Guess what? Dogs have to be taught to like their crates! Here are a few ways we get new dogs settled into their crate homes:
- Feed all of your dog’s meals and special treats in the crate. This includes stuffed Kongs, bully sticks, bones and chews, as well as any “just because” treats or table scraps. (If your dog is refusing to enter the crate, don’t force her in or close her in while she eats — just put the food in the back of the crate for a week or two, then gradually start closing the door while she eats.)
- For the first 2-3 weeks after getting a new dog or puppy, expect lots of whining and crying while she’s in the crate. Do NOT open the crate door if the dog is barking, whining or pawing at the crate door. Wait for even one second of silence. If your hand is on the crate door and the dog puts her paws on it or begins barking, withdraw your hand and wait for one second of silence/paws off before attempting to open the door again.
- Always leave your dog or puppy with as many stuffed chew toys (Kongs full of kibble and canned food, sterilized bones with peanut butter, etc.) as possible when you put him in the crate. Save an extra-special treat or Kong to deliver right as you’re walking out the door, so he associates you leaving with wonderful things.
- Unless you have a puppy with poor bladder control or an adult dog who eats blankets and stuffing (which could create a medical emergency), provide a soft bed or blanket in the crate. Test an older dog or puppy by leaving a blanket in the crate while you’re home to monitor them; if they chew or destroy it, go without. Very young puppies can have a towel the first few days as they settle in — but be aware most WILL use the towel as a “diaper” for accidents and you will need to remove it eventually to achieve housetraining.
- Pick up whatever toys/treats/food your dog hasn’t finished when you arrive home, and quietly put one in the back of the crate later in the day for your dog to find.
- Use the crate. Keep crate time short and pleasant (lots of GOOD food and treats) at first. Many people give up after a week of listening to their dog whine and bark, declaring, “The dog doesn’t like the crate.” This creates a dog who not only won’t stay in a crate, but has a difficult time being boarded, and who is less welcome on your travels. We have to teach the dog that being in the crate is a good thing.
- New dogs and puppies should stay in the crate at least one hour per day while you are home. Otherwise, the puppy or dog learns that you only put him in the crate when you leave — not a good thing! This also teaches your new dog or puppy that he doesn’t have to be in the crate when you’re there — not good if you ever need to crate your dog because of visitors or for a medical reason.
- If your dog is uncomfortable in his crate, but you must leave him there while you’re gone, have someone come every 3-4 hours to let the dog out to relieve itself, and provide re-fills of the tasty treats in the crate. Never leave a puppy under 14 weeks in a crate longer than 1-2 hours, and no longer than 3-4 hours until six months. From there, you can gradually increase crate alone time to 8 hours, if need be.
- RED FLAGS: If your dog is barking in the crate for a solid two hours or longer (use an audio or video recorder to verify if you’re out of earshot), drooling excessively or damaging the crate or herself (bloody nose or paws), STOP using the crate and contact both your veterinarian and a qualified dog behavior professional. Continuing to crate a dog who is severely anxious can result in both physical and psychological harm to the dog!