We highly recommend that all dogs are crate trained. Crate-training offers a number of benefits including:
- crate training enables house training, leading to less accidents for a shorter period of time.
- dogs which are crate trained are actually comforted by being in their own enclosed space, so that:
- the crate provides a ‘safe’ place during noisy events such as fireworks
- the crate enables stress-free and danger-free travel in the car or in aeroplanes
- cages are comforting and not scary, which minimises stress during hospitalisation or after injury
- it provides an out-of-the-way bed for your dog which can be useful when you are away for short periods of time.
Far from being cruel, we would say that it is very kind to crate train your dog, as there will definitely be times in your dog’s life when they will be less stressed by having the benefit of crate training. We see it in our hospital again and again where dogs which are crate trained sleep happily, whereas other dogs can be quite stressed.
How To Crate Train Your Puppy
The most important thing to remember is that a crate should actually be quite small, so that your puppy can easily get up and turn around in the crate, but not move away from any mess that it makes in the cage. You can buy crates which have a moveable divider in them, so that the cage can grow with your puppy, avoiding the need to buy multiple cages as your dog grows.
Secondly, when house training your dog, avoid a super absorbent mattress/ floor covering in the crate (such as a ‘vet bed’). It is better that your dog is aware of any wetness in the crate, so that it has some incentive to avoid urinating in the crate. If your dog is adult, and already house trained, then you can use any type of bedding.
A small puppy should be put in the crate at night after giving it a chance to go to the loo (toilet) before bed. Most puppies would need one middle-of-the-night break, and then should be able to last until morning. We recommend putting a toy or device playing white noises (such as those available for babies) outside the crate (and out of reach of the puppy) to soothe your puppy, especially the first few nights.
Puppies will realise that they don’t want to urinate in their own bed and will generally hold off (if they can) until let out. You can then take your pup to a safe place to toilet (in your presence) and then give lots of praise when your pup goes in the right place.
Puppies can also be left in the crate for short periods of time during the day, but we recommend avoiding long periods of time when your pup could get bored. In confining your pet, you will be in control of when it toilets and can then praise it for doing the right thing, leading to rapid training.
It is important that the crate is not left open when you are not there (in the toilet training phase) as
Never ever punish or shout at your puppy for making a mistake. This will not help with training at all, and may hinder it as your pup may avoid toileting in your presence, thereby making it difficult to praise your pup for doing the right thing!
Puppies are very adaptable, and a puppy trained in this way will quickly learn to see the crate as a comforting place to be, which will set your puppy up for life. Many owners feel happier if the puppy is close to them at night, and a crate allows this. At the same time it allows you to move your pup away or downstairs when settled, whilst still maintaining a familiar and safe environment after the move.
Crate Training an Adult Dog
Adult dogs can also be crate trained for the purposes of having a comfortable and comforting safe place, or if you need to re- house train your adult dog, which is not uncommon.
We would recommend using Adaptil spray, collars or infusers to help your dog relax and therefore learn more quickly. Adapted is a canine pheromone product which will help your dog to feel safer. Introduce Adaptil at least a few days prior to introducing the crate.
With adult dogs, you want your dog to chose to go into the crate, so leave the door open and put your dog’s food in the crate. If your dog will not eat in the crate, put it as close as your dog will go to eat the food without getting stressed. Feed your dog every time in or near the crate, moving the food closer to the crate in small steps until your dog is completely happy eating in each position. You are aiming to have your dog eating in a completely relaxed way inside the crate. It is important that you never force your dog into the crate. If your dog is reluctant to go into the crate, it may help to leave a few treats in the crate during the day.
Once your dog is comfortable eating meals in the crate, you can move the food bowl outside of the crate, but then move your dog’s bed into or near the crate, and put some treats on the bed. If your dog will not get into the bed in the crate, put the bed near the crate (with treats) and then gradually move it closer, taking cues from your dog with regards to being relaxed with each step. You are aiming for your dog to sleep quite happily inside the crate. Once your dog is relaxed and happy sleeping inside the crate, the next step is to gently close the door and shut your dog inside the crate for short periods of time. You can then gradually increase the periods with the door shut (especially overnight). Once your dog is happy being in the crate for longer periods of time, you are successful! We would recommend leaving your dog’s crate out in an unobtrusive spot as a permanent bed. You do not always have to shut the door but this should be repeated from time to time so that your dog is reminded that it is ok to be shut into the crate.
Crate Training for Pet Travel
If you are travelling with your pet, particularly if travelling abroad, then you should start crate training as soon as possible once you know you might or will need to travel.
You will need to buy a specialised crate for air travel (available from pet travel companies) which meets international welfare guidelines. These crates are often larger than standard crates. We recommend you use this crate for training, and reproduce the conditions your pet will be travelling in for training, including the bedding.
We recommend use of Adaptil both prior to and during travel (the collars work well).
Sedation during travel is not recommended as it may not be safe. However, you can also start to expose your dog to noises which are similar to those on an aircraft (by playing MP3s), starting softly and gradually getting louder, making sure your dog is comfortable at each level as you increase the noise. Dogs will also travel better if they are used to being separated from you for periods of time. If your dog suffers from travel sickness, then speak to us about medication to reduce nausea, which will also help.
Young dogs will generally travel better than older dogs. Dogs that have cognitive decline/ dementia will have the most trouble, as they will have difficulty learning and will struggle with even small changes. Dementia is not uncommon in older dog. There are supplements available to help support brain function in older dogs, which needs to be given for at least 6 weeks to see results. Older dogs which have travelled when young, and were comfortable with it, will travel better than dogs who have never travelled.
Please speak to us if you have any further questions regarding crate training on 02077510182.