Crate Training

Crates are one of the best inventions ever! Here is how a crate benefits you and your dog.

1)    Aides in potty training.

2)    Provides a safe retreat.

3)    Satiates the dog’s need to den.

4)    Keeps the dog safe when not supervised.

5)    Can effectively curb guarding tendencies. 

Your first chore is to ensure you have the proper sized crate.  This can be really tricky if you have an especially tall, leggy dog or a long, squat dog. Crates generally get taller as they get longer. However, one does not really need the height for a long dog such as a basset or dachshund.  A tall dog, such as a Poodle, Borzoi or Greyhound will need height. The conundrum is that if you get a crate tall enough for your greyhound to stand freely in, it will be as long as a tugboat! They do not need this much length! Adversely, if you get a crate long enough for your dachshund, it will be far taller than required and loose the cozy quality we want in a crate. 

Once your dog is fully crate trained, you can give them a crate large enough to allow her to fully sprawl out during sleep. But this is not suitable for potty training purposes. Here are some recommendations.


For a full grown dog:

1)    The crate should be 1.5 times longer than your dog’s body measured from the chest to the base of the tail.

2)    The dog should be able to stand fully with head erect without bumping her head on the ceiling. This is not always possible for tall dogs but as long as you get one as tall as is reasonable.

For puppies:

1)    The crate should be wide and deep enough for the puppy to enter, turn in a circle and lie down. If you give the puppy too much space in her crate, she will be more likely to eliminate/defecate in her crate.

2)    In the interest of budget, it is more economical to purchase a wire crate large enough to house your puppy once she is full-grown. These crates come with a divider that can be moved in order to properly size the crate for your puppy as she grows.


Creating the cozy crate:

1)    One reason I prefer the wire crates instead of the plastic type is that they permit optimal air exchange, which is a big concern for those hot summer days. During the winter, I drape the crate with a quilt or towel to provide a cozy feel and contain the dog’s body heat while preventing cool drafts that may occur. I leave the front 1/4 - 1/3 of the crate exposed for air exchange.

2)    Keep a close eye on your pup as she grows. She may one day decide that pulling her blanket through the wires is a terrific game.

3)    Safety always comes first. If your dog shreds blankets, do not allow them to have them. Likewise, beds with foam inserts are considered a delicacy by some dogs. Bottom line is…if it can be ingested, it is not wise to allow them to have it.

4)    Do not put food and water in the dog’s crate. If you expect your puppy to sleep for several hours before getting up, why would you provide him with food and water that will cause him to require a potty break? This would be no different that you  or I drinking a litter of fluid before heading out on a road trip.

5)    I do not recommend placing toys or chews in the crate with the puppy/dog as these are items that are highly stimulating. However, I don’t see a problem with a kong with a small smear of peanut butter in it. This will occupy your pup and distract the hesitant pup from focusing on being left in the crate. It is a lot of work to get the peanut butter out of that kong and can tire the pup further before he drops off to sleep. Also, once the peanut butter is gone, the puppy will typically lose interest in it. This will allow the  pup to settle easily.


Getting Started: This is a task that should be started in the morning on a day you can devote to the process.

If your breeder did not begin crate training with your puppy or if you are acquiring a rescue pup/ will be starting from scratch. There are many ways to crate train but I have had the most success by following the steps listed below. Note: all dogs are different and it is up to you to read her body language. This will let you know how she is feeling about the process.

1) If you feel guilty about crating your will have little success. They will sense your hesitation and become fearful of the crate. You are not putting your dog in a cage. You are providing a safe haven for her as well as providing the highest level of safety for her during times you are unable to supervise adequately. Let your guilt go. We don't allow our children to play on the highway, even if they really want to. It isn't safe. You must apply the same resolve to crate training. 

2) Show your dog the crate. Make certain you are calm and quiet during the process. Let them explore the crate. Toss a few high value treats into the back of the crate. Leave the door open during this step. Let your dog come and go freely. For two hours, toss high value treats into the back of the crate. 

3) Lead your dog into the crate and block the entry way when the dog attempts to come out. Continue to block the entrance until the dog submits by either sitting or lying down. Once  your dog has submitted to the exercise, invite the dog out of the crate. You do not want the dog to bolt out of the crate at any time, even when they are invited out. If they do, they were not truly submitted to the exercise before you invited them out.

4) Repeat step three every 15 min for the next two hours, gradually increasing the time they stay in the crate by a few seconds each time.

5) Follow step 3 but close the door (do not latch). Wait for the dog to submit. Then open the door, close the door, open the door, close the door, open the door...invite out. If your dog becomes excited at any time during this step, stop and wait for the dog to submit and become calm again. We do not want the dog to see an open door as the invite to exit the crate. They must be invited by you!

6) Repeat step 5 every 10 min for 1-2  hrs, depending on how calm your dog is during the exercise.

7) Lead your dog into the crate, shut the door and latch it. Sit next to the crate for 15 min - no touch, no talk, no eye contact during this stage!! I like to read while I wait.  If your dog falls asleep during this exercise... let him rest. When he stirs, go to the crate and qietly invite him out. If he does not fall asleep, that's fine. As long as he is quiet and calm, it is a success. If the dog whimpers or whines at all during the 'wait' time, calmly correct him.

8) Repeat step 7, increasing the time spent in the crate each time. Do a 'wait' session every 20 minutes. If your dog is resting quietly in his crate, repeat the sessions with 20 minutes free time between the sessions.  Make his 20 minutes free time a play time, walk time, run in the back yard time. Lots of exercise during his free time will make him ready for a nap in his den.

9) Continue step 8 and begin to wander around the room, walk away, come back, do chores, whatever you would normally do. If your dog becomes alert when you become active, ignore her. She will likely settle. If not, give a firm correction. Make the correction brief but to the point and continue your activity. If your dog has truly submitted to the above steps, it is highly unlikelly your dog will become worried when you become active.

10) By the time you are ready to turn in for the night, your dog will be ready to sleep through the night in his crate. Young pups may wake during the night to potty but this should be done with little to no voice, minimal touch and eye contact. Night time potty breaks are all about the business. No Play...or they will quickly come to think of the night time breaks as play time. Yikes!

If you experience difficulty during this process, please consult a professional trainer. I have had pups acquiesce to this exercise, from beginning to end, within 30 minutes. Others take two days with the 1st night consisting of little sleep. It is, in my opinion, a small price to pay for the immense payoff to both you and your dog.

Did You Know...

At Akenside Kennels, your pet will receive quality care, exercise and social time with other dogs if the owner permits at a competitive rate. Akenside Kennels boasts 15 acres of land: plenty of space for long walks and energetic romps. At Akenside Kennels, we are happy to send updates and reports regarding your pet’s well-being via text or emails. If your individual situation does not permit you to drop off or pick up your pet during regular hours, we at Akenside Kennels will discuss alternate options at reasonable fees.