How to crate train a pet
Having your pet live with you inside your home all the time sounds great, and it is. The joy that our little friends bring us with their presence is indeed unmatchable. However, no matter how innocent your pet may seem, they’re very unlikely to leave your house unharmed if they’re properly not trained.
While many new pet owners don’t realise this, bringing a pet into your home shouldn’t be a rushed decision. Instead, you first need to ensure that the home is as dog safe as possible and commit to a training regimen from the start. Soon enough, your furry friend will be trained enough to know what the rules are when inside the house. One training tool used by many is a pet crate, which is much like a large cage, as its home base.
Crate training uses an animal’s learning instincts to prepare them for a new environment. While it may require some effort to crate train a pet, once you’re successful in doing so, you’re well equipped to let your pet in your home without any fear. Dogs and cats trained using crates usually behave well around the family and kids too and such trained animals tend to be more self-sufficient and less rambunctious than those that haven’t been crate trained.
Often, people train cats and dogs using crates since these two animals are the most common ones to be in every household. You may use crates to train other common pets too and the crate training method for all animals is almost similar. Hence, even if you don’t plan on getting a cat or a dog, reading this article might prove to be useful for you.
Through this blog, we’ll break down the step-by-step procedure of crate training most animals. However, before we get there, let’s first talk about why crate training is essential for your pets.
Why do you need to crate train a pet?
Why should all pet owners be crate training? That’s because the advantages of crate training aren't just limited to teaching an animal about the rules of living in a home environment. Instead, it's a great way to improve an animal's overall behaviour. When your pets are crate trained, you’ll see that it’s easier for you to travel with them. A crate-trained dog or cat also tends to cope well with overwhelming surroundings. When things get too threatening or disturbing for your pets, their crates can provide them with the escape and protection they need. When an animal has no crate to use, controlling them in new and unfamiliar surroundings can be more challenging.
However, always remember that you must never use a crate to punish your animals for their mistakes. Using a crate for punishment does more harm than good and turns a safe area that’s just theirs into a scary place that they’ll avoid. Hence, encouraging them to use the crate and always keeping a positive association with it is the best course of action.
How to crate train a pet
You might find crate training to be a tiring and lengthy process that requires a lot of patience. While this is true, none of the stress compares to the mental peace you get after your pets are well-trained.
If you’re looking for reliable guides on how to crate train a puppy or any other pet, make sure to read the following steps carefully.
1. Find the right crate
Not all crates suit all pets. Rather, you need to choose a crate that your dog or cat would happily accept as their new, comfortable home. Usually, you can find crates made of plastic or metal. You can pick any of these, but it's better to go for the latter material for the best longevity.
You can easily find pet crates in different shapes and sizes at almost all pet supply stores. Don’t be fooled by how good a crate looks or what style it comes in. Make sure you do your research and invest in a crate that is right for your pet’s size. Your priority when buying a pet crate should be to keep it according to your pet’s body size as closely as possible.
The crate should be spacious enough to allow your pet to turn around in it easily. However, there shouldn’t be too much space inside the crate because you want to ensure your pet knows that they are in a controlled environment. Getting a crate that’s too big may slow down the training process.
2. Introduce the animal to the crate
Crate training a dog, or any other animal, starts with very basic and simple steps. Once you've bought a crate and taken it home, you need to take very small and patient steps to introduce your animal to it. Make sure to keep the first interaction between the crate and the pet very light and friendly. You can do so by keeping the crate in an area the pet likes and spends most of its time in. It would be even better if you keep the crate somewhere in the middle of your living area, surrounded by all your family members.
Make the crate look more appealing and comfortable by putting a soft towel or blanket inside. It’s even better to include one or two of your pet’s favourite toys. Now, without the use of force, slowly encourage your pet to come near the crate and talk about the crate excitedly. Encourage your pet to enter the crate. Don’t force them inside. This may take some time, so be patient.
Once the pet enters on its own, try putting in some food or water to distract your pet from the idea of leaving the crate. Try to help the animal stay inside for a few minutes and walk around. Remember, never use any force. Keep on repeating this step until the animal accepts the crate as its habitat.
3. Start feeding the animal inside the crate
Initially, your pet won’t like the idea of staying inside the crate for too long. Hence, making your pet stay inside for long hours on end can be quite a task. You can try to make the crate more favourable for your pet by placing all of your pet’s meals inside it. When you serve the food inside, your pet may feel tempted enough to stay for as long as the food is there.
You can begin closing the crate’s door while they are busy eating, thus helping the pet form a habit of eating inside the crate only. Start slowly and make sure it doesn’t startle the pet while they are eating. Don’t lock the door the first few times. This step may require a few days or even a month or more to complete, depending on how receptive the pet is to the crate. Your job here is to be as patient as possible and ensure you regularly serve meals inside the crate no matter what. Eventually, the pet will spend longer intervals in the crate and will go there instinctively around mealtimes.
4. Slowly start increasing the crate time
After your pet accepts the crate as its new dining place, you can start keeping it inside the crate even after the food is finished. Slowly increase the amount of time you keep your pet inside the crate without food. This step is usually the longest part of your pet’s crate training. However, accomplishing this one means you’ve conditioned the pet to stay inside the crate for as long as is needed.
While you slowly start to increase your pet’s time inside the crate, don’t forget to be gentle and appreciative towards your pet. Once your pet starts staying inside the locked crate without any activity to do, you can start training it to stay inside even when you aren’t around.
You can do so by staying out of your pet’s sight for a few minutes and can then start increasing the time of your absence. Once your pet is clearly not bothered with your absence for over 30 to 40 minutes, you can consider it trained enough to be kept in a crate for longer stretches, even when you're not present in the home.
After this, make sure you keep your pet comfortable in the crate because that's the only way to ensure that your pet adheres to the training. You can do so by offering your pet some treats in return for a peaceful stay inside the crate. You can also try making the crate exciting by filling it with food or a few higher-value treats.
Crate training is tiring and usually a very long process. Make sure you practice patience throughout and don't get annoyed with your pet for not cooperating from day one. Also, don't go about comparing your pet's crate training journey with anyone else's. Every animal is different and each one of them requires different time, conditioning, and methods to become well-trained.