At first, your dog might think of a crate as scary and secluded. But crating your pup keeps him out of trouble when you can't keep tabs on him and provides a safe haven that he'll learn to love. The length of time it takes him to react positively to the crate depends completely on his training.
Put yourself in your dog's paws and imagine the anger and confusion of being placed in a crate, while sweet freedom, food and stuffed couch pillows sit just beyond the crate door. Naturally, a dog unfamiliar with crating is going to whine and maybe even try to dig his way out. If you turn your attention to him -- or worse, let him out -- he's going to think his efforts were a success. Ignore all the sounds he makes and he'll eventually stop.
Toys & Comfort
The more comfortable your dog is while in his crate, the less noise he'll make, especially if he's a puppy. The crate should be big enough to allow your dog to turn around easily and have room to stretch out and stand up fully. Layering the bottom with a blanket or dog bed will soften the hardened bottom surface, and stuffing a few toys inside will help stave off boredom. Puppies are notorious whiners for the first few days in crates, especially if they were just taken from their mother. They often feel alone and scared, but placing something that smells like you, such as an old shirt, inside the crate can help comfort them. A sound machine with a noise that mimics a heartbeat can also help. Sometimes throwing a blanket over the crate will make the frightened pup feel more secure.
Not a Form of Punishment
While you might want to toss your pup inside his crate when he’s running through the house like a madman or when he tears to pieces a pair of shoes, doing so can cause major problems, the most immediate of which is resentment of the crate. If the dog is placed in there frequently throughout the day, he's going to act out, because he needs some freedom. If he's crated when he finds himself in trouble, he'll eventually think the crate means punishment, which will cause crate resentment problems and result in harmless stimuli that cause fear.
Although your pup would disagree, there's no reason to delay crate training. Beginning as soon as possible, such as the first week you bring your dog home, is the best strategy. The longer you wait, the more your dog thinks of change as a synonym for horror. The first few nights are the worst, but training your dog -- via putting him in the crate and paying him no attention -- during the day may relieve some of the more obnoxious crying when you're trying to catch some shuteye. Training sessions should happen no more than three times during the day and one hour at a time. Food and toys help lure your dog into the crate and allow him to see the crate as a haven for goodness rather than nightmares. Because puppies respond better to crate training than adult dogs do, the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine website suggests remaining nearby when putting an adult dog in his crate, at least until he adapts. Make sure he can at least hear your voice. Treats and lots of praise help speed the process along.
Things to Know
Collars are off limits when your dog enters the crate of doom; a collar can get caught on something and choke him. Puppies and senior dogs need to go outside to relieve themselves more frequently than adult dogs. Whatever their age is in months plus 1 represents the maximum number of hours a puppy can go before relieving himself in his crate, according to Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Yelling at or disciplining your dog during his stays in the crate will make the crying, whining and digging worse.
- dog in a cage image by igor kisselev from Fotolia.com