How To Crate Train Your Pet
Your pet deserves safety and security within your home. In a bustling household, especially one with many visitors or small children, it's important to give your dogs or cats a place of their own to retreat to if company, noises or unwanted attention are troubling them.
Providing your pets a comfortable crate and training them to enjoy its privacy and safety is a great way to encourage good bathroom and sleep habits. It's also important for keeping your pets out of trouble if you can't supervise them.
Buying and Setting Up the Crate
Any wire or plastic kennel is a good choice for your pet's crate. Wire kennels are easier to fold down and travel with, particularly if the crate is larger.
Selecting the right size for your pet's crate can be tricky. Many pet owners want to buy the largest possible crate, even if their pet is small. But a crate that's too large won't work well, primarily because your pet's instinct may be to use a part of the space as a bathroom area. With a smaller crate that gives your pet just enough room to stand up, turn around and lay down, you'll avoid this issue.
If you have a puppy or kitten, this means you can't just buy a large crate for them to "grow into." You'll need to get a crate that's appropriately sized for their small bodies, particularly if you'll be using it as part of your toilet training. Then, as they grow, you may need to replace the crate two or three times. Alternatively, look for a crate that includes a divider; you can block off a portion of the crate for use and expand that space as your pet grows.
Don't make the mistake of putting your crate in an out-of-the-way area, as pets can feel like they're being banished. Some pet owners put crates in a corner of the main living area, such as under a table, or near their own beds.
Inside your pet's crate, you'll want to include comfortable bedding—if possible, something that your dog or cat is already familiar with. You can add a toy as well, but don't make it too crowded.
"Crates are important to give your dogs or cats a place of their own to retreat to if company, noises or unwanted attention are troubling them." TWEET THIS
Training Your Pet to Be Comfortable in the Crate
Place small treats inside the crate to encourage your pet to enter. Don't immediately shut the door. Instead, let your dog or cat get used to coming and going. After some time of letting your pet associate entering the crate with finding a yummy treat, begin shutting the door for a few seconds at a time. Work up to leaving your pet for several minutes.
Some trainers advise using a "cue" word with a treat when your pet goes into the crate—something like "crate" or "enter." This can help your pet learn when it's time to go inside. Pair this with a word for exiting the crate, such as "free" or "leave," so your pet will learn to come out on command.
Eventually, you want your pet to sleep in his or her crate. Remember that young animals can't hold their bladders for hours, so make sure to take them out before entering the crate. You should be able to leave your pet for roughly an hour for each month of age—so a 3-month-old puppy can go up to 3 hours in the crate before needing a bathroom break.
Special Considerations with Cats
Cats can definitely be crate trained, but it's likely your goals for doing so will be different than with a dog. Getting your cat used to a crate is primarily useful when you need to travel or visit the vet rather than establishing a permanent sleeping area (although, if your cat enjoys his or her crate, there's no reason why you can't make it available at all times). Some cat owners also use crate training to reinforce correct litter box habits.
In addition to using food or catnip as treats to encourage entering and exiting the crate, use the same cue words that you would with a dog. A pheromone spray such as Feliway can also be used to make the crate less stressful for your pet.
When it's time to come out, your cat may decide that's not in his or her best interests. You may not have the same willingness to exit as you might with a pup. But never force your cat out or pull him or her out of the crate. Instead, use an attractive lure like a treat to entice your feline friend to come out on his or her own.
Visiting the Veterinarian
Crate training is also useful when you need to bring your pet to the vet. The familiar crate space will help to negate the stressful vet office environment. Whether you're coming in for an annual well-pet checkup or to get a possible health issue looked at, bringing them in the crate can make the visit more comfortable for everyone.
Need more tips on crate training or to schedule an appointment? Give us a call today and we'll be happy to help.
About Dr. Natalie Waggener
Dr. Natalie Waggener has 17 years of experience in emergency work and general practice in Rhode Island, Florida and Massachusetts. She has a special interest in dentistry, wellness care and rehabilitation therapy. She is currently licensed in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.