Crates or kennels are a fantastic house training tool recommended by dog trainers of all disciplines. They’re also sometimes the only place for an injured dog to rest. Some dogs simply cannot behave when left alone. When utilized properly, a kennel or crate will make your dog feel safe and keep them from harm when they’re alone.
Unfortunately, plenty of dogs hate going into their crate. Here’s how you can make it a place they look forward to instead.
INTRODUCING YOUR DOG TO THEIR KENNEL
First impressions are very important. If your pup’s first impression of the crate is scary or unpleasant, teaching good crate habits will be that much harder.
- Make Sure the Kennel Isn’t Scary: Make sure the kennel won’t squeak, bang, or wobble as your dog moves around. You want a smooth introduction with no unpleasant surprises.
- Take Your Pup Outside First: Especially at the beginning of your crate training, go for a walk before putting your dog in the crate, so they’ll be tired and have an empty bladder. If possible, start out with very short sessions in the crate, like fifteen seconds, so your dog doesn’t start to worry about being trapped.
- Make Being in the Kennel Fun: You know what your pup likes; make it happen in the kennel. Sometimes a food reward or praise is enough. Even better is a special toy or treat that ONLY happens in the crate. A puzzle toy or a challenging chew that will keep your dog occupied for a while is ideal.
- Take Your Time: If you can, take a few days to teach your dog to feel comfortable in the kennel. Begin by allowing them to sniff and explore the crate. Encourage them to nap or eat inside the crate with the door open. In your next session, shut the door, offer a reward, and open it again right away. Work up from there.
Some dogs are scared of the kennel at first. You may have to work a bit to get your friend to be near the thing at all. Not all dogs will react this way, but it’s easier to start out gently, just in case.
The Kennel is Not a Time-Out Place
Never send your dog into the crate for being naughty or as punishment. Let the kennel be a place of positive associations and comfort, and they’ll likely retreat there, happily, on their own.
Don’t Let the Kennel Become a Crutch
If you’re living with a fearful dog, they may begin to spend inordinate amounts of time in their kennel. Remember that while a kennel is a great teaching tool, it can also become a retreat for a dog who’s scared of facing the many terrors of an ordinary household. Sometimes, the kennel becomes a tool for avoiding growth.
If your dog is able to manage their bladder in the home if they’re no longer destructive around the house, but they’ve taken to “hiding” in its kennel, you may be at the point where learning is no longer occurring in the kennel. At this time, you may wish to consider removing the crate. A confident dog is happier and healthier than a dog who’s scared all the time. If your dog is permitted to run to their hidey hole instead of facing fears, they’ll never learn that your home is really a safe place. If you’re unsure, consider consulting a pet behaviorist.
WHAT IF YOUR DOG ALREADY HATES THE KENNEL?
Some dogs simply hate being caged from the beginning. If yours panics in the cage or risks injury while trying to break out, consult a professional trainer. If your pup has learned to hate the kennel for whatever reason, you can usually change the animal’s mind with proper training.
Most Important: Fix the Problem
Your dog has a reason for hating the kennel, and your job is to address that concern. Dogs crated for too long, too, might learn to associate the kennel with thirst or soiled bedding. Maybe there’s a cold draft. Sometimes another animal or a child bullied the dog in the crate. Maybe you, or a previous owner, used the crate as punishment, and now the kennel = angry human in your dog’s mind. You’ll have to fix the problem and then rebuild trust.
Remember your dog’s problem is likely a dog thing—something that wouldn’t bother a human. Maybe the crate is next to the dryer with a scary buzzer sound. Maybe your dog can see or hear the letter carrier and feels helpless in the kennel to defend the family home. Whatever it is, it’s real to your dog.
Then, Bring on the Positive Associations
Once the problem is fixed, reintroduce the kennel slowly. If separation anxiety or a learned phobia is the problem, call a professional. Medication might help break the cycle of panic so your dog can learn to trust again. Kennels are great for dogs, and you can teach your dog to agree with that assessment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to crate-train a dog?
Crate training a dog can take anywhere from a few days to six months, depending on the individual dog and how consistently the training is practiced. The process may be quicker for dogs that are highly treat-motivated and are comfortable being in a crate. It may take longer for dogs that are older, have had prior negative experiences with crates, or are more fearful or anxious. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are key to successfully crate training a dog.
Can I crate my dog for 8 hours at night?
It is generally acceptable to crate a dog for 8 hours at night, as long as they have had sufficient physical activity and elimination opportunities beforehand. However, it is important to make sure that the crate is the appropriate size for the dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably in and that they have access to water. Keep in mind that every dog is different, and some may not be able to handle being crated for that long, especially if they are young, elderly, or have medical or behavioral issues. It's also important to gradually increase the amount of time the dog spends in the crate so it can adjust and feel comfortable. Overall, it's necessary to consider the individual dog and its well-being when determining the appropriate amount of time for crate confinement.
Is it OK to crate a dog at night?
Keeping a dog in a crate at night can be acceptable as long as it is done in a way that is safe, comfortable, and meets the dog's physical and psychological needs. A crate can provide a sense of security for a dog and can be a useful tool for house training and preventing destructive behavior. However, crating a dog at night can be acceptable as long as it is done responsibly and with the well-being of the dog in mind.
Is it OK to let a puppy cry in a crate at night?
Letting a puppy cry in a crate at night is generally not recommended. Puppies are social animals and can become distressed when separated from their caregivers. Crying in the crate can indicate that the puppy is uncomfortable, anxious, or afraid. If the puppy is crying in the crate, it is important to assess the cause of the distress and address it if possible. This may involve adjusting the size of the crate, adding a blanket or toys for comfort, or providing more opportunities for elimination before bedtime. It is also necessary to crate train the puppy gradually and positively, so that the crate becomes a comfortable and safe place for them to be. This can be done by gradually increasing the amount of time the puppy spends in the crate, making it a positive experience with treats, toys, and praise, and avoiding using the crate as a form of punishment. In general, it is better to attend to a crying puppy and provide comfort rather than letting it cry out. This helps build trust and a positive association with the crate and sets the foundation for a happy and well-adjusted pet.
At what age is it too late to crate-train a dog?
It is never too late to crate-train a dog, as dogs of any age can learn to be comfortable in a crate. However, older dogs may have established habits and routines and may require more patience and positive reinforcement to adjust to the crate. For older dogs, it is best to take the process slowly and make sure the crate is a positive and comfortable experience. This can be done by gradually increasing the amount of time the dog spends in the crate, making sure it is the appropriate size, providing comfortable bedding, and offering treats and toys. If an older dog has never been crated before, it is also necessary to assess their general health and comfort, as some dogs may have joint or mobility issues that make the process more challenging. Overall, while it may take more time and patience, crate training a dog at any age can be a positive experience for both the dog and the owner.
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