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How To Kennel & Crate Train Your Dog: Practical Steps

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crate training your dog

If you are a dog owner, we are guessing that you know what it’s like to wrestle with the idea of crate training your dog. The truth is, there will be times that you should crate your dog, and there will be times when you should not. Another truth that we all need to hear is that crating will simply not be an option for some dogs.

In this deep dive into crate training, we will try to answer many of the questions we have received over the years. We are also going to talk about kenneling alongside the crating discussion. The main difference is that a kennel is a bigger, outdoor space where dogs will have more freedom. So, as we talk about crate training, realize that if crate training is done correctly indoors, it will translate well when it comes time to kennel your dog outside in your backyard!

Before we begin, keep in mind that kennel/crate training is not equal to cruelty. We can be the owners of dogs, create good boundaries, and still have a wonderful and loving relationship with our animals. Dogs can still be our best friends and also have a relaxing and safe space just for them!

how to crate train

What Is The Purpose Of Crate Training Your Dog?

Crate Training our dogs can have multiple purposes. Giving your dog a break from a chaotic environment (anxiety, other animals, or children), helping transport them more easily, strengthening their bladders, helping with housebreaking, and as a way to deal with health issues.

It seems that we believe crate training is always for the owners. Crate training is more for the dogs than for us! Just like we have a place that we go to in order to feel safe, dogs crave that as well. When it comes to kenneling your dog outside, that space improves even more with fresh air and more space! Not to mention, with certain kennels, you can set up a heating and cooling system for your dog!

benefits crate training

Crate Training Your Dog For Beginners

As you get started with crate and kennel training, here are a few things to keep in mind!

  • Don’t use the space as a punishment area. If your dog does something bad, yelling at them to go in their safe space will give them a sour taste when they think about their crate.
  • Don’t leave your dog in a crate or kennel for too long of a period. Leaving them for too long can add to the problems that their safe space is meant to solve. Changing their environments between the crate and kennel and limiting the time spent in each is essential.
  • Crate training is not meant to last forever. You will have the ability to give your dog more freedom down the road based on how well they respond to the training. Kenneling can last for as long as you want! Giving them an outdoor space doesn’t have to end because it is important for dogs to be outside and exercise.
  • Allowing your dog to have the ability to sleep in their crate when you are home is key! Giving them blankets or a bed to retreat to can allow you to understand what they are feeling in that moment. If they withdraw to their crate, it could be a good time to give them some needed space.

Is Crate Training Cruel?

When done correctly, crate training is not cruel. You may have heard horror stories about how certain people have done crate training. The act of creating a special space for your dog to call their own is not inherently bad. When you start seeing force, screaming, and excessive crating…that’s when it becomes a problem.

Setting reasonable expectations will help as you start to crate and kennel train your dog. We encourage you to be patient and loving with your animal as they begin a process they have never done before! If you go into the process thinking that by the end of the week, everything will be perfect…you may resort to yelling and aggressive behavior when that doesn’t happen.

crate training for dogs

How Long Does It Take To Crate Train A Dog?

Crate training a dog isn’t exactly like heating something in the microwave. There is no magic beeping that happens when you are finished. It could take different amounts of time depending on your training style and your dog’s personality. Here are the generic timetables for crate training your dog.

Puppy (Under 10 Months) – 30 min – 1 hour a day for approx. 2 weeks

Adult Dogs (Already House Trained) – 1 hour a day for approx. 1.5 weeks

Adult Dogs (Not House Trained) – 1.5-2 hours a day for approx. 4 weeks

Senior Dogs – 1.5 hours a day for approx. 2 weeks

All the dates are approximations because of how many variables are at play. Here are a few things that could change that timeline.

Dogs:

Anxiety

Whining

Health Issues

Bladder Issues

Owners:

Not Remaining Consistent

Not Enough Time In Crate

Not Enough Time Given For Training

Attitude Towards Dog While Training

kennel training

What Are The Steps To Crate Train Your Dog

  1. Find a crate and/or kennel – This is when you introduce them to their new space. There are different styles of crates and kennels, all made of different materials. We recommend doing some research on crates here!
  2. Set-up The Crate – Finding a space that you know will suit your dog is important. Begin by putting a blanket or soft matt inside. Get a favorite toy or treat that they love to put in the crate/kennel ahead of them. If they are hesitant to enter their new space, try leading them to it and sitting down with a few treats right next to it.
  3. Mealtime! – It is now time to associate good things with their crate/kennel. Feeding your dog meals near and in the crate will allow them to grow more comfortable with the new area. Start away from it, and slowly begin providing them meals closer and closer to the crate or kennel. Once they are inside, leave the door open at first…but feel free to close the door while remaining by their side.
  4. Teach Them When – Now it is time for your dog to learn the word “crate” or “bed” or “kennel” …or really, whatever you decide to call it. Again, make sure you associate the word with a cheerful voice and energy. Positively reinforced behavior is instrumental! If they come to their crate when you call them over, give them a treat!
  5. Time In Crate – Now it is time to coax your dog into the crate or kennel more and more. Remain by their side in the crate for 5-10 minutes for every 30 minutes they are crated. Try calling them in with treats once they have eaten a few meals in their new space. After, try calling them with just toys. After a few days to a week of this crate training step, you are ready to move on to the big one.
  6. Leaving Your Dog – Now comes the tricky part. After your dog has successfully spent around 30 minutes in their crate for a few days, you can try taking a trip to the grocery store with them in their new area. Creating a “leaving ritual” will allow your dog to feel safe and comfortable as you are about to leave. The steps could include;
    • Saying, “it’s time to go to your crate.”
    • Grabbing a treat as they walk towards their crate
    • Make sure blankets/toys are in their space
    • Giving them a treat in their crate right before you leave

It is good to understand that the timing of your departure is important. Going through a ritual only to come back in the house 2 times to grab your wallet and keys could take your dog a few steps back.

when to crate train

How To Train Your Dog To Sleep In His Crate

This step is recommended only for crates and not for kennels.

