Is my dog ready to graduate from staying in his crate?

You feel like your dogs crate training has been going very well. You’re starting to wonder when you’ll be able to leave him out of the crate while you’re gone.
If you can answer yes to the following three things, you should be ready to start.

1) Is your dog an adult? Smaller dogs are dog grad bigconsidered adults sooner than larger breeds. Look into what age your dog is considered an adult.
2) Is your dog completely housebroken?
This means that he no longer has any accidents in the house.
3) Does your dog try to chew on anything other than his chew toys? In other words, do you trust that he won’t destroy anything once you’re gone?

Here are a few things you can do to gradually introduce him to his new unsupervised freedom.

Step 1 – Move his dog crate into a room with its door open. Bring your dog to this room. Give him a couple toys to occupy his time and a treat as you leave. Start with leaving him in there for 10 minutes. Try not to make any noise during this time. Sounds outside the room could cause him to bark or scratch at the door. Once the time is up, enter the room and give him a warm greeting. If he behaved well during this time give him another treat. If you are seeing that he’s comfortable and enjoying his time in the room, you can slowly increase the time. Once you reach a few hours, you should be able to start the next step.
Step 2 – Follow everything you did in Step 1 but increase his confinement area. For example, you could restrict him to half of your living space.
Step 3 – This is what you’ve been working up to. Continue what you’ve been doing in the previous steps but this time you are leaving him alone in the house.
Gradually work up to longer times until you reach the amount of time you’re usually away from home.
Note: If you come home to an accident or destructive behavior, take steps back in your training.
Also, remember that your dogs crate is his sanctuary and you should always keep his open crate available.

Barking and Running into the crate door.

I’ve been hearing dog owners describe the following behavior when crate training and think it’s worth writing about. Some dogs throw themselves into the dog crate door and/or bark when they know they are being let out.
How can you teach your dog to stop doing that?

running intoAs in all dog training, the first step is to understand why he’s doing it.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, he’s trying to show you that he wants out of the crate. He might need to go potty or just be excited to play.

For whatever reason he is trying to simply communicate,
“Hurry up and let me out!”.

If he’s doing this and you quickly let him out, guess what’s happening in your dog’s mind? He’s thinking, “Excellent. I have just successfully trained you to let me out of the crate faster.”
To correct this behavior, do the following. Any time your dog does this, stop all motion towards opening the crate. You want to consistently show him that every time he behaves this way it will have the opposite effect. If you see that he’s starting to learn the desired behavior you might also want to reward him with a treat.
Stick with it and you should see results pretty fast.

Crate Training for road trips.

Here are some thoughts on helping your dog be as comfortable and stress free as possible in your vehicle. Use a crate that he’s familiar with. He’ll be much more at ease if he’s already used to the crate. Just like people, some dogs are prone to getting carsick. If this is the case with your dog, you might want to speak with your veterinarian. He may prescribe some motion sickness medication. To help decrease your dogs stress you should gradually introduce him to car rides.

Try the following steps:Traveling Dog
1) Put the dog crate in your vehicle and secure it.
2) Give your dog his cue to enter the crate. If he’s big enough to reach the crate encourage him to go on his own. If he’s too small to jump up, you could try using a ramp. When he gets in, praise him and give him a treat. The point here is to teach him to happily enter the crate knowing that he’s going for a ride. Practice this step until your dog is comfortable going in the crate. Don’t proceed to the next step until he is.
3) Cue your dog to enter the crate. Give him a treat. Take a short drive. When you return from the drive let him out right away. Gradually work up to longer trips. If your dog is stressed out on these trips you might want to have a second person in the back with him. This person should be talking in a relaxed voice to your dog and showing him that he’s not alone. It’s also a good idea to give him treats during the trip. Remember to only give treats when he’s behaving nicely.

Traveling tips.
– Always make sure he’s gone to the bathroom just before you hit the road.
– When packing the car keep “Crate Ventilation” in mind.
– Keep temperature in mind. The sun could be heating up the rear compartment.
– Practice putting the leash on him before he gets out of the crate. In his excitement to stretch his legs you don’t want him to run into (god forbid) traffic.
– As always put a toy in his crate to keep him occupied.

