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I just adopted my new beagle, Beau. I want to crate train him. Is that the right thing to do? How do I do it?

Many people object to using crates because they think it is unfair to their dog. However dogs, by nature, LOVE small spaces that they can call their own. Plus, crates give us the tools necessary to teach our dogs proper manners by helping with potty training and preventing destructive behavior like chewing. Below are the steps to take to make your pup’s crate his happy place.

The Perfect Home There are a variety of crates available for dogs. The durable plastic “airline” approved plastic crates work best since they provide a “den like” environment. Plus a dog is less likely to get a claw or paw stuck, compared to the all wire crate. The crate should be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around and stretch out comfortably. If you have a young puppy you may need to get a crate that just allows the dog to turn around and stand up. If the crate is too large, the puppy may have accidents.

Party Place The key to crate training is to make the crate a happy, fun place for your dog or puppy to be. Place the crate in an area of the house that is convenient but is also close to the rest of the family. Put a nice dog blanket or bed in the crate to help your pup feel comfortable. Feed him in his crate. If he gets a new toy or bone, put it in his crate to find. Hide treats in his crate for him too so every time he explores his new area, great things happen! You also want to give your adult dog or puppy a special chew toy or bone that he only gets when he is in the crate. Nothing makes a place better for a dog then a special yummy reward. NEVER use the crate as punishment. If you teach your dog that the crate is used when he is in trouble, then he will thing he is a bad dog every time you put him in there to leave.

Quiet Time If you have an dog or puppy that is not used to the crate, slowly introduce it to him over a period of a week so that he learns the crate is a great place to relax and sleep when you are gone. Use a treat to lure him into the treat, shut the door for a minute, than let him out. Repeat and as he gets comfortable, slowly increase the time he is left in there. Leave him in the crate for a few minutes the first day and then work up to a few hours. This slow exposure will ensure that your dog has time to adjust to his new environment. For young puppies, you should also slowly introduce him to the crate, but at night, because we are trying to potty train him, you can just lock him in the crate. He may cry, but he will quickly learn that the crate is a safe place. You can place the crate next to your bed for the first several nights to help with the adjustment.

Canine Complaints Your dog may bark, paw, or cry when he is first put in the crate. If this happens, don’t let him out when he is complaining. If you do, he will learn that barking and crying is the way to get out of the crate. Instead, wait till he stops, even for a few seconds to let him out. You can also clap your hands or make some other sudden noise and the moment he stops vocalizing to see what the sound is, open the crate door. Once you let him out, give him some time to calm down. Then, when you put him in again, have them in there for a shorter amount of time. So, if he was barking after 5 minutes in the crate, leave him in there for only 3 minutes. As he has several successful times in the crate at 3 minutes, then you can slowly build to 5 minutes then 10 minutes and so on. Just remember that by going slow and being patient, you will get your dog used to the crate in no time!