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How to Crate Train Your Puppy or Older Dog

How to Crate Train Your Puppy or Older Dog

Crate training is a delicate process that works differently for every dog. Understandably, not every dog is immediately thrilled about being contained in a small enclosed space. But thanks to your dog's natural den instincts and with the right training, your dog's crate can become their safe space away from the chaos of a family home—and you'll have the benefit of knowing they're in a comfortable place where they can't chew on the furniture or electrical cords while you're away.

Whether you're training a puppy or a dog, here are seven steps to follow when crate training.

1. Introduce your dog to the crate

The first step is a casual introduction to the new crate. Place the crate in a communal space where you and your dog already spend a lot of time together. Put a blanket or towel that smells like you or your dog inside and leave the door open. Leave food, treats and your dog's favorite toys near the door and inside the crate so that your dog knows that they are welcome to explore.

2. Feed your dog meals in or near the crate

Once your dog has been introduced to the crate and has maybe even gone inside on their own terms, start placing meals inside the crate to make it a part of their normal routine. During this time, the crate should still be located in a communal area of your home. Eating meals in or near the crate will help your dog build a positive association with it.

Once your dog is clearly comfortable eating inside the crate, go ahead and close the door while they eat. Leave them in the crate with their food progressively longer at each mealtime but not so long that they start to whine or become agitated. Always feed your dog at a time when you are available to take them outside shortly afterward to relieve themselves. Dogs should never be fed in a crate and then left for an extended period of time as that could result in accidents inside of the crate.

3. Practice using treats and crate commands

Now that your dog is comfortable eating and being inside the crate, it's time to start teaching them cues associated with the crate and rewarding them for cooperating. For example, say "kennel" and point inside the crate. When your dog enters, praise them verbally and offer a treat. Do this repeatedly until your dog has learned the process.

4. Practice crate time when you're around

Next, have your dog practice being in the crate for longer periods of time while you're home. Sit next to your crated dog and quietly return messages or read a magazine. Leave the room for 5 to 10 minutes, then return and repeat. Provide your dog with long-lasting chews or a stuffed Kong toy to keep them busy and to create positive associations with the crate. This can help condition your dog to feel comfortable spending longer amounts of time inside the crate and reassure them that you will always come back. Once your dog is comfortable with this, move the crate to its permanent location.

5. Crate your dog at night

If you plan to crate your dog at night, this is the step in the training process where it is appropriate to start doing so. Keep the crate close to your bed at first. If you don't plan to keep your dog in your room, slowly move the crate farther away each night as they get comfortable with the new sleeping arrangement.

6. Put your dog in the crate when you leave

Once your dog is comfortable being in the crate while you're around and overnight, it's fine to start putting them in the crate when you leave home—;only for short periods of time at first. An important piece of this step is avoiding a long and overstimulating goodbye. This will only make your dog anxious about the fact that you're leaving. Give them a treat as usual, leave their favorite durable toy with them and walk away like it's no big deal. You can even use a pet camera to watch to see how your dog behaves during your first trips away.

7. Continue to foster a safe crate space

Last but not least, never give your dog any reason to associate a negative experience with the crate. For this reason, never use the crate as punishment when your dog is misbehaving. The crate should never cease to feel like a safe and comfortable space for your furry friend.

If you're ready to give crate training a try, find the right crate for your dog at Petco or learn more about choosing the right type and sized crate for your dog.

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