Remember that each dog has his own personality and will react to travel in their own way. Learning what works best with your dog will make road trips much more enjoyable for you both.

Why is my dog crying in his crate?

There could be several reasons why your dog is crying out to you.
1) Perhaps his training schedule has progressed too fast.
Your dog should be happy and enjoying each step of his crate training.
At what point did you start seeing this undesirable behavior?
You might want to go back to that point and proceed more slowly from there.

2) It could be a matter of where the crate is located.
If your crated dog is left alone in another room or if he can’t Tearssee you, that could be the reason for him calling out for company. Try moving the crate to a place with the most family activity.
3) Maybe your dog is bored. Having a good selection of toys or bones for your dog will keep him stimulated. It’s always a good idea to keep one or two toys in the dog crate.
4) Your dog could be crying because you’re using the crate as a form of punishment. I can’t stress this enough. Please don’t do this!
This will teach him the crate is a bad place and not his sanctuary.
5) Your little guy might be crying because he doesn’t want to soil his den. The younger your dog is, the less time he can hold his bladder and bowels. You should be keeping a crate training schedule that anticipates when your dog needs to relieve himself.
6) Your dog might not be getting enough exercise. Each breed of dog has different exercise needs. Try increasing the amount of exercise he’s getting.

Each dog has his own personality and needs. Really try to understand what your dog is whining or crying about and adjust accordingly. This will make both you and your little guy much happier.

Toys when crating your dog

Puppies and Dogs are chewing machines. Chewing keeps their teeth and gums clean and healthy. Chewing also relieves anxiety, stress and boredom.

Give your dog something to do in his crate. If you don’t, he may start chewing on the cage. I recommend having only two items at a time in his crate. This way he doesn’t get board of his toys. Keep his box of toys near the dog crate. You can spread them out and let him pick the one he’s interested in. I personally like toys that let you put a treat in them. You’ll see him chewing away and trying to get at the tasty reward.
Whether your dog is an aggressive chewer or not you will learn what type of bones or toys he prefers. Putting these items in the crate with him will keep him entertained and happy.

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Sample Crating Schedule for Older Dogs

If your dog is over a year old you should see that he can now hold his bladder and bowels for much longer than when he was a puppy.

See this previous posting: Max Crate Training By age
You might have to crate your dog while you’re at work. With longer periods of time in the crate it’s recommended that he gets a midday break for exercise and being able to potty. If you’re not able to get him this break, make sure you put great focus on him getting extra attention and exercise.
You should never crate your dog longer than nine hours. If the rare occasion occurs that this does happen he will be ok.
Just remember that your dog has needs and those needs must be met for him to be mentally, emotionally and physically fit. Different breads of dog require different levels of exercise. Set a realistic schedule for in and out of the crate. Both you and your dog will be happier if you do.

Here’s a sample dog crating schedule.
You’ll of course have to customize your crating schedule based on your dogs age and specific needs.

7:30 am Wake up and take him to go potty.
7:40 am Feed your dog breakfast.
7:50 am Put your dog in his crate.
8:30 am You leave for work.
5:30 pm You come home from work and take him to go potty.
7:00 pm Potty break.
7:30 pm Feed your dog dinner.
7:40 pm Potty break.
10:00 pm Final potty break. Dog goes in crate for the night if necessary.

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Feeding schedule when crate training

A puppy less then six months old will generally do best with three meals per day. After six months, you can usually make it two meals per day. Speak to your veterinarian to see what works best in your situation.

Feed your puppy at the same times each day. It’s part of keeping a good crate training schedule. After all, if his food is going in at the same times, you’ll soon see a pattern of when to expect it coming out. Since you know when he’ll need to poop, you’ll be sure to give him extra time on his walk. This schedule will help you keep an eye on your puppy’s health. Defecating more than usual is a good warning sign. It’s a good idea to alert your veterinarian if you see this.
It’s generally recommended that you don’t feed your puppy in his crate or cage.
During feeding times, remove him from the crate and put his food down in front of him.
Take the bowl away after about ten minutes. Do this even if there’s still food in the bowl.
Don’t feed your puppy regular meals in his crate or cage.

