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Crate Training

Crates How to Buy

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How to Crate Train

Spend some time each day working on the crate being a "good thing". Start with
some yummy treats (I mean *really* yummy). Sit beside the
crate with the door open. Toss a treat just inside the crate door. Let her go
and eat it. If she won't go in the crate, let me know as we will need
to back up farther in the process. Toss the next treat in a bit farther. When
she is going to the back of the crate to eat the treat, close the door
for 1/2 a second... just close while she's eating and open again as she comes
out. Repeat this several times. Smile, talk happy talk to her.

Next close the door while she is eating the treat and wait 1 second before
opening it. If she cries, you are going forward too fast. Open the crate
before she has a chance to cry. Lots of praise as you open the door. Always
let her come all the way out of the crate. You can hava brief play
then toss another treat in and repeat the door closing thing. Slowly increase
the length of time the door is closed before you open it again. Only
open it if she is calm and quiet. If she gets a bit impatient and fusses, turn
your head away. Don't look at her or say anything. When she quiets, *then*
praise her and open the door. Vary the length of time the door is closed.

Sometimes 1 second, sometimes 5... or whatever level you have worked up to.
Practice this exercise for no more than 5 minutes at a time, but practice
*many* times a day, if possible. Stay right with her until she is calm and
quiet in the crate with the door closed for 5 minutes.

Then proceed to move away from the crate. However, you have to go back to
having the door closed for a very short time. So close the door,
take one step away, setp back and open the door before she cries. Keep working
up to moving 5 feet away from the crate for 5 minutes in small increments as
outlined above. Be variable. Don't respond to crying. If she cries out, just
hold still without looking at her or talking.

At night I would try to set her pen or crate beside your bed, but hold her
until she gets sleepy. You can sing her a lullaby, rock her, soft talk,
whatever seems to work. Then place her gently in her pen or crate and
sit right there beside her until she falls asleep. If she wakes up and
cries in the night, she probably needs to potty. Get up right away and take
her out. Then repeat the settling routine and pet her back to bed.

Stay there with her without talking until she falls asleep again.
I know this is grueling. It's just like you have a new baby in the house...
and a colicky one at that. If you find that she is getting louder and more
stressed sounding with her crying, or you think she may need to go outside,
make a sudden noise in another room... like closing a door or
dropping a book... just enough to make her hold her breath and listen for a
moment. In that pause, start talking to her and get to her as quickly
as possible. Take her out, change something in the "picture" and regroup. *Do
Not* go to her and talk to her or look at her when she is crying
(and I know they can really scream at times) or you will undermine all the work
you are putting into teaching her to be alone and quiet. Since you
have rewarded her (by going to her) after 2 hours of crying, it is likely that
she may try crying that long (or longer) again. If you follow the steps
I've outlined above, hopefully you can bypass the stress (on all of you) of all
that crying. If you give in and go to her when she is crying you *will*
be teaching her that crying "works".


More Crate Training - How to Buy

Using a crate (also known as a kennel) is the best way to teach a puppy (or even
an adult dog) proper house manners. There are different styles of crate. The
most common are plastic or wire. They each have advantages and disadvantages
and some pups seem to have a preference. My girl prefers her plastic crate for
car trips, but otherwise likes them equally.

When selecting a crate for your puppy you will need to take several things into
consideration. The most important choice is the size of the crate. This is
mainly determined by the adult size of the dog. He should be able to stand up
without hitting his back on the top and be able to turn around comfortably.
That is the minimum crate size required. For people who will need to keep the
dog confined for more than a few hours at a time during the day, I generally
recommend that they choose the next larger size of crate. The "average" size
crate is 24"x36"x24" tall. This is the size I use for my female Dobe and my
friend uses for her female Labs. If you aren't sure how big your dog will
get, it may help to measure a couple of adult dogs of your breed (or a similar
breed). Most manufacturers or retailers offer guidelines on sizes, but it
helps to measure your dog :-)

Other things to consider when purchasing a crate:
(1) Will you need to be able to transport your dog by plane? If so, a plastic
crate is required by most airlines. Some are more secure and more impact
resistant than others.

(2) Will you be transporting your dog in the car? Having a crate in the car is
the safest way to transport your dog. For those who have a vehicle large
enough for a crate, they often have a crate for home and another crate for the
car. If you are choosing a crate for the car, measure carefully to make sure
it will fit. I chose my crates so that I could put them side by side in the
back of my mini-van.

(3) Will you be travelling with the dog and crate often? If so, it can be
very handy to have a crate that folds down into an easier to carry size. Most
of the wire crates are "suitcase" types that fold easily and quickly although
most can be taken apart to store or move them.

(4) What type of coat does the dog have and/or what climate do you live in.
Wire crates offer more ventilation than plastic crates, so plastic crates are
usually warmer than wire crates. There are crate covers available for wire
crates providing your dog is not one to chew fabric.

I generally use a plastic crate for house training my puppies. I find them to
be more den-like and easier to clean if the pup has an accident. My plastic
crate is smooth on the inside although many of the plastic crates I have seen
have "bumps" on the inside that I think would be uncomfortable for the dog. I
have not found the need to partition the crate for puppies. Perhaps because I
don't expect them to be able to keep the crate completely clean until they are
at least 12 weeks old.

