When it comes to creating a safe, comforting space for your furry friend, nothing beats the humble dog crate. It’s not just about confinement or convenience—it’s about creating a den-like space where your dog can retreat, relax, and feel right at home.
However, getting your dog to fall in love with their crate might feel like a daunting task. Many pet owners shudder at the thought, associating it with guilt and distress.
But fear not! It doesn’t have to be that way. With patience, positivity, and a sprinkle of creativity, you can transform that simple crate into a canine paradise.
Let’s dive into the art of making your dog love their crate—a journey packed with treats, toys, and plenty of tail wagging!
Table of Contents
Choosing the Right Crate
When choosing the right crate for your dog, there are various options. Each type has its own advantages and considerations, so let’s delve into them to help you make an informed decision.
Metal crates are favored for their versatility and visibility, making them suitable for most dogs. They offer excellent ventilation and allow your dog to view their surroundings, which can alleviate anxiety and foster a sense of openness.
If your dog is social or prefers to have a clear view of their environment, a metal crate might be the best choice. It’s also ideal for dogs that are already comfortable in crates or those suffering from separation anxiety.
These crates are suitable for large, active breeds like Labrador Retrievers or Golden Retrievers.
Plastic crates are robust and offer a sense of privacy and security for your dog. They are commonly used for travel but can also be suitable for crate training at home.
Plastic crates tend to provide superior insulation and noise reduction, making them ideal for dogs who prefer quieter and cozier spaces.
If your dog is more introverted or easily overwhelmed by external stimuli, a plastic crate might be a better choice. These crates are lightweight and portable, making them ideal for small to medium-sized breeds like French Bulldogs or Beagles.
They’re also excellent for dogs that frequently travel with their owners.
These are perfect for small, calm dogs like Shih Tzus or Bichon Frises. They’re not recommended for dogs that might try to chew or scratch their way out.
These are designed for strong or aggressive dogs that might damage other types of crates. Breeds like Rottweilers or Pit Bulls would be suitable for these crates.
These blend in with your home decor and can double as a side table or TV stand. They’re suitable for calm, well-trained dogs of any breed.
Built to adhere to airline regulations, these crates are a must for flying with your pet. The size and type you choose should correspond with your dog’s size and temperament.
Remember, the breed can give you a general idea, but individual temperaments can vary greatly. Always choose a crate based on your dog’s size, temperament, and needs.
Considerations for Breed and Size
Regardless of the type of crate you choose, it’s crucial to select the appropriate size based on your dog’s breed and size.
The crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably, but not much bigger.
If the crate is too large, your dog may use one end as his potty spot and the other end as his sleeping area. This behavior can be problematic if you’re using the crate for house training.
For puppies, consider purchasing an adjustable crate that can accommodate their growth. Start with a smaller section of the crate and gradually expand it as your puppy grows.
Keep in mind that some dogs may feel more secure in a crate that feels slightly snug, while others may prefer a bit more room to stretch out.
Understanding your dog’s personality and observing their behavior can help guide you in selecting the right size.
Your dog’s personality should also be taken into account when choosing the type of crate. Some dogs may feel more comfortable with open visibility (metal crates), while others may prefer a secluded and cozier space (plastic crates).
If your dog tends to be anxious or fearful, providing them with a private sanctuary in a plastic crate might help them feel more secure.
If your dog is sociable and loves being the center of attention, an open metal crate with good visibility might just be the ideal option.
Making the Crate Comfortable
Here are 10 ways to make your dog’s crate a cozy, inviting place:
Comfortable Bedding: Add a soft, comfortable bed or blanket that your dog loves. This will make the crate feel like a cozy den. Make sure the bedding is machine washable for easy cleaning.
Favorite Toys: Include a few of your dog’s favorite toys. These will provide comfort and entertainment when your pet is in their crate.
Cover the Crate: Some dogs prefer their crates to be covered, creating a more den-like atmosphere. You can use a light blanket or a crate cover. Make sure that it doesn’t block the airflow.
Include Water: If your dog is going to be in the crate for more than a couple of hours, ensure they have access to fresh water. There are attachable water bowls designed specifically for crates.