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An “Accident” in the puppy crate

What should you do if your puppy goes potty in the crate?
Remember that your puppy is in training and that accidents happen.
The little guy won’t be happy about it.

Perhaps you haven’t been sticking to the puppy’s schedule. Or the schedule needs some adjusting, e.g., more frequent potty breaks. Maybe you were distracted and didn’t see him signaling you that he needs to go. When you discover the accident, don’t assume that he has completely relieved himself. He may still be holding back as much as he can. Remove him from his crate and take him out right away.
Thoroughly clean the puppy crate and make sure there’s no elimination scent left when you are done cleaning. Don’t clean with anything that contains ammonia. It could remind him of urine and make him think that the crate is a new potty area. Be careful to remove whatever disinfectant you are using by thoroughly rinsing and drying the crate. You don’t want your puppy ingesting any of those chemicals.
Remember to also clean anything that was in the crate, including the puppy.

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Crate training a dog from a puppy mill

A “Puppy Mill” is a dog breeding operation who’s focus is on profits above animal well being. I’m strongly opposed to anyone purchasing a puppy from such a place.
Some dog shelters have puppy’s / dogs rescued from Puppy Mills.

If your puppy is from a Puppy Mill, you will find it more challenging to housebreak him with a crate. Puppy Mills usually keep many different dogs of varying breeds in the same kennel. They are never let out and are forced to eliminate in their cages.
They are not raised inside with families and learn that it’s okay to eliminate in their dens. Puppies are also removed from their mothers too early. Mothers clean their puppy’s and teach the importance of staying clean.
Puppy’s learn early that it’s ok to live in their mess. Once this is learned, it’s very hard to unlearn. If your little guy is from a Puppy Mill, house breaking with a puppy crate isn’t a good idea. I recommend that you research alternate house breaking methods.
There are other crating benefits for this type of dog:
Check out the previous posts that I’ve done on “Crate Training Benefits”.
Give your puppy his own space
Deterring Destructive Habits
A safe place to recuperate
Time Out Area
Travel Safety

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Sample Crating Schedule for Puppy

It’s so important to be consistent with your puppy crate training. If you can stick to a schedule your puppy will see the pattern and eventually know what to expect.
If you don’t keep a schedule your puppy will be confused and his training will go much slower. Don’t forget that the younger your puppy is the more potty breaks he will need.
Refer to this posting: Max Crate Training By Age
It’s no small task to stick to a puppy’s crate training schedule. Your little friend will be so happy if you do.
Here’s a sample crating schedule.

You’ll of course have to customize your crating schedule based on the puppies age and specific needs.

7:30 am Wake up and take him to go potty.
7:40 am Feed your puppy breakfast.
7:50 am Another potty break before you put him in his crate.
8:30 am You leave for work.
12:30 pm A friend gives puppy a potty break.
12:40 pm A friend gives puppy a midday meal.
12:45 pm A friend gives puppy another potty break before putting him in his crate.
5:30 pm You come home from work and take him to go potty.
6:30 pm Potty break.
7:30 pm Feed your puppy dinner.
7:40 pm Potty break.
9:00 pm Potty break. Remove puppy’s water, for bladder control all nite.
10:00 pm Final potty break. Puppy goes in crate for the night.

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Puppies and crates

When puppy crate training, remember that the younger he is, the less he can hold his bladder and bowels. Take a look at this posting: Max Crate Training By Age
Set your puppy up to succeed and don’t expect him to hold it for long periods of time.

The key to housebreaking your puppy, with a crate, is leveraging his instinct to not eliminate in his den. If you’re not letting him out as often as he needs he’ll be forced to give up trying to hold it and potty in his crate. This will start teaching him to accept living in or near his mess; clearly something you don’t want him to learn. It can become a very hard habit to break.
Setting up a consistent schedule and sticking to it is the best approach. If you can’t make it home during the day you could hire a dog walker to stop by or have a friend or neighbor do it. Imagine how you would feel if you had to go and had no choice but to do it in a confined area.
Note: Some dogs try so hard to hold it that they get urinary tract infections or kidney problems.
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Is your dog crate too big for the car?

