To help your new arrival settle we recommend providing a crate for them. Many dogs like this and it becomes their safe place when they feel scared or unsure. Below is a guide to help you crate train your new arrival, ensuring a positive experience for all.

IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU DO NOT FORCE OR PUSH A DOG INTO A CRATE. THEY MUST ENTER AT THEIR OWN PACE TO ENSURE THIS IS A SAFE PLACE FOR THEM.

Positive Crate Training

The dog crate is designed as a safe, secure area that your dog can go into for short periods of time. Dog crates have five main uses: 

  • Open ‘den’ area: some dogs benefit from having an open ‘den’ area that they can use as a safe place where they feel secure. 
  • Training aid: For example, helping puppies to learn to be left alone or for help with toilet training. 
  • Short term confinement: For example, where owner supervision is not possible. 
  • Veterinary advised: In some circumstances, a vet may advise the use of a crate, for example, to aid recovery after surgery. 
  • Transportation: Crates can help keep dogs secure and comfortable whilst being transported.

A CRATE MUST NEVER BE USED AS PUNISHMENT WHEN A DOG HAS BEHAVED IN A WAY YOU DON’T WANT

Choosing the Right Crate

The right dimensions of the crate needed will depend on the size of your dog. As a minimum, your dog must be able to sit and stand at full height, turn around, stretch out and lie down in a natural position. Remember to think about adult size of your dog if they are still growing when choosing a crate.

Pepper, adopted January 2020

Create a Safe Haven

The following will help you turn the crate into a safe haven, where your dog can feel secure:

  • Add some comfortable and soft bedding for your dog to lie on. 
  • Place some interesting, safe chew toys inside. 
  • Find a location for the crate which is not in direct sunlight or in a draught. 
  • Place a cover over part of the crate to help nervous dogs feel more secure. 
  • Try to pick a quiet corner or area of the house with not much foot traffic.

TIP: You can buy clip-on food/water bowls for crates to prevent them from tipping over.

Crate Training Process

When it comes to the crate training process there are two important points to remember:

  • THINK POSITIVE – The crate should always be associated with something pleasant. 
  • BE PATIENT – Training should take place in a series of small steps. Don’t go too fast.

Step One – Introduction to the Crate

At this stage it is a good idea to place the crate in a quiet area of the house. It can help to fix the door open so that it cannot swing shut and frighten your dog. Start by placing some treats inside the crate and allowing your dog to explore at their own leisure. The majority of dogs will seek out the crate and go straight inside; however, if they do not and you’d like to encourage them to use it you can use treats to entice them. Call them over to the crate in a happy tone of voice whilst throwing tasty treats near to the crate at first and then moving them progressively closer until you are throwing the treats inside of the crate. If your dog does not seem motivated by food, try the same progress but using their favourite toy. Once your dog is taking treats from inside the crate, continue throwing treats inside until they are happy to calmly walk all the way inside the crate to get the treats.

REMEMBER to be patient. This might take several minutes or several days. Keep sessions short, about 3 minutes.

TIP: Few dogs can resist homemade liver cake – check out the recipe page.

Step Two – Slowly Increase the Time Spent in the Crate

A good way to start increasing the time your dog is happy to stay in the crate is by feeding them their meals in the crate. Place their food at the back of the crate and if your dog enters it happily and starts eating you can close the door. However, if your dog shows any signs of reluctance to enter or to eating in the crate, start by placing the food bowl outside the crate and through several sessions progressively move the bowl inside the crate and then towards the back of the crate. The first time you close the door while they are eating, open it as soon as they are finished. With each successive feeding leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they are staying in the crate for ten minutes or so after eating.

If your dog whines to be let out or shows any signs of distress including panting, excessive barking, cowering or shaking, go back a few steps and allow your dog to eat in the crate again with the door open.

TIP: Once step two is complete your dog should understand that their crate is a safe place to be with comfy bedding, toys and food.

Step Three – Going Out of Sight

As your dog gains confidence about staying in their crate with the door shut you can start to gradually leave them on their own. To make sure your dogs’ positive association with the crate continues place their favourite toy or chew at the back of the crate.

Activity feeders such as ‘kongs’ stuffed with food* are a great option for keeping your dog entertained and gives them the opportunity to chew. Once your dog has entered the crate shut the door, but stay sat quietly next to the crate where they can see you. Stay put for around five minutes – hopefully they will be more interested in their toy or ‘kong’ then they are in you. After 5 minutes leave the room quietly and calmly. Once you are out of sight go straight back in, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out of the crate. Repeat this process several times a day and each time gradually increase the time you are out of sight until you get to half an hour.

*any food given this way should be deducted from your dogs daily food allowance.

TIP: It’s a good idea to practise this step at different times of the day so that your dog gets used to being left at a variety of times.

TIP: Always make sure that your dog has something to keep their attention. You do not want to teach them to bark or whine through boredom. If you let them out when they are being vocal, you will quickly teach them that if they make a noise you will come running! Wait until there is even the smallest gap in their noise and then let them out. Timing is key!

Step Four – Moving On

Once stage three is completed and your dog can be left for half an hour without showing signs of distress you can start to leave your dog for short periods of time. Your dog will be more inclined to relax when left alone if they have had an appropriate amount of exercise and has been fed before you go out. Therefore, we advise creating a departure routine, this should ensure that the dog has had time to toilet and stretch their legs. You shouldn’t make a big fuss when leaving your dog. Praise and reward them for getting into their crate and leave them enjoying the goodies you have left inside for them. On return, keep arrivals low key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. It is never acceptable to shut your dog in the crate all day while you go to work. Adult dogs that have been successfully trained to have a positive association with their crate and view it as their safe haven are normally quite happy to be left for about 3 hours. Puppies are unable to hold their bladders and bowels like an adult dog can and this needs consideration when leaving them in the crate. Ideally, the crate should be a safe haven that your dog can choose to enter voluntarily – somewhere they can go for peace, quiet and security.

Please be patient and please give them the time they need to settle in.

The Pawprints to Freedom team are always on hand should you encounter any issues or need advice/ training tips.

PLEASE RESPECT THE JOURNEY THESE DOGS HAVE BEEN ON AND THE CHANGES THAT THEY ARE HAVING TO MAKE.