Add Personal Scent: Placing an item with your scent, like a worn t-shirt, can help to soothe your dog and make them feel safe and secure.
Treats and Chews: Leave some safe chews or treat-dispensing toys in the crate. These can keep your dog occupied and form positive associations with the crate.
Calm Music or White Noise: Some dogs find soft music or white noise soothing. You could try leaving a device nearby that plays these sounds to help your dog relax in their crate.
Proper Ventilation: Ensure the crate is in a spot with good air circulation. Avoid places near heaters, air conditioners, or direct sunlight, which could make the crate too hot or cold.
Right Size of Crate: The crate should be large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. But it shouldn’t be so big that they can eliminate at one end and sleep at the other.
Safe Location: Place the crate in a quiet but family-frequented area where your dog can see and hear you. This reassures them that they’re not being isolated or left alone.
Remember, every dog is different. What works for one might not work for another, so it could take some trial and error to find what makes your dog most comfortable in their crate.
But with consistent positive reinforcement, they’ll eventually come to love their cozy little den!
Gradually Introducing Your Dog to the Crate
Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide on how to gradually introduce your dog to the crate:
Step 1: Introduce the Crate
Start by placing the crate in a commonly used room where your dog feels comfortable. Leave the door open, so your dog can explore the crate on their own terms.
You can further encourage this by placing treats or toys near and inside the crate.
Step 2: Meal Times
Begin feeding your dog their meals near the crate. This creates a positive association with the crate.
If your dog is comfortable approaching the crate, place the food dish inside. Gradually move the dish further back over time.
Step 3: Encourage Time in the Crate
Encourage your dog to spend longer periods in the crate. You can do this by giving them a special toy or treat that they only get when they’re in the crate.
Treat-dispensing toys or safe chews can keep them occupied and make the crate a rewarding place to be.
Step 4: Practice Short Crating Periods
Once your dog is comfortable eating their meals in the crate, begin closing the door while they eat.
For a start, open it right after they finish. Gradually increase the time that the door remains closed, starting with just a few minutes and working up to longer periods.
Step 5: Extend Crate Time
Start asking your dog to go to their crate for short periods outside meal times. Use a command like “crate” or “bed”, then reward them with a treat when they enter.
Start by closing the door for a few minutes while you’re still in the room, then gradually increase this time.
Step 6: Leave the Room
Once your dog is comfortable being in the crate with you out of sight, start leaving them in the crate while you leave the room.
Start with short absences and gradually increase the length of time you’re gone.
Step 7: Crate Your Dog Overnight
The final step is using the crate for overnight sleeping. This should be done once your dog is comfortable being left in the crate for about 30 minutes at a time.
Place the crate in your bedroom or just outside it if possible, so your dog doesn’t feel isolated.
Remember, patience is key—never rush these steps or force your dog into the crate. It’s important that each step is a positive experience, building on each success before moving forward.
This process can take from a few days to several weeks, depending on your dog’s comfort level and past experiences.
Positive Association Strategies
Positive association is the process of associating the crate with things that your dog finds enjoyable and rewarding. This helps your dog to view the crate as a place of comfort and pleasure, rather than a place of confinement.
Here’s how you can use positive associations to help your dog grow their love for the crate:
Step 1: Using Treats
One of the most common ways to create a positive association is through treats. Start by tossing a few treats near the crate, then inside it, encouraging your dog to go in.
You can even have a special treat that they only get when they’re in the crate. Over time, your dog will start to associate the crate with these tasty rewards.
Step 2: Meal Times
Feed your dog their regular meals in the crate. Start with the dish near the entrance and gradually move it further back as your dog becomes more comfortable.
Associating meal times with the crate is a powerful way to build a positive relationship.
Step 3: Toys and Playtime
Enhance your crate training experience by integrating toys and play. Leave a few of your dog’s favorite toys in the crate or introduce a special toy that they only get access to when in the crate.
If your dog enjoys fetch, you can throw a ball into the crate for them to retrieve.
Step 4: Cozy Environment
Make the crate comfortable and inviting with soft bedding and items that smell like you or home. This can create a positive association by making your dog feel safe and secure in their crate.