To be honest, this is not as tough as you may think. Once you have taken the above steps of crate training your dog, there are only 2 main things to do to crate them overnight.

  1. Crate them in your room – Puppies and dogs with bladder problems will need to go out at night. Make sure you can hear when they begin to stir. This will also help your dog not think about a crate as just a space away from you.
  2. Transition Them – If you don’t want your dog constantly in your room to sleep, you can transition them to another room once they have slept through the night. If your dog gets distracted easily, putting a blanket over a big portion of the crate can be a way to allow them not to get over-stimulated.
crate training at home

How To Crate Train Your Dog While At Work

One of the main questions we have been asked is about leaving your dogs while at work. The response we give is related to the time and type of dog. You will want to make sure your dog can handle being alone for that long period. Choosing to crate them indoors is not as recommended as using a kennel.

Repeatedly being in a confined space for 8+ hours will possibly cause behavior changes to your favorite animal. Using a heated kennel or one with a/c can allow them the space they need while you are away. They have the option to go into the outside or inside portion. They will have enough food and water, but not too much to cause frequent bathroom breaks.

Should You Crate Train A Rescue Dog

The short answer is yes. Even rescue dogs can become healthier and operate on a schedule if crated properly. The downside is that it may take longer to get them to like their crate. Finding the proper size where they don’t feel constricted is significant when crating rescue dogs. Incrementally increasing time spent in the crate may also go up slower than expected.

When it comes to a kennel, your rescue dog should have an easier time. Simply following the steps outlined above will allow your dog to feel positive and safe in an outdoor kennel.

crate training dog kennel

How Do You Introduce An Older Dog To A Crate?

Contrary to popular opinion…old dogs and new tricks do go together. When you begin crate training your senior dog, you almost have to treat them like a puppy. Their bladder won’t be as strong. They will need more exercise to remain in shape. It may take more repetition day in and day out because they are learning something completely new.

The exercise is the only difference between the steps outlined above and creating a training plan specifically for older dogs. Allowing them to be more relaxed after a walk outside creates a better time to try crate training. Your dog has used the restroom, used up energy, and will now be ready to calm down in a safe space.

When Should You Start Crate Training Your Puppy?

You can start crate training your puppy as soon as they are comfortable in your home. It is not the best idea to coax them into a crate when they are still unsure of their environment. Creating a more rigid schedule for crating your puppy as opposed to an adult dog will also be critical. Kenneling your puppy is good to start around the same time. A kennel will feel like a palace to your small dog.

Is It Okay To Not Crate Train Your Dog?

Even though this article is about crate and kennel training, there are benefits of choosing not to crate/kennel train them. Some of the reasons not to crate train a dog include frustration on your side, possible behavior changes, and created anxiety. If your dog already has a tough time being away from you for 15 minutes, trying to crate or kennel them may not go well.

What Are The Benefits Of Crate Training?

The main benefits that we have outlined are an easy schedule, potty training, creating a safe space, keeping your home safe, and keeping your dog safe. Crating and kenneling are not meant to be an easy way to not deal with your animal. It is intended to be something that helps both dog and person interact and have a peaceful home.

why crate train

Choosing The Best Crate and Kennel

We will begin with choosing the best crate and then tackle picking the best kennel!

Crates –

The first step in choosing a crate is to pick your material. The 2 main types of crates are plastic and wire. Wire crates create more visibility, while plastic could create more peace for dogs that get distracted. Wire crates also come with a tray in the bottom. In case your dog has an accident or coughs something up, this tray could be your best friend when it comes to cleaning up.

The next thing to focus on is size. Make sure you choose a crate that your dog can maneuver in easily. If they are hitting every side when trying to reposition…the crate is too small.

Kennel –

Choosing the right kennel is just as important as selecting the right crate. The first step is to know when you want to have your dog in the kennel. If your schedule doesn’t change throughout the year, you will want to have them enjoy the outdoors for all 12 months. Depending on where you live, this may mean getting a kennel that can be outfitted with an A/C and/or heating unit. Making sure your dog is comfortable in their safe space is essential!

Picking a size can be tricky with kennels because they are all relatively large structures. Moreover, you will want a kennel to have a hand in customizing. A pre-built kit can be challenging when you want to tailor the space to your dog. You also want to decide if you will have any more dogs in the future! You may need to buy multiple crates, but you only need to buy one kennel.

crate training diy

Can I Stop Crating My Dog?

You can potentially stop crating your dog after 1-2 years of crating. It seems like a long time, but here is why we arrived at this number.

For puppies, they won’t be fully mature until around age 2. They may not save their learned behavior if their crate is taken away too soon. Adult dogs may become crated sooner, but it is still important to reinforce the desired behavior.

Taking away your dog’s safe space completely can lead to anxiety. If you want to stop crating your dog, try small increments at first to see how they handle being alone. Some dogs will miss their crate and choose to be there with the door open when you are not home.

When it comes to kenneling, we recommend always having one! It is a substantial outdoor area that your dog can spend time in while you are away. If you don’t have a large backyard or one with a fence, a kennel is a perfect option always to be able to utilize.

Kenneling & Crating Conclusion

We hope that this has helped you decide on your style of crating and kenneling your dog. Choosing to crate your dog does not mean you don’t love them. It does not mean you can never stop. It is simply a way to help train and put them on a schedule that benefits both parties.

If you have any questions about this process, please reach out to us! If you want to browse through our kennels, we would be more than happy to assist you in finding the right one!

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