Some vehicles are too small to accommodate big dog crates and cages.
You might just need the room for something else. If, for whatever reason, you can’t put a dog crate / dog cage in your vehicle, there is an alternative.

It’s called a canine seatbelt. These seatbelts look like a harness. Just like a harness, they go around the lower neck, in front of the shoulders, and behind the front legs.
Make sure you get the right size for your dog so that it’s comfortable and safe.
Passenger-side air bags can be deadly to your dog. The same reasoning for not putting a child in the front passenger seat, applies to your dog.
Make sure you always use the canine seatbelt in the backseat.
Note: Many dog cages fold down easily which makes them easily transported. Just because you can’t use the cage in your car doesn’t mean you can’t take it with you.
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Driving with your dog

Don’t let your dog or puppy ride loose in your vehicle. Keep him in a secured crate.
If it’s important for people to wear a seatbelt, shouldn’t the same logic apply to securing your dog?

  • Let’s say you’re driving along and your dog is not secured.
    He sees another dog and gets so excited that he lunges over you.
    You could easily lose control of your vehicle. Especially at high speeds.
  • How about the case where you have to brake hard or swerve to avoid an impact. Your dog becomes a projectile. Possibly hurting himself and/or others in the vehicle.
  • If an accident does happen, your unsecured dog could leave the car and run into traffic. A frightening thought!

There are many more examples of why your dog should be in a crate while driving. Remember that the dog crate needs to be tied down.
Making sure that he’s secure will show how much you care.
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TV and Music

Some dogs find comfort in watching TV or listening to music from their crate. If you like the idea of doing this, first learn what most relaxes your dog while he’s in the dog crate.
Watch his reaction to different TV channels and different types of music. If your dog gets very excited when animals are on TV, you may want to choose another channel. With music, I suggest trying classical or country.
Also, keep in mind that having the volume up too loud will most likely interfere with his rest.

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Choosing a cue so your dog goes to his crate

With proper training your dog will go to his crate all by himself.
First, you need to decide on a cue. It can be any word or phrase.

Common cues are “Bed”, “Dog Crate“, “Crate”, “Go to Crate”, etc…
Use your chosen cue each and every time you bring your dog to his crate.
If more than one person brings him to his crate make sure that they are using the same cue.
It’s harder for your dog to learn if more than one cue is being used.
Stay consistent with the cue and it shouldn’t be long before you start seeing results.

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Where the dog crate shouldn’t go

Here are a few things to remember when considering the location of the dog crate:

  • Keep the crate clear from anything your dog could pull inside. Examples are: electrical wires, tablecloths, bed sheets, curtains…
  • Don’t put the crate near the homes heating or air conditioning. Doing this can adversely affect the temperature inside.
  • Stay consistent with the crate location(s). Your dog will be confused if you keep moving his crate from room to room.  He’ll learn his crate routine much easier this way.
  • Don’t keep the crate in an isolated room. Your dog will feel left out and will be less likely to bond with family members. Keep the crate close to where the family hangs out.
  • Make sure the crate is located in a spot where sunlight never hits it. The temperature inside the crate could drastically raise if you don’t watch out for this.

I always suggest doing the following test before placing your dog in his crate.
Place a thermometer inside the crate and check the temperature several times during the day and night.
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Where should I put the dog crate?

Your dog is a pack animal and he’ll want to be part of his pack. That means he will want to be with you as much as possible. You can crate train and still satisfy this need.

When your dog is in his crate, keep the crate in a room with the most family activity.
It’s important to put the dog crate right in the heart of things. This setup will allow your dog to see what’s going on around him and feel your presence nearby.

(Note: Some crates are designed as end tables to satisfy this need and to fit more with your home’s decor.)
Where should the crate be when it’s time for bed?
Your dog will want to be near you while he’s sleeping. Having him in your bedroom will help him bond with you. It’s ok to not have him sleep in your bedroom. Just make sure to bond with him during the day.

