Crate training is the process of conditioning your dog to accept being in the crate.  In most cases crating is used for housebreaking, properly introduced, a crate can also become your dog’s safe haven and favorite place to hang out.  Crating can be used for short periods for management (to prevent destruction of household items while left unsupervised), safe transportation via vehicle or plane, and for keeping a dog calm when ill or recovering from surgery.  Crate training is not just for puppies-it also works well for adult dogs.

There are various types of crates available including metal; plastic and fabric materials.  The metal crates are usually foldable and have metal bars and a plastic floor that is removable.  The plastic crates can be foldable however the most popular models are made of two solid pieces that lock together with nuts or pins and have ventilation slats and a metal mesh locking door.  The solid plastic crates may be more desirable because they are a solid enclosure.  Cloth crates are not recommended for dogs who, may chew or are interested in escaping as they are easily destroyed.  A crate though expensive is well worth the initial investment to save on the damage of property by an unsupervised dog.

Crate training works because dogs have an instinct not to soil their own area.  The crate should be just large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in.  If your dog is a puppy, do not buy a huge crate for him to grow into.  All the additional room defeats the purpose of crate training!  Purchase a puppy sized container and then a larger one once your dog grows bigger.  They do make some crates with dividers to expand or decrease the area of the crate.

Place a blanket or sweatshirt with your scent into the bottom of the crate.  This will help make your dog feel more settled (use caution if your dog likes to chew as this can cause a potentially life threatening problem if ingested).  Keep the crate where you want your dog to sleep.  It is best to keep him within hearing range so you will know if he needs to go out during the night.  When you first introduce the crate, be sure the door is propped open so it doesn’t accidentally swing shut scaring your dog.  If your dog doesn’t go explore the crate by himself, place a few treats or his meal inside the crate.  Do not force your dog into the crate.  Progress slowly to closing your dog in the crate with a chew bone or filled Kong.  Ideally your dog should have a few days to get used to the crate before being required to sleep in it.

The first night you crate your dog, gently help him in if necessary, then softly shut the door.  It is perfectly natural for your dog to whine, bark, or even throw tantrums the first night in the crate.  DO NOT reward the behavior by letting him out!  Try simply to ignore him for a while.  If he does not stop after a reasonable amount of time, say “no” and tap the top of the crate (don’t get into a cycle of rewarding his behavior by repeatedly saying “no”)  Young pups will need to eliminate during the night.  You will be able to decipher between a “normal” whine and “I need to pee” whine.  If the whining is frantic, open the crate door, pick up your dog when possible (if he is too heavy put on a leash and walk him quickly) then take him to the place you want him to eliminate.  As he goes, praise him with a high pitched happy voice then, return him to his crate.  Most dogs, especially adult dogs will get used to this routine rapidly and will sleep through the night without interruption.

First thing in the morning, open the crate door and take your dog to the elimination area.  Again either pick up or leash and walk quickly to that area.  Don’t forget to praise.  It is not necessary to reward for elimination however, should you choose to do so, give the treat immediately after elimination!  Don’t wait until you back in the house!

During the day, your dog must be supervised.  To help keep him in your sight, your dog may be leashed to you, or tethered to a heavy piece of furniture in the room in which you are spending most of your time.  Tethering can be done by looping the leash around an anchor point ie: furniture leg and then looping the leash back through the handle loop then attaching to dog’s flat collar d-ring.  If you are unable to supervise your dog during the day, he should be left in a penned in or gated area (preferably a tiled or non carpeted area such as a kitchen or bathroom) or keep them crated.  Refrain from letting your dog out of site for even a moment.  Accidents occur quickly.  Be certain to take your dog out to eliminate frequently.  Young puppies may need to eliminate as frequently as every 20 minutes while older puppies may only need to go out every hour.  Set an alarm as a reminder to let your dog out.

If you witness your dog starting to circle while sniffing or squatting, startle him by clapping your hands loudly or verbally saying “hey” and quickly take him to the elimination spot.  If he eliminates, praise him!  If you find an accident that has already occurred consider it a mistake on your part and clean it up.  Use an enzyme type cleaner on carpets to prevent odor.  The dog will not associate your scolding him with the accident if after fact.  While making elimination part of your routine also remember to take your dog out immediately upon waking, after naps, after meals, after drinking water, after play, and before bed.  It is imperative that you go with him!  Do not assume he has eliminated and never physically correct your dog or “rub his nose in it” a well timed verbal correction (while accident is occurring) will be sufficient and more effective.  

If you must leave the house for a period of time, you may leave your dog crated (four hours is okay for a dog that is capable of holding it for that long).  This prevents elimination accidents as well as destruction behavior.  Leave a favorite chew toy or bone in the crate with him.  Do not leave food or water in the crate.  If you must leave your dog for longer periods, or your dog is unable to hold it for the amount of time you will be gone, leave him in a safe confinement area or have someone (who is able to maintain the training regimen) come and let him out.  Using a gate in a doorway instead of shutting a door is a better option.  Put the dogs bedding and chew toy in one end of the space and elimination pads in another area opposite the bedding.  

Good practice is to crate your dog with a yummy chew toy while you are home so he won’t associate crate time with your absence! 

Gradually introduce your dog to all areas of your home, so he will eventually not need to be confined or supervised.  Initially only allow him in these areas while being supervised.  It is important to do this so that your dog will come to respect all areas of your home as his territory, so that he does not eliminate indoors.  In the interim, close all doors to rooms you do not wish to allow your dog access to.  

Housetraining can be very frustrating!  The more time you take to supervise and reinforce good behavior, the faster your dog will learn what is expected.  Do not banish your dog to the back yard-the more supervised interaction your dog has indoors the quicker he will learn to eliminate outdoors.   There will be times when he is doing well in the training progression and then he will have an “accident”; a few weeks of consistent outdoor elimination will occur and then another “accident”-this is normal!  With consistency your dog will be crate trained and “accident” free before you know it!  Don’t lose faith!  

Remember to have fun, stay consistent, remain patient and training will be a joy for both you and your partner!