Crate training, also known as kennel training, is one of the most important aspects of your dog’s overall training.
Choose a sturdy kennel that is sized so your pet can just stand up and turn around inside – no larger and no smaller. If you don’t want to purchase a puppy-sized kennel as well as a larger one more suitable to his adult size, you can purchase partitions to block off a portion of the kennel until Rover grows a bit.
Once your pet becomes acclimated to his crate, he will enjoy spending time there and you will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing he can’t get into any trouble while your back is turned.
The Importance of the Crate in Dog Training
It’s hard to express just how important the crate is, as a component of dog training.
You can’t be with your puppy or dog 24 hours a day. In the absence of your direct supervision – at least during the training period – your dog’s crate provides a surefire way to keep him safe AND out of trouble.
Don’t worry that kenneling your pet is somehow cruel – in fact, it’s just the opposite. Canine ancestors in the wild sought out small dens for shelter and safety. Your pet’s crate will also become a sanctuary for him. A place of safety and comfort, most dogs seek out their crate for napping and hanging out when they aren’t with you. For this reason, the crate should never be used for the purpose of punishing your dog.
If you make it a pleasant place where he enjoys spending time, the crate will become invaluable in the dog training process.
Crate Training a Puppy
Crate training your new puppy may well be the best time and effort you ever spend. In fact, this is the secret to getting through the puppy stage.
Be sure that you make the kennel a highly safe experience for your dog. If you would like to put any items in the crate, choose safe food toys which cannot be destroyed.
Introduce your puppy to his kennel a little at a time. Sit on the floor and place a few treats toward the rear of the crate. Encourage him to go in and explore but don’t shut him in just yet. Give him a little time to explore and become comfortable. Then, as you sit there with him, you can start to shut the door for short periods, praising him all the while – be generous with the positive reinforcement (treats) during this process.
Once your puppy is comfortable with his crate, you can start leaving him in for longer periods. The first couple of overnight stays may come with some crying or howling but he will adapt.
Remember that a puppy will need to go outside to answer nature’s call more frequently than an adult dog, so you will have to limit his kennel stays to just three or four hours to start, and work up from there.
Crate Training an Older Dog
Kennel training an older dog can be more of a challenge, especially if you have a rescue dog or if your pet suffers from separation anxiety. In those circumstances, you and your pet will be best served to let a professional dog trainer handle this training. In fact, your dog can harm himself if you try to force kennel training despite anxiety or other behavioral extremes.
If your older pet doesn’t have any behavior issues, you may be able to kennel train him in just a few days. Set up the kennel as described above, and throw in a few of his favorite treats when he’s not looking. This way he can discover them himself and start to associate the kennel with happy, yummy treats. You can feed your dog in the crate as well, to help acclimate him to the feeling.
Use a specific command for your pet that indicates you want him to go into the crate. “Get in your bed” is a common choice. Give the command, throw in a treat and, when he goes in to get it, praise him heavily and reward him with more treats. Before long, you’ll find your pet sitting in his crate waiting for a treat.
Because kennel training your dog requires time and dedication, many pet owners prefer to leave this process to a professional trainer. In Salt Lake City, Innovative K9 Academy provides expert dog training for pets of all ages. In addition to dog boot camps and puppy training camps, we specialize in helping pet owners overcome specific behavioral challenges. Contact us today to learn more about crate training, or to schedule your pet’s first training session.