A crate can play a critical role in keeping your new dog safe, helping him feel secure as well as helping you train him or fine-tune skills he already has! If you’ve never crate trained before, think of the crate like a play pen for a baby. This is especially important for puppies and younger dogs under the age of 2. The crate will be a tool to help you prevent undesirable behaviors (like chewing on valuable items, having accidents in the house etc.) when you’re unable to actively supervise your dog. If you have other pets or children in your home, the crate will also give your new dog a safe space while they get to know each other. Dogs are den animals so the crate will likely become a place of comfort and security for your new pet for years to come. If you’re still unsure, consider the fact that at some point your dog will need to be confined. (Whether it’s for travel, the veterinarian’s or groomers, in boarding – it will happen.) Give him this skill now so he knows how to handle it in the future.
The crate should be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. (If it’s too large he may create a bathroom in it.) If you’ve adopted a puppy, we recommend you look for a crate that includes a divider panel. This will allow you to buy a crate that will fit him when he’s fully grown but you can easily section it off for now so he doesn’t create a potty space in it.
Put the crate in a room where your family spends time together so he still feels like he’s a part of the family when he’s in it. Start by showing him that the crate can be a fun place to be! First, tie the door open so it won’t move and accidently frighten him. Then toss some treats or a toy into it. Celebrate when he goes in it and repeat for a bit. (If he is hesitant, put the treats or favorite toy right in the front of the crate and work your way toward the back.) Once he’s going in and out without hesitation gently nudge the door closed, but don’t lock it. Keep playing the game! Slowly build up the time he’s in it with the door closed. Give him lots of positive experiences in his crate. Feed him in it. Give him extra special treats in it. Toss some treats in it when he’s not looking for him to discover on his own. You can also give him a food puzzle toy while he’s in it. Even better, put one in there and close the door so he can’t get to it at first. (photos available) All of these games will help him learn to love being in his crate!
HOW TO USE THE CRATE
When you bring your new dog home you want to limit the areas of your home he can access while you get to know each other. When you can’t supervise him put him in his crate so you know he’s safe. As you learn more about him (chewing habits, potty habits, etc) you can slowly give him access to more areas of your home.
Put your pup in his crate when you leave home, at bedtime and any time you can’t keep a close eye on him.
It’s not uncommon for dogs to whine a little when they’re first put in their crate and are still getting used to it. (He’s having so much fun with you, who can blame him?) You will need to ensure he isn’t crying because he needs to go to the bathroom. So always take your pup outside before putting him in his crate to ensure that he’s empty. If he does whine after being put in the crate and you know he’s empty, he’s likely whining simply because he’s not used to being confined. Do your best to wait until he’s quiet before you let him out. Otherwise he will learn that his whining works and it will probably continue. If your new dog continues to have issues with vocalizing while in his crate contact your rescue organization or shelter for advice.
Keep in mind that the crate should not be used for punishment for a behavior. If you’re thinking it is, you’ve missed the whole point. The crate is a safe place where good things happen. It is used to set your new dog up for success and prevent behaviors you don’t want. (This will give you a chance to train him by rewarding him when he does the right things!) If you use it as punishment you will create a dog who does NOT want to go in his crate. If you’re having difficulties with crate training or any behavior for that matter, be sure to ask the rescue group or shelter you adopted from for help right away.
Congratulations on setting your new dog up for success! You’re going to be an awesome pet parent!