As the stigma of using dog crates disappears, more and more people are using them to provide their precious pooch with a safe space that they can retire to when they want some alone time, as well as having somewhere to keep their dog (and belongings) safe and secure when they go out. Crate training is also an invaluable tool when it comes to toilet training, and teaching dogs how to feel calm on their own.
Rather than a cage, crates should be viewed as more of a bedroom, and should never be used as punishment. Some dogs will enjoy being in their crate right away, but sometimes it can take some getting used to. Let’s take a look at some top tips to help your dog feel more settled in their crate, and stop barking the house down.
The 11 Tips to Stop Your Dog From Barking In Their Crate
Before you embark on crate training your dog, make sure you have everything in place and ready to go. You don’t want to be making any last minute dashes to the pet store, or failing on the first night because you weren’t prepared. This checklist should help you be super ready for Operation Dog Crate.
1. Warn The Neighbors
One thing that often derails crate training is angry neighbors, or feeling guilty about your noisy pup upsetting them. If you have neighbors that are in earshot, have a chat in person, or slip them a note to explain that you are about to embark on some crate training with your dog. Explain that there may be some noisy nights ahead, but if they can bear with you, it should be a brief period, and all worth it in the end.
2. Select The Right Size Crate
Whether you’re bringing home an adult or a puppy, make sure you have a crate that is big enough for them to have a comfortable bed at one end and a water bowl at the other. They should be able to walk around comfortably, but not pace. Ideally, select one that is approximately 2 to 3 body lengths long, 1 body length wide, and 1 times their height, being sure to allow for the growth of a puppy.
Make sure that the size of the bars are close enough together to stop small heads from squeezing through, but large enough that legs won’t get stuck.
3. Choose The Right Location.
Select an area that’s close enough to the action that your pup doesn’t feel like they’ve been sent to Antarctica, but out of the way of loud noises and foot traffic. Laundry rooms are not ideal, as washing machines and dryers can often make sudden loud noises which can freak out any dog.
One of the best locations is near a door to the outdoors, so you can let your pup out in the morning and go straight outside to the toilet.
You can put the crate in or near your bedroom if you think that will help you feel more relaxed, but be aware that it will be noisier. Whatever you feel will make it easier for you to leave your pup to settle without interruption.
Some people set up baby monitors so they can check their pup without actually going to the crate, which is a great idea. Just make sure the monitor is set up outside the bars, just in case your curious canine mistakes it for a chew toy.
4. Stock Up On Cheap Bedding
In the beginning, cheap, washable blankets are ideal for puppy bedding – they can be easily cleaned or replaced, depending on what might go on! Lightweight plush blankets like these are great; you can layer them for comfort, and they wash and dry really quickly.
5. Line Your Crate With Puppy Pads
Ideally, the aim is that your pup won’t toilet in their crate overnight, but initially, there are likely to be accidents. Place puppy pads under the blankets to absorb any moisture, but do not have a “toilet” zone, as this encourages your pup to use this area as their toilet instead of waiting until they go out.
If you need to remove any nasty overnight mess, do it with the least amount of interaction with the pup as possible. Do not speak to them, play with them, and only wash them if there is a serious Code Brown Situation.
Obviously, it won’t be nice for them to toilet on their bed, but provided they have enough space, they will move away from any mess, and they learn more quickly that they need to toilet before bedtime and hold it until morning if they want to avoid a soiled bed!
6. Select Safe Toys
Try to have toys that are just for the crate, so your puppy has something interesting to look forward to at night. Toy selection is really important because you need to select toys that will not be a choking hazard, and are sturdy enough to withstand chewing. Kong has a great selection of tough toys with no small parts.
7. Get A Spill-Proof Water Bowl
It is important to provide water for your pup overnight, but also important not to provide too much. Too much drinking water in the crate can result in damp bedding for two reasons: spilled water from the bowl, and weeing. Your dog will not need a lot of water overnight, enough for a few mouthfuls is plenty. Invest in a heavy, non-tip bowl to reduce the risk of flooding; ceramic bowls are great for this purpose.
8. Cover The Crate With Heavy Curtains
Curtains? you ask, wondering if we are preparing a crate or a country cottage. What we want is some large blankets to cover our crate and close like curtains over the door. Nice thick blankets will keep the crate dark and cozy inside, and help muffle noise to the outside. During the day, keep the curtains pulled back and the door open, and at night, turn your pup’s bedroom into a Fortress of Sleepitude.
