Do I Really Need to Crate Train My Pup?

Baxter Ridgeback/23 weeks old/ IG: https://www.instagram.com/baxter_ridgeback_mdp

Is it necessary for you to crate train your pup? Well, that depends on your lifestyle and personal preference. The crate is simply another tool to help you raise your pup. It is designed to be a place for dogs to relax, and to give them a safe place to stay while you are away. A common mistake that people make is choosing to crate their pup only when they are misbehaving. The problem with that process is that it doesn’t teach them to stop misbehaving. It only teaches them to dislike the crate. Yes, this training style can teach pups that sometimes life sucks, and they need to get over it. However, there are better ways to acclimate dogs to being in the crate for extended periods.

In it’s most simplest terms, crate training is an extended “stay” command. If you haven’t taught “stay”, it doesn’t matter how much positive reinforcement you do, they will think it’s ok to demand to be let out. Also, you still need to positively introduce your pup to the crate. If you put them in the crate and then abruptly leave the house, that’s a bit extreme. You should help them learn to tolerate it.

Is Crating Supposed to be This Hard?

Baxter Ridgeback/15 weeks old/ IG: https://www.instagram.com/baxter_ridgeback_mdp

When you start crate training, understand that the process is extremely exhausting. Trust me, your dog isn’t going to die, but it may sound like they are. They will scream, cry, and shake the door once you walk away. Your pup will try any and everything to convince you to let them out. It’s easier to go to another room and wait for them to stop whining. Doing this also stops you from giving them the attention they crave. Here are some ways you can make crate training easier.

*Do not scold or punish your pup while they are in their crate. This is their safe space, and needs to remain their safe space for the entirety of their life. Also, make sure your pup has relieved themselves before you put them in their crate. Depending on their level of potty training, use your discretion when giving them access to food and water.

Here are some ways you can make crate training easier:

  • You can give them their meals in the crate. Push the water and food bowl all the way to the back of their crate. Let them enter and exit the crate on their own. If your pup is too nervous to enter, scatter some kibble close to the entrance and middle of the crate. Remember to praise any progress they make, whether it’s putting one foot inside or walking in all the way. Once they are comfortable with staying in their cage to eat, shut the door and walk away. You will teach your pup that you will only return and open the door when they stop crying and lay down. When they stop crying, calmly walk to the cage and open the door. Don’t make this a BIG event. Remain calm, give a short and small praise reward. If you peek or open the door when they are crying, you have just taught them that’s how they get your attention. RESIST THE CRYING. Remember, they are fed and had a potty break. They are OK.
  • Another way to help your pup acclimate to their crate is using the positive association technique. This process allows your pup to make the choice to get in or out of the crate on their own. However, if you have not taught the “stay” and “lay down” command, it may be more difficult. You start by tossing treats in the crate, and and coax your pup inside. Eventually your pup will go inside the crate to anticipate getting the treat. When this happens, point to the crate and start saying “crate”. Over time you will start to increase how long your pup “stays” in the crate before you give them a treat (only a few seconds in the beginning). Next, you will start to walk away while they are “staying”, and then reward them when you return. Finally, you will tell them to “lay down & stay”, and then walk away. When you return, reward them. **When you start walking away, they will instinctively get out to follow you. This will happen a lot. You can try constantly talking and praising them while you walk away. Over time you will be able to phase out the praise. If you still aren’t able to walk away, try simply turning your back to them, then face them and reward. Next, turn your back and take a step away from them, then return and reward. You are slowly working on increasing the distance you can walk away from the crate.

      The one thing that makes this process much harder is miscommunication. When a fully crate trained dog is in the cage and hasn’t been given a chance to relieve themselves, they will cry and bark. When they haven’t been engaged with for hours, fed, or given a chance to decompress with you, they will cry and bark. Owners often misinterpret the dog’s behavior, and leave their pup in the cage because they think it’s what’s dogs do when they are crate training. Which results in more crying and barking, and makes the process miserable. Don’t rush the process, it takes time for your pup to understand that you aren’t disappearing forever, so be patient. Your pup wants to be with the pack (family). Putting them in a crate, locking the door, and walking away can be stressful. In the beginning, short experiences are more tolerable than one long experience. If you choose not to crate train your pup, don’t be too mad when something happens. Can you blame them for seizing the opportunity to finally get into the trashcan while you are away?

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