7 Mistakes to Avoid During Crate Training
by Melody Keilig
Why should you crate your dog? The benefits of crate training include making your dog feel more at ease in your home, giving them their own space to relax, and soothing anxiety. Of course, it will take time, patience, and practice for your dog to adjust to the new setting. But once your dog is used to the crate, they will love having their own cozy corner of your home!
Check out these common mistakes to avoid so you can give your pup (or older dog) a smoother transition to the dog crate.
1. Keeping Your Dog in the Crate for Too Long
If you’re going to be gone at work for 8 hours a day during the week, you shouldn’t keep your dog in the crate for that long. Unless you’re able to drive home throughout the day to let your dog out, don’t keep them cooped up for the whole day.
2. Not Making the Crate Comfortable
Because you want your dog to feel safe in the crate, you must make it comfortable for them. First, make sure that the crate is large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around. Then, add blankets, chew toys, and a water bowl. As your dog is adjusting to the crate, do some check-ins to ensure that they’re doing okay.
3. Using the Crate for Punishment
This mistake is what gives crate training a bad name. You should never use the crate as a “time out” spot because your dog will associate it with a hostile environment. It may make their anxiety worse or cause them to fear going into the crate, so you must ensure that the crate is associated with positive feelings. If your dog needs to be put in the crate to keep them away from a guest’s dog, calmly put them away, so they continue to feel safe in their space. Situations like this are one of the reasons the crate is helpful, so make sure you never use it to put your dog in time out.
4. Giving in and Letting Your Pup Out of the Crate Too Often
If you put your dog in the crate and they start whimpering after a few minutes, it can be tempting to let them back out. But don’t mistake the puppy-dog eyes for distress. As long as they are comfortable in the crate, they shouldn’t be whining to get out. If you give in to their behavior, they will quickly learn that all they have to do is whimper or bark to be let out whenever they want. So don’t give in because this is part of the adjustment process, and the crate will only benefit them in the long run.
5. Forcing Your Dog Into the Crate
Similar to not making the crate a place for time-outs, you shouldn’t force your dog into the crate if they don’t budge. They could be afraid of the crate if they aren’t used to it, or maybe they don’t want to go in the moment you want them to go in.
If you’re trying to crate them because you have to leave for a short period of time, don’t rush them in or get visibly stressed out. Instead, try going in the crate with them (if you can fit!), or toss some treats on their blankets within the crate. Or, if you must gently nudge them, that’s okay, but never physically move them in if they refuse. It could take some time until they willingly go in the crate, so be patient during this process.
6. “Bopping” the Crate
Some dog trainers recommend “bopping” the crate with a rolled-up bath towel anytime your dog barks, cries, or whines. However, this training method is not constructive because it can scare your dog. It also makes the space negative, and dogs could take this as you punishing them, which doesn’t serve them well. To them, you are causing stress and anxiety in what is supposed to be their comfortable space. So, don’t “bop” the crate or raise your voice if your dog is making noise within the crate. Your dog will adjust to the new setting, but it takes time, as we’ve highlighted.
7. Not Letting Your Pup Eat In the Crate
Yes, you read that right. It’s a big mistake not to let your dog eat in the crate because food is another way to create positive feelings for your dog to associate with the crate. Plus, it establishes a good feeding routine, so your dog can have a better relationship with food.
Dogs love food, but while you’re training them, you shouldn’t leave them unsupervised with a bowl of their food overnight in the crate. Instead, place their food bowl in the crate and make sure they don’t overeat if they choose to go inside.
When appropriately done with positive reinforcement, crate training your dog can become smoother. Although every dog is different and will pick up the training in various ways, it is well worth it to give them a safe and comfortable space in your home. When they’re happy and healthy, your bond will grow stronger than ever.
Have you crate trained your pup or older dog? And what have you learned from your experience? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!