I usually transition my pups to a wire crate (or use it during the day when I
am using the plastic crate at night) so that they can be safely confined but
still near the activity in the house. This also allows me to easily give them
treats or little pets even though they are crated. My wire crates have metal
pans in them, but I bought them before the new ABS pans were available. I
like the ABS pans as they make the crate lighter to carry and easier to
clean. I also think the plastic pan is not as cold as the metal pans can be.

Both wire and plastic crates are available from several manufacturers through
mail order and at pet retailers. The price of the crate is often related to
the quality of construction... like bar size and spacing on wire crates.
Also the door and latch configuration can vary greatly between manufacturers.
Some are much more secure and easier to use than others are. I have a crate
with a "cam-lock" latch that I really like (once I figured out how it works
<g>). Many of the newer plastic crates have a latch on both sides of the door
so you can open it either way (or take it off) without having to take the crate
apart. That's a nice feature.

Once your puppy is crate trained and past the digging and/or chewing phase,
there are also mesh crates available that are really nice for travel as they
are very light weight and easy to set up. But they are only for well-trained
dogs as they are not as durable or secure as wire and plastic crates.

Some of the common manufacturers of wire crates are "Midwest", "General",
and "Scott". "Vari-Kennel" and "Dockosil" (sp??) are common plastic
crates. These, and others, are available at several on-line pet supply
places, such as...,,,, and

If you would like to see one version of a mesh crate visit

I'm mildly embarrassed to say that I own *far* more crates than I have dogs,
but they each serve a purpose and are often put to use. I hope this
information helps you in choosing a crate that will work well for you and your
dog for year to come.


More on Crate Training

The crate should never be used as punishment although "time out" periods may be
necessary. You want your pup to enjoy being in the crate so it helps to toss in
a special treat or give your pup a toy to play with.

Some rules of thumb...
- The crate should be the size needed for your dogs adult size. Room enough to
stand up and turn around. Crate from different manufacturers are different
sizes so check several before deciding which is best.
- A puppy should be confined a maximum of 4 hours at a time. They need frequent
potty breaks and attention.
- Puppies that are less than 12 weeks old should not be expected to "hold it"
through the night. You can set your alarm to get up in the middle of the night
and take the pup out or, if you are too lazy like me, resign yourself to
cleaning up in the morning <g>. After about 12 weeks they seem to be able to
hold it for 6 or 7 hours so getting up early works. Many people worry too much
that the pup shouldn't mess his crate. I don't worry about it until after 12
- Of course they learn to keep clean because you give them frequent access to
outdoors. You should take the pup out after every meal, upon waking, after play
and about every hour any way for the first several weeks. They have *small*
bladders. Training requires lots of patience.
- When not in its crate (or other safe confinement area) you should NOT take
your eyes off your puppy. This is the biggest mistake people make. You must
watch them. Direct them to appropriate play items. Keep them out of trouble
and interacting with you. Puppies learn bad habits when no one is watching :-)

Different dogs have different preferences. My girl prefers the plastic crate in the car, but has otherwise accepted both (I even have a mesh crate for travel, now that she's older). The wire crates are more open and are less likely to give her that closed in feeling. They are very easy to drop treats into too. Use a small bungie cord or string to secure the door open at first. Place her cedar bed next to the crate but "hide" a few treats in the crate. Don't make any notice of her attempts to get the treats at first (pretend you don't see her). Just add a few more when she isn't looking. This allows her to think the crate is a good source of treats with no pressure on her.

You can then try placing her cedar bed near the door or part-way inside (or add another towel or blanket inside. If you get any new toys for her, let her "find" them in her crate first. You are hoping she takes to sleeping in there at night (slowly moving her cedar bed inside), but leave the door open for a while. When she is sleeping, quietly close the door for a moment, then open it again. Do this many times when she is already quiet. If she is sleeping in the crate through the night, then you can try introducing the "kennel" cue during the day.

This is where you toss in a treat (something really good!) and wait quietly. Remember, no pressure. If she won't go in after the treat with you watching her, try moving farther from the crate, turning your head away and yawning (signals to her that you are not a threat). Give her time. This will be the hardest part. Work in *very* short sessions (maybe only one or two tries at a time). Once she will go in after a tossed treat, then softly say "kennel" as she is going in. Practice this many times, but only a few at a time.

When you reach the point where she is readily going in after the tossed treat while you are saying "kennel", then occasionally say "kennel" first (or pretend to toss a treat). When she is inside give her several treats at once. This is where you are shifting from luring her (with the treat already visible in the crate) to teaching her the cue that will earn her a treat. Now comes the fun part... she should have a good association with her crate by now (and the door has not been closed during these practice sessions). Now you will work on saying your "kennel" cue from different places in the room or the house. The behavior you are looking for is for her to run to her kennel whenever you ask, from wherever you are. Each time she does, she gets treated (more or better treats depending upon how "hard" the problem was).

Now you may start introducing closing the door. Say "kennel" from close by, when she goes in feed her a treat through the side bars while you slowly move the door a few inches. Let her out and try again or keep feeding her something yummy through the bars while you move the door back and forth a bit. You don't want her to be afraid of the sound of the door moving. Again, lots of repetitions but a few at a time (Yes, this does require patience <g>). Now go to holding the door closed just briefly, then letting her out. If for some reason she makes a fuss, you are probably progressing too fast. Back up a few steps and try again. I also find it useful to teach my pups to "wait" and then ask them to "wait" while I open the door to the crate.

Cricket Mara
Groveland, IL
The Pawsitive Dog, Inc. - 2002


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