Step 5: Praise and Affection
Whenever your dog enters or spends time in the crate, shower them with praise and affection. This reinforces the idea that being in the crate leads to positive attention from you.
Remember, the goal is for your dog to choose to go into the crate on their own because they view it as a positive place.
The key is consistency and patience—don’t rush the process. Over time, these positive associations will help your dog grow their love for the crate.
Crate Training Schedule
Having a crate training schedule is crucial because it brings consistency and predictability to your dog’s life, making the training process smoother and less stressful.
Establishing a consistent routine that includes spending time in the crate can help your dog perceive the crate as a regular part of their day, rather than associating it with punishment or loneliness.
Here’s how you can establish such a routine:
Step 1: Start with Short Periods
Begin with short periods of crate time during the day. This could be while you’re preparing meals, doing housework, or any time your attention isn’t fully on your dog.
Starting with short periods helps your dog get used to the crate without feeling overwhelmed.
Step 2: Crate Time after Play or Walk
A tired dog is a good dog! After a play session or walk is a great time for crate time, as your dog will likely be ready for a nap. This helps your dog associate the crate with relaxation and rest.
Step 3: Meal Times in the Crate
Feed your dog their meals in the crate. This creates a positive association and gives them something to do while they’re in there. After eating, they may even decide to take a nap!
Step 4: Consistent Bedtime Routine
Use the crate as part of your dog’s bedtime routine. This could be part of winding down after an evening play session, or it can be where they sleep for the night.
Consistency is key—always use a calm, positive tone to indicate that it’s bedtime.
Step 5: Balance Crate Time with Plenty of Exercise
Ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise and interaction outside the crate each day. This balance helps your dog see crate time as just one part of their varied, exciting day.
Remember, the goal is to make your dog feel safe and comfortable in their crate, understanding it as their personal space for rest and relaxation.
Regular, consistent periods of crate time, always presented in a positive light, can help achieve this. Avoid using the crate as a form of punishment—this can create negative associations and make crate training much more difficult.
Dealing with Whining or Anxiety
Dealing with a dog’s whining or anxiety when in the crate can be challenging. Here are some steps you can take:
Step 1: Ignore the Whining
If you’re sure your dog doesn’t need to eliminate, and they’re not in any physical discomfort, the best response might be to ignore them.
Responding to whining can make the behavior worse. Once they realize whining doesn’t get your attention, they’ll likely stop.
Step 2: Don’t Let Them Out When They Whine
If you let your dog out of the crate when they’re whining, they’ll learn that whining leads to being let out. Wait until they’re quiet before you let them out.
Step 3: Check for Comfort
Check if the crate is comfortable. Is it too hot or cold? Is the bedding comfortable? Adjusting these factors can help reduce whining.
Step 4: Ensure Enough Exercise
Make sure your dog is getting enough physical and mental exercise during the day. A tired dog is less likely to whine and more likely to sleep in their crate.
Step 5: Use Calming Techniques
Use calming techniques to help calm your dog. To create a soothing atmosphere for your dog, consider playing soft melodies, offering them an item of clothing infused with your personal scent, or utilizing specialized products designed to alleviate anxiety, such as anxiety wraps or calming sprays.
Step 6: Gradual Training
If your dog’s anxiety seems linked to being left alone, they may be experiencing separation anxiety. Gradual training techniques, where you slowly increase the time spent apart, can be helpful.
If your dog’s anxiety or stress continues despite your best efforts, or if their anxiety seems severe or disruptive, it’s important to seek professional help.
A professional dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist can provide strategies tailored specifically to your dog’s needs.
In some cases, medication may be recommended by a vet to help manage your dog’s anxiety. Always consult with a professional if you’re unsure about your dog’s health or behavior.
Common Mistakes in Crate Training
Here are some common mistakes to avoid during crate training:
Using the Crate as Punishment:
The crate should be a safe, positive space. Using it as a form of punishment can create negative associations and make training more difficult.
Rushing the Training Process:
Crate training should be a gradual process. Trying to rush it can cause stress and anxiety. Be patient and progress at a pace that suits your dog.