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Maintaining your dog crate

With proper maintenance you should enjoy years of use from your crate. Regular cleaning of your puppy, his crate and the crates bedding will aid in his house training. Doing this also keeps him healthy and prolongs the life of your dog crate.

  • Check the crate and bedding often for fleas and ticks.
  • Wash and sanitize the crate and bedding regularly.
    Note: Your dog might be sensitive to your detergent so be certain to rinse everything thoroughly.
  • Use nontoxic oil on all hinges and latches at least once a month. Use this oil on any damaged areas to prevent rusting. Make sure to wipe off any excess oil.
  • Keep an eye out for anything that might be chipping or flaking and anything that’s sharp or could be eaten by the puppy.
  • Don’t put your dog or puppy in the crate when he is wet or dirty. Doing this will promote rust and growth of bacteria.
  • If you need to change whatever parasite control you are using, make sure to clean your crate and the bedding. The combination of some chemicals for flea/tick control can be very harmful to your dog.
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Dog crate ventilation

It’s important to keep in mind that your dog’s crate is well ventilated.
Dogs that have heavy hair coats, short muzzles or are overweight will do best in a wire crate. Wire dog crates provide the best airflow.
If ventilation is a concern, don’t have the crate against any walls or have anything resting on top of it.

If you want to use a plastic air travel type crate, look for ones with additional ventilation in the back panel. If you find that the plastic crate is not providing enough airflow, you can drill extra holes in it with a large drill bit. Remember that warm air rises and the holes you’re adding will do the most good in the upper half of the crate.

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Crate Training Video

Check out this Crate Training video. It’s pretty well put together and worth a look.

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Comfortable flooring in your dog crate

It’s very important to make your dog as comfortable as possible in his crate.
Dogs resting on hard or uneven surfaces can develop sore spots.
Using a blanket or old clothing in the crate is not a solution.
They provide no padding and often find their way to the back of the
dog crate in a bunched up pile.
I recommend that you purchase a crate bed that is machine washable.

If your puppy is still being potty trained, it’s a good idea to have an extra bed for when he has an accident in the crate.
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What crate training is not

You should never use a dog crate for long term confinement.
A healthy, properly trained, adult dog, can usually remain in the crate for a maximum of 9 hours. Do not leave your dog in the crate any longer than this!
Also, never use the crate as a punishment.
If you use the crate for punishment or long term confinement, you should expect that your dog will develop multiple anxiety related behaviors. This is unhealthy for your dog and will be frustrating to you both.
Please keep in mind that your crate is a tool.
Just like any other tool, it can be used for harm or for good.
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Max Crating Time by Age

A common question for those first crate training a puppy is, “How long can I keep him in his crate?”.
Provided that you have been introducing the crate properly, your puppy can usually remain in the crate without a potty break for the following lengths of time.
Keep in mind that every dog is an individual and may differ from the average. Also remember that puppies under 6 months have weak bladder control.

Age Maximum Time in the Crate
10-12 weeks 30 minutes
4 months 1 hour
5 months 2 hours
6 months 3-4 hours
1 year 5+ hours
Greater than 1 year 9 hours

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A video worth checking out

The video shown in the below link does a few things right that’s worth pointing out.
1) Hang out with the puppy while he’s near or in the crate.
2) Only leave the room once the puppy has relaxed a bit.
3) Only let the puppy out of the crate once he’s relaxed.
4) Don’t take the puppy out, if he is whining or crying.

The page also has some good tips. Check it out.
Click here to check out the video.

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Crate Training Benefits #7

A safe place to recuperate

When your puppy or dog needs to be confined because of illness or injury, a dog crate can really be a blessing. After all, when you’re sick, don’t you prefer to be in a private, familiar, safe place until you are better? The crate will shield your recuperating friend from other pets, children, or anything that will interfere with him getting a really good rest.
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Crate Training Benefits #6

