Why crate-train your dog?
A crate is your dog's place of safety and comfort. Like a den in the wild, dogs prefer to settle into a dark, quiet, warm space. He is safe from kids, strangers, other animals and he is also safe from getting into mischief around the house if left to wander, unsupervised. A crate becomes his safe place for travel as well. It makes transitions to unfamiliar environments much easier on him. If toileting habits are not yet established, a crate is a great tool for minimizing any accidents, as most dogs prefer to eliminate away from their sleeping area.
Best kind of crate for your dog:
A crate should be only large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around. Any larger and you may find your dog toileting in a corner where he does not sleep. For puppies that will grow into larger dogs, partition the crate so his space feels snug yet you can enlarge it as he grows. To make it feel safe and secure, it may need to be dark and covered. A plastic molded crate is best as it is sturdy and light and tends to feel more enveloping, like an underground den. If you have a wire crate, cover it with a blanket to give it that cozy, safe feeling-just ensure that your pup doesn't try to pull at and chew the cover.
How to crate-train your dog:
Put your crate in a quiet corner of your house, like a spare room or office. It should not be positioned in an area of high traffic or activity like an entry way or kitchen. It is meant to be a safe haven where he can rest and relax.
Initially, leave the crate door open until your dog starts to trust his new environment. Put a bed, toys, and food treats inside to make it more enticing and enjoyable. Allow your dog to go in and out to have as many positive experiences with his new den as possible.
Begin shutting the door while he's enjoying some food or a toy and at night to sleep. For young puppies, ensure they are allowed out for toileting purposes as they have yet to develop the control they need to spend all night in their crate. To approximate how long before your puppy may need to toilet, use an hour per month of age. For instance, an 8-week-old puppy will need to get out at least every 2 hours whereas an 8-month-old pup may last up to 8 hours. Keep a journal of your pup's toileting habits so you can predict when he may need to go out. Don't allow his whining or barking dictate when he comes out. Let him out only when he is calm and relaxed.
Begin to put him into his crate at various times while you are home so he doesn't associate it only with you leaving the house. Use a word like "bed," said in a light tone, as you lead him to his crate. Praise him for going in.
Do not use the crate as a punishment. It is meant to be your dog's safe and cozy retreat and he cannot understand the connection between his bad behavior and being put into a "time out."