Not Using the Right Size Crate:
The type of crate you choose should match your dog’s size, breed, and temperament. The crate should be large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
If it’s too large, your dog might eliminate at one end and sleep at the other. If it’s too small, your dog will be uncomfortable.
Leaving Your Dog in the Crate for Too Long:
Dogs shouldn’t spend all day in their crate. They need regular exercise and interaction with their human family. Puppies especially can’t control their bladders for long and need more frequent breaks.
Neglecting to Make the Crate Comfortable:
The crate should be a cozy, inviting place. Add soft bedding and toys to make it comfortable and entertaining for your dog.
Consistency is key in crate training. If you’re not consistent with your commands, rewards, or schedule, your dog might get confused, and the training process could take longer.
Failing to Associate the Crate with Positive Experiences:
Always aim to create positive associations with the crate. This could be through treats, meals, or toys.
If your dog only associates the crate with you leaving the house or going to bed, they might develop negative feelings towards it.
Forcing Your Dog into The Crate:
Avoid forcing your dog into the crate as this can cause fear and anxiety. Instead, encourage them to enter voluntarily with treats and positive reinforcement.
Not Monitoring Your Puppy’s Progress:
Puppies generally can’t hold their bladder for as long as adults can. It’s important to monitor their progress and adjust their crate time accordingly as they grow.
Not Introducing the Crate Early:
It’s generally easier to crate train puppies than it is to crate train adult dogs. If possible, start crate training when your dog is young.
By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can make the crate training process smoother and more enjoyable for both you and your dog.
Crate Training Adult Dogs vs Puppies
Here are some important differences to consider when crate training puppies compared to adult dogs:
Crate Training Puppies
More Frequent Breaks:
Puppies have small bladders and high metabolisms, meaning they’ll need to eliminate more frequently than adult dogs.
Generally, a puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age, so they’ll need more frequent breaks from the crate.
Shorter Training Periods:
Puppies have a short attention span, so training sessions should be short and fun. Gradually increase the length of time spent in the crate as the puppy grows.
Puppies might need to go outside to eliminate during the night. It can be helpful to have the crate in your bedroom or nearby, so you can hear when your puppy wakes up.
Make sure the crate doesn’t contain any small objects or harmful materials that a curious puppy might chew on or swallow.
Crate Training Adult Dogs
Longer Crating Periods:
Adult dogs can spend longer periods in the crate compared to puppies. However, they still shouldn’t be crated for more than 8 hours at a time.
Adult dogs may have already formed habits, both good and bad. This can make crate training more challenging if they’ve had negative experiences with crates or confinement in the past.
Patience and Positive Reinforcement:
Older dogs may require more patience when it comes to crate training. Always use positive reinforcement and never force an adult dog into a crate.
Size of the Crate:
Adult dogs will need a larger crate than puppies. Ensure the crate is big enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.
Remember, every dog is an individual and will respond to crate training at their own pace. It’s important to remain patient, consistent, and positive throughout the training process.
How long does it take for a dog to get used to a crate
The amount of time it takes for a dog to get used to a crate can vary based on the individual dog’s temperament and past experiences. However, here are some general guidelines:
It might take a few days to weeks for a puppy or a dog that has never been crated before to get accustomed to their new crate.
If you’re introducing the crate to an adult dog, it could take several weeks or months for them to feel completely comfortable.
Some dogs may never fully adjust to a crate if it’s introduced improperly or used as a punishment.
Here are some tips to help your dog get used to a crate:
- Make the crate a comfortable and safe space: Place soft bedding and favorite toys inside the crate.
- Use treats and rewards: Every time your dog goes in the crate voluntarily, reward them with a treat or praise.
- Start with short periods: Begin by closing the door for just a few minutes at a time, gradually increasing the duration.
- Never use the crate as a form of punishment: This can create negative associations with the crate.
Remember, patience is key during this process.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of this ultimate guide on how to get your dog to love the crate.
By now, you should have a solid foundation of knowledge and techniques to successfully crate train your furry friend if he hates crate!
Keep in mind that crate training is not just about confining your dog; it’s about providing them with a safe and secure space they can call their own.
By giving them this den-like environment, you’re fulfilling their natural instincts and creating a sense of security for them.