Benefits of Crate Training and How to Do It

Bivvy

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June 6, 2022

Even social butterflies need a place to retreat sometimes. This goes for us humans and our fur babies alike. Most humans have bedrooms they can retreat to when they’re overwhelmed or just need a moment.

Dogs may have beds, but they really thrive when given something more—a crate. Did you know dogs are biologically wired to seek out small, cozy, quiet spaces when they’re stressed? Wild dogs will literally seek out caves for refuge when they need it.

Daily stressors impact your dog too, and even if he’s a super-extrovert, there’s going to come a moment or two in each day where he’ll want some peace and quiet. You can give that to him in the form of a crate! But getting him used to it might take a little work. But it’s so worth it! Not only does it give him a cozy place of his own, but it can also come in handy for various aspects of housebreaking. Here’s some more insight into the benefits of crate training and how to do it.

It's Not a Cage, It’s a Cozy Abode

If you’re tempted to think of a dog crate as a cage--don’t! Wild dogs live in dens. And when crate training is done right, your dog will love her crate and see it as a den. It’s a safe space, a place she can go to when overwhelmed to calm down, have some space, peace, and quiet. Sans crate training, dogs may take out their overwhelm in unhealthy ways like chewing, wasting in the house, digging, or scratching at doors, or excessive barking.

Crates also help with separation anxiety. They help your dog know where to go and what to do when you’re gone. Crate training also helps with housebreaking. They don’t like to relieve themselves in the place they sleep, so crate training can help them learn to hold their bladders sooner (here’s a Bivvy pet insurance blog all about potty training). It also keeps them from chewing up your belongings. And should you ever find yourself in an emergency evacuation situation, having a crate trained dog can make your life a lot easier. If there’s a fire, a flood, anything you need to quickly get out of your house for, having your dog quickly and willingly get in the crate on command and head out will make a world of difference. It’ll also keep them contained while getting out and driving; they’re less likely to run away or get injured amidst the commotion. Crates can also be good for travel, for giving your dog a safe “home base” while away

So, What Is Crate Training?

Crate training is helping your dog get comfortable in a crate, to feel safe and calm, through a process of positive reinforcement. Though having a crate does capitalize on a dog’s natural instinct to seek out small places for refuge, your domesticated pup may need some help realizing it. Like any kind of training, starting when your pup is young will make it less stressful for her. But any age can work. Any pup will just need to gradually get used to the crate, and will need lots of encouragement from you.

How Do I Do It?

First, get yourself a crate! Wire crates are the most popular. These are fine unless your dog needs to be fully covered for some reason.

You’ll want to make sure the crate is not too small or too big. You can get a crate with inserts that make it adjustable, so your dog can have one crate her whole life through and you don’t have to spend hundreds on multiple crates over your dog’s lifespan. Buy the biggest size your dog will need when full grown, then adjust it to its smallest size to start. And have just a simple crate mat on the bottom, not bulky bedding they may be tempted to chew up

Start slow and be positive. Don’t put your dog in her crate for eight hours on day one. For the first couple days, just let her explore it. Don’t close her in. Perhaps even take the door off and put a familiar small blanket or toy inside to encourage her to explore. Or feed her near the crate. Once she’s comfortable with that, you can then close it for a few minutes, and reward calm behavior. Once she starts going inside, you can try feeding her inside. Or toss a treat inside, offer praise, then give her another treat while she’s inside.

Work up slowly to a couple hours at a time. How long it takes to start “working” (your dog can contentedly stay in the crate for up to four hours at a time) is highly variable based on your dog’s temperament and age. It might take days, or maybe months. Stick with it! It’s worth it to have your dog have a peaceful place of her own.

When she’s six months old and plenty comfortable with the crate, she can go overnight. At that point, or anytime you’re away, you can keep an eye on your dog via a camera to give yourself peace of mind. A puppy’s “hold time” for relieving themselves is usually their age in months translated to hours (three months old = three hours in the crate). But one good rule of thumb is to not do over four hours in the crate without a break for a dog of any age. So, if you’re off working for eight hours, be sure to get home for a lunch break to let your dog out.

Make sure your pup’s bladder is always empty before going in the crate and take them out immediately after getting out.

Even huge breed dogs den down,; it comes naturally to them. Dogs need to self-soothe and decompress from the stresses of daily life. They feel them just like we do. Remember not to use the crate as punishment but as a refuge. A crate is a wonderful thing to have on-hand for your dog’s whole life through. Another such thing? Dog insurance! Affordable pet insurance can help you when it comes to unexpected, covered care. Happy crate training!

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