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As if it wasn’t hard enough to pick the right crate – you also need to figure out how to make the crate comfortable and appealing enough for your pup to want to go inside!
What methods work may differ depending on your dog’s personality, previous experiences and overall capacity to adapt to change, but there are some tips you can follow to see how it goes, and adjust it as needed depending on your fur friend’s reaction.
Patience is crucial when crate training a dog, but you set yourself and your dog up for success by making the crate an inviting space to which your pup will want to go.
The Right Size
Crate size is the most important thing when aiming at keeping your pup comfortable while in there, so take your time to measure your fur friend before heading out to find the perfect crate. If your four-legged friend can stand up inside the crate, sit down and turn around without going through too much trouble – then you are good!
You most definitely don’t want your pup to feel claustrophobic while in there, as it could ruin the experience for the two of you and make it impossible to get your pooch to feel comfortable.
By measuring your dog, you can easily compare those numbers to those provided in the product description of the crate you want to get, and if you are unsure, there are always contact emails and phone numbers you can use for online orders, or you can ask a store cleric at your local pet store for advice. Remember, a crate can be too big, but should never be too small.
To make a crate appealing, you logically also want it to be cozy enough for your pup to want to sleep there! Pet stores sell special crate liners that cover the bottom of the crate, but you can also opt for using blankets, towels, pillows or whatever else you think might make your pup feel right at home. For young puppies, it could be tempting to cover the bottom with newspaper, but if you were a puppy – would you want to sleep on newspaper?
Be prepared to do some washing in the beginning, if your pup has accidents, but it is worth it if you can get your young dog to like their crate already from the start (and trust us, this is much easier to do if your dog can actually get comfortable in there).
You can always choose to add newspaper or puppy pads underneath the crate liner or the blankets, to have them soak up any accident, or to cover half the crate with newspaper and the other half with something more comfortable, while your puppy is still small enough in size to only occupy a small part of the crate.
The options are many, but comfort is key when it comes to crate training, so make sure you turn the crate into a warm and cozy space where your dog will want to go in to sleep and rest, as it will help you in the process of having them associate their new crate with something positive.
Temperature and Placement
Always try to place the dog crate somewhere where you usually spend time when you are at home; such as the living room, kitchen or in your bedroom, to give your dog the security of being somewhere they feel familiar with. No dog particularly likes being left alone, as it is in their nature to want to be with the rest of their pack, so make sure they feel at home where you place the crate, as it will give them the confidence they need to learn to be home alone.
Temperature is also important, and you need to place the crate somewhere with regular room temperature – where it is not too hot, and not too cold. If your house gets hot in summer, you might want to consider leaving the AC on when you’re out, to avoid your pup overheating. Water should be available at all times while the dog is inside the crate, with the help of a crate water bottle.
Something That Smells Like You
An old trick that works remarkably well is to provide your pup’s crate with something that belongs to you, and that smells like you. It could be an old t-shirt, a pillowcase, a sweatshirt or a blanket, as your smell will help keep your fur baby calm and relaxed when left alone.
If you are not keen on using anything old – just buy a cheap shirt, a rag or a blanket, keep it with you in your own bed for a couple of nights to give it your smell, and then place it inside the crate.
Dogs are incredibly social animals that do not enjoy being separated from the rest of their pack and giving them something that makes them feel close to you even when they aren’t is a great way to provide comfort from a distance.
This is especially useful for young puppies and when beginning crate training, as it creates an instant sensation of familiarity and calm.
Adding a Fun Toy
A dog can easily get bored when confined, so why not add their favorite toy, or perhaps a stuffed KONG or a Nylabone? Anything that can keep them occupied and take their mind off you being gone is a step towards a positive experience, but just make sure you add only safe toys that cannot harm your dog while you are not home.
Toys should be checked before putting the dog in the crate, to make sure there are no loose pieces and/or sharp edges, and they should be replaced as needed.
Introduce Through Play
You can make a crate seem like the coziest place on earth, but if you fail to introduce it correctly – your pup is, unfortunately, likely to end up hating it. Start out slowly by throwing toys and treats into the crate for your dog to fetch, and always use plenty of love and praise whenever they set a paw inside.
Give them the time they need to get comfortable before attempting to close the crate dog door, and don’t try to rush it. Patience is what will make it a pleasant experience for the two of you, along with proper crate preparation.
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