Crates are small wire cages, a bit like an indoor kennel. It can be used for training, or keeping a dog secure, but it can also just be a safe and cosy place for your dog to retreat to when nervous, over-excited, tired or just fed up!
It is important that crates are a safe place for your dog. To ensure this please...
- Add in comfy bedding
- Cover the crate with a blanket to make it a cosier place
- Put the crate in a quiet corner
- Feed your dog in the crate or give them tasty chews inside
- Force your dog into or out of the crate
- Put your hands/body into the crate or stick your fingers through the bars
- Allow children to climb into the crate with or without the dog
Each dog will react differently to the crate. Some will automatically love the crate and use it as a bed and safe zone, others will take more persuasion. Very nervous dogs that would most benefit from a crate and safe zone may take longer to get used to a crate particularly if they have not seen one before.
Take it one step at a time
Put your dog’s bed or blanket in the crate and start feeding them inside. If they are not willing to put their bodies all the way in, put the food so that they can just stretch in to eat it and each meal move the food bowl backwards slightly until they are happy to go inside.
Don’t shut your dog in at this stage – leave the crate door open. Once your dog is happy to go in and out of the crate freely start to move to the next step.
Start to gently close the door, you may need to have it half way open to start with and gradually close the door over several days. Make sure you are closing the door while your dog is happy eating something tasty and open the door before they start to become anxious or bark to leave.
When your dog is comfortable eating with the door shut start to add treats to the crate throughout the day. Your dog should find a surprising tasty treat of kong in the crate to eat. This starts to associate the crate with fun times that aren’t just meal times.
As your dog starts to be more familiar with the crate you can use a ‘cue’ – a command that will tell your dog it is time to go in the crate. Say this word, throw a treat in the crate then reward the dog for going in the crate by dropping a few treats in. You can get your dog to lay down on command inside the crate to help them start to relax.
Frequently asked questions
What type of crate should I buy?
This is a certain amount of personal choice. Soft crates are light and easy to transport but lack the durability of a metal crate. Metal crates fold down to be moved but could be considered ugly! You can add a blanket over top or there are even some crates that are built into pieces of furniture.
What size crate do I need?
Your dog needs enough space to comfortably turn around and have enough room for a water bowl but no more. If the crate is too big for the dog it may start to feel insecure, the smaller space helps a dog feel happy and protected.
How long does crate training take?
It really depends on the dog! Dogs may have a history of being shut in a crate and not want that to happen again, they may be afraid of being punished by being shut in, or they may love the crate and be happy from day one. The most important thing is to let the dog progress at its own pace – never forcing a dog into a situation where it may feel uncomfortable.
What do I do if my dog is barking in the crate?
This may mean you have progressed too quickly. It is important not to let your dog bark for a long time in the crate and then let them out. You can make your dog sit, lay down or make a distraction noise such as a squeak from a toy to make them stop barking before you let them out. Go back a few steps and get your dog used to being in the crate for shorter lengths of time.
My dog has started to protect its crate. What do I do?
Some dogs can show protective tendencies over their crate. It is important not to punish your dog or shout or bang the crate. This will make the dog more frightened and likely to guard. Please ask us or a qualified behaviourist to help.