You may have heard that dogs are den animals. Putting them inside a crate should not be a big problem, right? Well, no. The truth is, our furkids are far from being den animals. The definition of a den animal is one that naturally lives in the ground, specifically a burrow. Think of moles and gophers.

The question is, if our dogs are not den animals, then why is there a need to crate train them? Dogs actually use dens! Although wolves and other wild dogs don’t spend 95% of their lives inside a den, they still use dens to give birth. They would only stay for 10-12 weeks after giving birth. Their pups spend their time here to grow and be safe from predators. It’s where they learn the basics to survive in the wild. It’s their place of security and peace. Eventually, they will abandon the dens to venture into the world.

Just like their wolf ancestors, dogs need crates to train as well. Take a few minutes to read this article on crate training, the top reasons why we need to, and some FAQs.

Top Reasons Why Fur Parents Use The Crate

1. Teach house rules – One of the primary reasons why pet parents use the crate is for house training. There’s no other way to potty train your pup except through positive reinforcement. We’ve heard of questionable potty training such as swatting them or rubbing his face in his poo, but this won’t make your dog understand the need to pee or poo in the right place. Crate training is a great way to teach him house rules in a positive, humane way.

2. Keep them safe during travel – There are many ways to travel safely with your dog. Aside from strapping him to a doggie seat belt, placing him inside the crate is one of the safest ways to travel with canines. Some dogs get nervous in new surroundings and may run off and get lost. Placing them in crates ensures their safety.

3. Make new dogs feel safe and secure – New pets get anxious in their new homes, no matter how warm the reception is. They’d like a place where they would feel safe in. A crate provides the feeling of a maternal den for pups. It’s their safe place — an area where they can rest and sleep comfortably.

4. Sequestering high-spirited dogs – Some dogs are more rambunctious than others especially if there are new people in the house. If you’re expecting someone important for dinner and worried that Rover might get a little rowdy, a crate is your best bet.

5. Keep them safe during disasters – We’ve all seen videos online of dog owners looking for their best pal after natural disasters. Storms, tornado, and earthquakes scare our poor furry pals. Like people, they will panic, run around, and hurt themselves. A crate will protect them from falling debris and provide a safe refuge.

A Beginner’s Guide to Effective Crate Training

The key to effective crate training is to work with your pup, not against him. To begin, you would need three things: a crate, patience, and your diligence. Teaching him to not be afraid of the crate is a challenge, but don’t let this put you off. Depending on your pup’s temperament, age and even his past experience, training him might take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Just remember not to rush the process. Coach him with love and it will fall into place.

Step 1: Introduce your puppy to the crate

Place the crate in a room where the family is usually gathering. An empty crate may seem like a scary place for your pup, so make sure to put an old shirt, towel or a throw pillow. Some dogs go right in out of curiosity. But if this doesn’t happen with your little one, tempt him with his favorite treats. Put one just outside the door, and some leading inside. If treats don’t work, use his favorite toys.

Talk to your pup in a happy tone, and give lots of praises when he finally goes in and settles down to eat his treats. When it’s his first time, don’t close the door or leave him alone. This is done for the first few times to reassure him that a crate is not a bad, scary place.

Step 2: Use the crate during meal times

Next step is to keep him comfortable and willing to stay inside. Feeding him inside the crate will create a positive mindset for him. Give his regular meals outside near the crate, then work your way inside during the next few meals. Eventually, you’d want to put his food all the way in. Your furkid should be eating comfortably before you close the door. The first time you place his meal inside, open the door as soon as he’s done.

Step 3: Leave your pup longer each time

With each succeeding meal, you can gradually increase the length of time he spends inside. A minute, two minutes, three minutes and up until he’s able to stay inside without whining to be let out. Stay within the vicinity of the crate for the first ten minutes. Give him some treats or his favorite toy, and praise him lavishly every time he comes out without whining. Remember that it’s important to associate the crate with things he loves!

Step 4: Crate when you leave or start crating overnight

Now comes the trickiest part: leaving him alone, even for just a few minutes. When your pup eventually stops looking anxious or not showing any signs of stress, it’s time to leave him alone. Again, start out slow. Sit quietly for a good five minutes near the crate before getting up to go to another room. Stay away for a few minutes and then come back to sit near the crate again for a few more minutes then open the door. Greet him with a treat and praise him when he comes out. Then take him outside or to his potty pad to relieve himself immediately.

Give them commands such as “crate” or “kennel” when you want him inside. Use command words to associate going outside as well. You may need to do this several times a day for your dog to get used to the process. As soon as you observe your dog is able to quietly stay inside the crate for 30 minutes, you can start leaving them alone for a longer time and even let them sleep there overnight.

Crate Training FAQs

What are the types of crates?

Plastic or Flight Kennels – Some dogs like a little privacy and the plastic-type crate is perfect for them. Made of heavy duty plastic, they’re for furry friends who like cozy spots. They’re not as easy to clean as metal crates but they’re perfect for traveling and easy to store when they’re not in use.

Soft-Sided or Fabric – Soft-sided is not recommended for rowdy furkids or aggressive chewers. They’re the ideal crates for traveling as they’re lightweight, easily stored and portable. Most soft-sided crates fold down in seconds!

Metal Crates – Got a pup who wants to be where the action is? A metal crate is well-ventilated and perfect for confining aspiring escape artists and power chewers. Although they’re easy to clean, they’re not as portable compared to soft-sided and flight kennels.

For more crate options, take a moment to browse through our collection of crates and pet carriers.

Can I use the crate to solve my pup’s separation anxiety?

Unfortunately, it’s not advisable to do so. This is where a professional animal behavior specialist comes in to help. The only way canine separation anxiety can be solved is through counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.

My dog whines when I put him inside the crate. Would yelling solve the problem?

That would just make matters worse. It’s possible that a dog is whining just to test if you would let him out. The best way is to ignore them. However, if he continues to whine, he might need to relieve himself badly. Try to use your “outside” command word and observe if he stops whining and appears eager. Take him out to eliminate, but don’t let him play around. “Unscheduled” outside trips should be for a purpose.

One thing that you should keep in mind when your dog whines is to simply ignore him when you feel he doesn’t need to relieve himself. Giving in to him means he will whine louder next time just to get you to open his crate.

What if my dog is a crate hater?

No matter your patience and diligence, some dogs will never accept being crated. Don’t give up hope though! You can still introduce crating by placing the crate in a smaller room like your kitchen and leaving the crate door open. Make sure the room is dog-proofed, with pee pads, kibbles, and water near the kennel. Block off the room with a gate so they won’t feel alone and anxious.

I have a naughty puppy. Can I use crates as punishment?

Crates should be used to teach them house rules or an area in the house where it’s exclusively theirs, not as a prison cell as punishment for chewing on your pricey Jordans. Your pup will come to associate crates with fear and refuse to go near or enter it.

How long should I keep my dog inside?

Puppies and senior dogs who have a hard time containing their pee and poo should not be kept for more than 4 hours at a time. Adult dogs can be kept inside for a maximum of 6 hours. It’s inhumane to keep pets inside crates for most of the day. They would grow bored and anxious. It would also defeat the purpose of potty training if they happen to relieve themselves inside. Limit crate time so they can get some exercise as well.