The best tool for training your puppy or grown dog to behave itself indoors is a crate. A crate is simply a plastic or wire box designed to serve as an artificial den for the dog.  They can be purchased at most pet stores or at Wal-Mart or Academy.

Crate training is the easiest way to house-train your puppy/dog.  Crates are also used to prevent destructive chewing by puppies during the teething stage or by untrained dogs suffering from anxiety and/or excess energy. Crates with a comfortable pad make a perfect dog bed and provide a time-out area for over-excited dogs and a space they can call their own when they crave peace and quiet. Crates have the added advantage of providing a traveling home for your dog; as long as he has his crate, the dog feels secure and “at home.”

Here's why crate training works—Domestic dogs have some of the same instincts that lead wolves and wild dogs to live in dens for shelter, and to keep their dens clean by going outside to urinate and defecate.   Dogs like to curl up under beds, desks or other small spaces because this makes them feel safe and secure. Every dog can benefit from a crate/ place of his own.

The right size-- The grown dog needs to be able to stand up and turn around in the crate, and the crate should be about the same length of the dog when he is lying down.  Buy an adult size crate for a puppy, but use a space divider because if the crate is too large instead of keeping it clean, the puppy may eliminate in one end.

Where to place it--The crate should be placed where the dog can be close to the family but not in the middle of commotion.  The best places are usually the bedroom so that the dog can enjoy being near to you while sleeping, or a quiet corner in the den. 

How to crate train--Introductions are important—Begin by leaving the crate door open.  Toss tasty treats (or sometimes a toy) into the empty crate and encourage your dog to run in and get the treats or his toy; repeat about 5 times per session and do several sessions per day.

Play the Crate Game--This is an especially good way to introduce the crate to dogs that may tend to initially resist confinement or feel some anxiety about being left alone.  Dr. Patricia McConnell describes the crate game as follows: After your dog will willingly run into the crate to get the treats you’ve tossed inside, begin to shut the door, but only for a second or two, then open it again.  As soon as your dog seems comfortable with this, shut the door a little longer as you feed more treats through the crate door, then release.  If your dog is still comfortable, lure your dog into the crate as before with a treat toss, but also have a special surprise waiting in the crate—a Kong stuffed with some of  your dogs favorite treats or a sterile beef bone (if he likes these).  As soon as your dog gets busy with the Kong or bone, walk away for about 30 seconds.  When you return, open the door and remove the Kong or bone.  The strategy here is to teach your dog to welcome your temporary absence since your return means the end of munch time.  Now gradually begin to increase the time you leave  your dog crated with his Kong or bone.

Make the crate comfortable--add a blanket or pad.  Praise him whenever he enters his crate.  Now you can offer a rawhide bone or Nylabone to chew.  Sometimes stay in the room, going about your business.  Ignore any barking or howling and as soon as he stops, praise him and pop him a treat.  Release the puppy/dog while he is being quiet and keep things low key when he comes out, so you don’t reinforce/reward the release.  Gradually lengthen the time he stays and gradually begin leaving the room for a few minutes at a time.

Tip--At times, when you are not training, toss treats and toys inside (when he’s not present) so he will never know what goodies to expect to find in his crate!

To crate train with a clicker—Begin with a hungry dog and the door open. Toss treats inside (or if your dog is more toy or retrieve motivated, use toys).  If he won’t go in, toss them right outside the crate, then at the entrance to the door, then just inside so he can get the treat by only poking his nose in.  Gradually toss the treats further in.  When he enters does enter to get a treat, click & treat (C&T) while he is inside.  As long as he remains inside, keep clicking and treating.  When he is able to wait calmly for the C&T, close but don’t latch the door.  C&T, then open the door.  Now gradually extend the time the door is closed before you C&T.  When he will stay in for at least about 10 seconds without fussing, close and latch the door.  Take one step away, click, walk back and treat.  Repeat this step but begin to vary the distance and time that you leave the crate.  If at any time he whines and fusses, wait until he is quiet, then C&T.

House-training with a crate-- Feed, water, and walk the dog. If business gets taken care of on the walk, let the dog stay out for the length of time it can be expected to stay clean (15 min for puppies, an hour for adults). After playtime, crate the dog until the next walk or trip outside.  When you take her out, take her straight outside, on leash. As she takes care of business, use a cue word so that later when she is trained, she will perform on command and praise her the second she’s done. As training progresses, lengthen the time the dog spends out of the crate, but always leave the door open so the dog can retreat to the crate whenever she wants to rest undisturbed.

Chewing Prevention-- An untrained dog loose in the house can wreck havoc.  When you can monitor the dog and he starts to chew something forbidden, use your No Reward Marker (NMR) word and remove.  Then hand him an acceptable dog chew and praise him.  When you are busy or out of the house, the dog can be safely crated for up to three hours.  He will be content to nap and won’t have a chance to destroy your possessions when you are not there to correct.

Traveling-- If the crate will fit in your vehicle, it will prevent your dog from landing in your lap when you hit the brakes or jumping on you because she sees a cat or is panicked by a burst of thunder.  Even if the crate won’t fit in your car, a folding crate is a great thing to travel with—it may get you into hotels that otherwise won’t accept dogs; it offers you the security of knowing you can go out to dinner without returning to find all the pillows chewed.  As you go from place to place, your dog will feel at home as long as she has her own crate.

A final word-- Do not use the crate as punishment and do not over-crate!  Although a rambunctious puppy can certainly be put in his crate for a time out, keep in mind that this is supposed to be a haven for your dog and never use prolonged confinement in the crate to frighten or hurt your dog; you should also not rely on prolonged crating as a lifetime proposition in lieu of training your dog to have reliable house manners.  After your dog has reliable house manners, he should not need to spend more than about 3 hours daily in a crate.  Leaving a dog crated for more than 3 hours at a time is not good for the dog’s muscles and joints, much less his emotional well-being.  Crated dogs are not getting adequate movement, physical exercise or mental stimulation.  DON’T OVER-CRATE!

WARNING-- If using a wire crate remove collar/tags to prevent entanglement.

Note--Some older dogs or dogs with separation anxiety are not able to tolerate confinement and will not adapt to a crate. If you give it a fair try with one of these seniors and it doesn’t work, don’t force the issue.

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