Give your puppy some flexibility of location

Who doesn’t love the idea of falling asleep with a super cute puppy and waking up with his cute face right next to you? For many people, this becomes a habit that’s hard to break. What’s more natural than a den animal sleeping with his pack?
If this isn’t what you want, there’s a way to still allow your puppy to bond with you, in the bedroom, without actually being on your bed. I’m sure by now you’ve guessed that I’m talking about a dog crate.
Let’s face it, puppies are a handful. If you have chores to do, most people will keep their puppy in another room. In the crate, he can be safely in the kitchen, while you’re chopping food for dinner. Try vacuuming with a puppy in the room and you will understand what I mean.
Your puppy will still need training for proper house manners and family etiquette, but using a crate may help you maintain a sense of loving companionship while he learns acceptable behavior.
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Crate Training Benefits #5

Time Out Area

A puppy is often overly rambunctious. If a long walk or a play session doesn’t calm him down, you may choose to redirect his energy by giving him a toy and puppy crate time out for a short while.
A very important rule when crate training is to NEVER let your dog think he is being punished or banished when he is put in the crate. When bringing him to it, be friendly and encouraging to him. You should also give him one or two of his favorite toys.
Giving him a treat each time you bring him to the crate is a good practice also.
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Crate Training Benefits #4

Travel Safety

If you need to take your puppy somewhere in your car, a crate is a safe method of confining him. Your puppy could interfere with your driving. Crating allows you to open the windows for ventilation without the risk of him jumping out.
It also keeps your car damage and potty free, if you need to leave the parked car for a bit. (Be sure to park in the shade and crack the windows, of course)
If you need to leave the puppy at a friend’s house, a boarding kennel or a veterinarian’s office, his own puppy crate will help to alleviate anxiety he may feel when separated from you and his home. The crate becomes his own portable “room” and place of security.
If you take your puppy on a vacation, you will find that many motels and hotels permit crate trained puppies, since they cannot damage the room if they are confined.
Many families have fenced in enclosures in the rear of their car for their pet. A crate serves the same purpose, but it’s also portable and offers a safe, familiar, comforting environment.
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Note – I’m referring to puppies in this posting because this is the age crate training usually begins. In most instances, the same points apply to an older dog.
Older dogs are usually easier to crate train. I’ll make sure to post the differences between puppies and older dogs.

Crate Training Benefits #3

Give your puppy his own space

A puppy will easily and happily learn that the crate belongs to him.
It’s his private place where he can go when he feels tired or grumpy.
He can take his favorite toy or chew item there without the family cat or another dog interfering. The crate is also a place of security for the new puppy, giving him a sanctuary when you have unruly children or a friend’s incompatible pet visiting. In situations like these, the puppy may go to the crate on his own. You may want to give him a treat in the crate so that he can enjoy himself without being bothered by the visitor.
If the puppy crate is wire, you can put a blanket over the top during the visit to ensure privacy.
Doing this with a wire crate is recommended for it’s strength and because it allows for proper ventilation. If visiting children seem likely to poke about the puppy’s crate, simply tell them that your puppy is taking a nap and shouldn’t be bothered.
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Note – I’m referring to puppies in this posting because this is the age crate training usually begins. In most instances, the same points apply to an older dog.
Older dogs are usually easier to crate train. I’ll make sure to post the differences between puppies and older dogs.

Crate Training Benefits #2

Deterring Destructive Habits

An untrained puppy should never be allowed to roam free in the house.
Leaving him unsupervised in your home puts him and your possessions at risk.
Your puppy could encounter dangerous items such as toxic chemicals, toxic plants, electrical cords, fans and medicines. The most common danger I’ve seen has been when they swallow an everyday item that you would normally deem harmless and it gets stuck in their digestive track.
He may make confetti from the Sunday comics or turn your favorite sneakers or the leg of your antique chair into a chewing toy.
These bad digging, tearing and chewing habits are difficult to correct once they have started.
The best approach to preventing these unwanted behaviors is to confine the puppy. Keep him in his puppy crate with a couple toys when you’re away from home. When you are with him at home and he is running around free, it’s your job to teach him which items are off limits.
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Note – I’m referring to puppies in this posting because this is the age crate training usually begins. In most instances, the same points apply to an older dog.
Older dogs are usually easier to crate train. I’ll make sure to post the differences between puppies and older dogs.