Have you ever thought about crate-training your dog or cat?
There is a lot of misconception about crating pets, ranging from concerns about “locking them up” or that “it’s too small a space- he can’t possibly be comfortable in there!”
In fact, when introduced properly to your pet, a crate can become a safe retreat for your pet, a place where he can go to get away from things he is scared of or to rest and relax in peace.
Why Crate Train?
Crate training is, in fact, a very useful option in many aspects of your pet’s life, from house-training, minimizing destructive behavior when you’re away, or having a safe, non-stressful transport method ready, if needed.
How to Crate Train?
The key to your pet’s acceptance of a crate is to introduce it slowly and to associate it with positive experiences, such as getting treats or attention. This way, they will come to associate the crate as a haven rather than a punishment, and are as happy to spend time in their space as out of it.
- The first step to introducing a crate is to leave it out in a commonly frequented area of the house, such as the living room, so that your pet becomes accustomed to its presence.
- If you have a crate where the top can be removed, take it off at first and add a comfortable blanket to the bottom half to make it a more desirable place to visit. Occasionally toss a treat into the crate for your pet to find to encourage exploration.
- When he is comfortable entering the crate, try adding the top half- taking care to leave the door off. Again, toss treats inside occasionally or place the pet’s food at the entrance to reward them for entering the crate.
- Once your pet is confidently entering the crate regularly, it’s time to put the door back on. Take care to prop it open so that it cannot accidentally shut with your pet inside and scare them!
- Repeat the previous rewards for time spent in the crate, until you can gradually shut the door for short periods of time while your pet rests comfortably inside.
Goals of Crate Training
- The goal is to reward your pet for time spent in the crate.
- For cats, offering their meal in the crate works well, or sprinkling catnip inside.
- For dogs, try offering their meal or a kong toy with a treat inside the crate as incentive to enter- and stay- in the crate. This prized treat is only offered when the dog is in the crate, and removed when he leaves.
- If you notice that your pet is stressed with the door shut, you may have progressed a bit too fast: let them out, allow them to calm down and then backtrack several steps.
- It generally takes about a week or so between steps to allow your pet to really become comfortable with each stage of the process.
- Some pets take to the crate immediately; others require more time and patience, but in the end, the results are worth it! Imagine your cat not yowling or vomiting on the way to the vet? Now imagine your dog comfortably sleeping without the worry of what furniture has been chewed overnight?
- It is important to remember that the crate you use should be sized appropriately for your pet. Your cat or dog should have enough room to stand, turn around, and sit comfortably when in the crate at a minimum.
- Pets should never be left for extended periods of time in the crate. They must be let out every few hours to stretch their legs and to eliminate, or must have space within the crate to take care of these physical needs.
- Smaller crates are appropriate for traveling short distances; larger crates are reserved for animals that must be confined when their owners are away at work, or for more extended travel.
As always, if you have any questions about reward-based training or introducing crate training to your pet, do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian for more specific suggestions to your particular needs.