastic crates tend to be darker and drier than other crates.
They are very car friendly, and you could get a strap to secure them in the car. This also the only type of crates allowed on planes, so if you plan on getting only one crate and you travel frequently, this would be the perfect choice for you.
Metal/ Wired Crates
These are also very popular, usually falling second after plastic crates. They offer more vision for the dogs and provide more room for air circulation. Unfortunately, you can’t fly with them, but they can be used in the car. They can also fold up.
These aren’t recommended for the crate training period, but they are great if your dog is trained and you go on a lot of camping trips. They are hard to clean and tend to be a bit on the expensive end.
How to crate train a dog?
This 101 crate training process is going to be divided into three stages.
- Casual Introductions
- Coffee Dates
- Longer Dates and sleepovers
Stage One- Casual Introductions
Introduce your dog to the crate subtly. You can do that by leaving the door completely open, and throwing in some treats. Your dog will go in for the treats, then come out.
You could also throw in some squishy toys for them to play with. Using a trigger word will help as well. Every time you let them into the crate, say a specific word.
There are two techniques that you could use to create anticipation within the dog to go into the crate.
The first includes throwing in the treats, then holding back your dog a bit before allowing them to go after their treats. If your dog isn’t comfortable with you handling them this way, then put them in their vest harness, and hold them back using the harness.
This makes the dog super excited to go into the crate and helps with creating a positive preception of crates to dogs. If you don’t have a harness, then use this next technique instead.
Throw in the treats into the crate, and close the door for a few seconds to allow the anticipation based tension to build up a bit. Open the door and allow your puppy get their treats. Repeat the process multiple time a day for a couple of days, then move on to the next stage.
Stage 2: Coffee dates
Now that your dog is familiar with their crate, it time for both of them to go on a coffee date. This is where the kong dog toy comes in handy.
While purchasing a kong dog toy, pick the size that looks suitable, then opt up for the bigger one. Bigger kongs have bigger openings, thus making it easier for your dog to squeeze out whatever is inside it.
If you don’t know what a kong toy is, it is a squishy, chewable toy that can be filled with things like dog food. The more the dog plays and bites the toy, the more food comes out.
Make sure to buy a couple of them, so you are always prepared for your crate training sessions. Prepping them is super easy; just follow upcoming steps.
While prepping their meal, take one-third of the portion and moisten it in a bowl of water. Scoop the dog food into the Kong toy and put it in the freezer.
When it is time for you to crate train your dog, take the kong toy out of the freezer, spread some peanut butter or cream cheese on the opening, then head to the crate. Make sure that your dog sees you putting the kong in the crate.
If they see you put it in, they’ll run happily towards the crate. Close the door behind them once they get inside. They’ll start licking whatever spread you’ve put over the opening. After that, the more they bite and chew on the toy, the more food comes out. You’ve just created a behavior-based reward system.
This might take a while, so your puppy is going to spend more time in the crate and get more accustomed to it. After they’re done, get them out of the crate. Repeat that often and stay consistent, but avoid doing that at the same time every day.
Now that your dog can stay a bit longer in the crate, you can prolong the period even more.
Stage 3: Longer Dates
Longer dates are just what they sound like. Start a little bit bigger from coffee dates, and slowly increase the duration. Make sure to be close to them when they are in their crates, and with time, increase the duration ‘s length and your distance away from the crate.
These longer dates could turn into sleepovers, where your puppy spends the night in the crate. Place the crate in your bedroom, so your puppy feels like they’re close to you. Don’t forget to fill up the water bottle and add it to their crate.
Since they wouldn’t want to mess up their sleeping area with poop, they’ll hold it. However, you’ll have to set multiple alarms throughout the night according to how old your puppy is to take them to the bathroom. You can’t leave them in there all night without any poopy breaks when they’re so young.
How to crate train a dog No No’s?
Despite being very helpful, crates could be misused. Here are some examples:
- As a form of punishment
- Long Duration
- Putting them in the crate when they have a lot of energy
As a form of punishment
Never use crates as a form of punishment. The point of crate training is to make the dogs associate their crate as a safe space. Using it as punishment shatters all hopes of teaching your dog proper behaviors and is very unethical.
Leaving them for long durations
You are not supposed to leave them for longer than four hours. Anything more than that is too much. Even doing two separate four hours crane training sessions is not recommended, but if done, don’t do that multiple days per week.
Timing is everything
When you put your dog in the crate, it supposed to be when it is time for them to unwind and relax. We want calm vibes to be associated with the crane. Putting your dog when they want to play or are bursting out with energy is not the way to go, and you won’t be able to keep the dog from barking the entire time.
And that was the last bit of information in our ultimate guide for how to crate train a dog. Remember that slow and steady wins the race, so patience is vital. Many people get all of the equipment, try it for a couple of times, then declare defeat out of frustration.
Don’t be like them, stay persistent and patient and eventually, your best furry friend will be familiar with all of the house rules, knows how to potty train, and will be able to go on long car trips without much stress or anxiety.
Now that you’ve learned all about crate training, would you consider crate training your puppy? What type of crate would you go for? Also, we’d love to know your puppy’s name so don’t forget to mention that as well.