9. Never Use The Crate For Punishment
Sometimes our dog needs a time out; getting too worked up, being possessive over food or toys, nipping too much when playing, etc. Although it may be tempting to send them to their crate for this, you should never put them there for punishment. If they need a time out, take them away from the room you are playing in. You may find that a dog that has been scolded or put in a time-out will actually take themselves off to their crate – this is a great sign. It means they see their crate as their safe space.
10. Ignore their Barking
This is the most important, and most often ignored, rule of crate training. If you only follow one rule on this list, this is it, the Golden Rule.
This is the one to follow:
In most cases, crate training starts with a new puppy, but this is not always the case. The key to success in either situation is the same: Be Consistent and Persistent. This means that EVERYONE in the house must be following the same rules. Any weakness at this stage can result in a dog that will bark all night, bark all day, bark whenever they are left on their own.
If you’ve followed the previous crating guidelines, your dog’s bedroom is ready for their arrival. The first time you put your pup in the crate, do it during the day (on Day 1!) so you are not being kept awake, and you are not worrying about keeping your neighbors awake. Take them for a walk, have a play, so you know they’re tired out. Take them to their cozy crate and show them their toys.
Pull the “curtains” closed, walk away, and get ready for the barking, crying, pleading, screaming, and begging to start. Be strong. Make yourself a cup of tea, watch some television, listen to music; anything that will distract you from the piteous sounds coming from the crate in the next room. If you’ve been ignoring them for a while, the crying will often go up a notch, to the gut-wrenching yelps of a puppy being tortured. If, at this point, you need some reassurance, take a tiny peek through a gap in the curtains to make sure they are not actually in any physical pain (or check the screen of the baby monitor).
Do not talk to or touch the puppy (unless there is actually a problem). Reassured, return to your tea/television/music, and continue ignoring until the crying subsides.
Once there has been silence for at least 1 hour, go to the crate armed with lots of praise and a treat. Take them straight outside to go to the toilet. This will help them learn to associate quiet crate time with a treat at the end, and a predictable toilet cue.
Some dogs will catch on to this quickly, others will be more resistant. Once you’ve had your practice run, and feel confident that your pup is safe in their little bedroom, it’s time for bed. Remember, once those curtains are closed, you must resist the urge to open the crate and soothe your noisy pup.
If you stay strong, in most cases, you will only need to endure 2-3 noisy nights before your pup realizes that no amount of screaming, pleading, or yelping is going to get you to release them, and they will eventually go to sleep.
When you find yourself feeling mean for letting them cry themselves to sleep, remember these important points:
- FOR EVERY
- 1 time you go to your pup to reassure them when they are crying in their crate,
- add 2 hours to their noisy period,
- and 3 more noisy nights.
- If you “rescue” your pup from their crate, they will see it as something they need rescuing from.
- Once your pup learns that their crate is for chilling out and sleeping, you will know that you have a safe place you can leave them when you go out, knowing that your furniture, carpet, power cords etc are safe from sharp teeth, and your precious pup is safe from injuring, electrocuting or trapping itself in your house.
- Pups will avoid toileting in their bed, so the sooner they associate their crate with being their bed, toilet training gets a whole lot easier.
11. Respect The Safe Space
Once you have successfully introduced your pup to the idea of their crate being their safe space, make sure that the family respects that space. This is particularly important for children.
Adults should be able to retrieve the dog from its crate when needed, but if your pup takes itself off to its crate, kids need to know that they must respect the pup’s quiet time.
There we have it, 11 hot tips, tried and tested, to help your dog come to love their crate and have a safe, quiet space to sleep in.
Crates really are a great way to help dogs feel secure when we are out, as they do not need to worry about being alone in a big house or patrolling and protecting every room. They also help us feel happy about going out, or even just going for a shower, knowing our pup is safe and sound and not destroying the house.
If you follow the advice above, you will be on your way to peaceful nights, stress-free outings, and a calm dog to come home to.
When it comes to the first noisy nights of crate training, remember this:
If you’re feeling mean, you’re doing it right, and your pup will thank you in the end.