Every Dog Should be Comfortable in a Crate

Crate Training Your Dog

crate training pit bull image

Crate Training Methods Should Be Positive

Crate training your dog allows you to capitalize on your dog’s natural instincts to seek a comfortable, quiet, and safe environment when the environment around them becomes too loud or overwhelming. An essential tool for keeping young dogs from chewing on household items or during housetraining.

You never know when an emergency will arise that requires you to kennel your dog. It’s usually a good idea to have your dog crate trained. They are also useful when introducing more pets to your family. Crates become important equipment for crate and rotate routines.

Choosing a Crate

Crate Size is Important

Get a crate that is sturdy, comfy, and the right size for your dog. Wire crates are popular because they allow for better ventilation and view.

Purchase a crate that will accommodate your adult-sized dog. If you have a puppy, you may make the crate smaller by inserting a partition. Give them extra space as they grow.

wire kennel

Collapsible, metal pens 

gorilla kennel

Gorilla Crate – extra heavy duty

plastic plane carrier crate photo

Plastic (often called “flight kennels”)

soft sided crate photo

Fabric on a collapsible, rigid frame

A crate must be large enough to allow them to move about freely within it. They must be able to sit up straight without bumping their heads against the top. There must be enough space for them to spin around and stretch their legs out. Simply said, the kennel should be big and airy rather than crowded. Depending on the mature size of your Pit Bull, they may require:

  •   Medium (36″) for dogs 40-50 pounds
  •   Large (42”) for dogs that weigh no more than 70 pounds
  •   X-Large (48”) weighs over 70 pounds 

Cautions with Crate Training

Never Use a Crate for Punishment

  • Never use the crate as a punishment. They will come to fear it and refuse to enter.
  • Don’t leave your dog in the crate too long. A dog who’s crated all day and night doesn’t get enough exercise or human interaction. This could cause them to become depressed or anxious. You may have to change your schedule, hire a pet sitter, dog walker, or ask family or friends if they can help.
  • Puppies shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can’t control their bladders or bowels for that long. The same goes for adult dogs being housetrained. A good rule of thumb is that puppies can usually hold their urine for their age in months, plus one, converted to hours. In other words, a 3-month-old puppy can generally go about four hours without urinating.
  • Use the crate until your dog can be alone in the house without accidents or destructive habits. Graduate from a crate to an enclosed area of your home, like your kitchen, before giving them access to the entire house when you’re away. The crate should always have a comfortable bed and the door left open when you are home so your dog can enter it when they need a safe space.
  • Keep in mind this is the dog’s safe space; if a dog willingly goes into their crate, that is a safe zone, and no one should bother them while in their crate.

Crates are valuable tools, dogs may come to love it, but just as you would not spend your entire life in one room of your home, they should not spend most of their time in their crate.

Establish the Proper Mindset

A Crate Should Always be Associated with Good Things!

​The more the dog associates the crate with good things, the more they’ll ultimately enjoy hanging out in there. Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog’s age, temperament, and past experiences.


It’s important to keep two things in mind while crate training: It should always associate the crate with something pleasant, and training should take place in a series of small steps.

TIPS & TRICKS

Introducing

Some dogs take right away to a crate and others will need time to adjust to a crate. Keep it slow and steady; although the slow training may seem tedious, you may end up having to start at the very beginning again if you go too fast.

Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Open the door and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn’t one of them:

  • Bring them over to it and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Ensure the door stays open and secured so that it won’t hit your dog and frighten them.
  • Encourage them to enter by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that’s OK; don’t force them to enter.
  • Continue tossing treats inside until your dog will walk all the way calmly in to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing in a favorite toy.. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days

Feed Your Dog Meals

After the introduction, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This practice will create a pleasant association:

  • Dog is readily entering when you begin feeding nearby, place the food dish at the back of the crate.
  • They remain reluctant to enter: put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go in without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back.
  • Once your dog is standing comfortably inside to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer until they’re staying inside for 10 minutes or so after eating.
  • If they begin to whine about being let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time try leaving for a shorter period of time. If your dog whines or cries in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they’ll learn that the way to get out is to whine, so they’ll keep doing it.

Practice with Longer Periods of Time

When your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short periods while you are at home.

  • Call them over to the crate and give them a treat.
  • Give them a command to enter, such as “kennel up.” Encourage them by pointing to the inside with a treat in your hand.
  • After entering the crate, praise them, give the treat and close the door.
  • Sit quietly near for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time, and then let them out.
  • Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you’re out of sight.
  •  Once your dog stays quietly for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you’re gone for shorter periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This process may take several days or weeks.

When You Leave

Once your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house.

  • Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave your dog with a few safe toys in the crate.
  • Vary the moment during your “getting ready to leave” routine that you put your dog in. Do not kennel them for a long time before you leave, you can kennel them anywhere from five to 20 minutes before leaving.
  • Don’t make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering and then leave quietly.
  • When you return home, don’t reward your dog for excited behavior by enthusiastically responding to them. Keep arrivals low-key, quiet, put down your things, do what you must do first, do not act excited; this will avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you are home, so they don’t associate it with being left alone.

At Night

Especially True for Young Dogs

Send your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you’ll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine about being let out. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby, so they don’t associate it with social isolation.

Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

Potential Problems

Not All Dogs Take to a Crate Easily

Whining

If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. On the condition that you’ve followed the training procedures outlined above, and your dog have not rewarded them for whining in the past by being released from their crate. Try to ignore the whining. Your dog may be testing you, they’ll probably stop whining soon.

Should the Whining Continue

Should the whining continue after you’ve ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. When they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not playtime. Convinced that your dog doesn’t need to eliminate? the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don’t give in; if you do, you’ll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. As long as you’ve progressed gradually through the training steps and haven’t done too much too fast, you’ll be less likely to encounter this problem. Should the problem become unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.

Separation Anxiety

Attempting to use the crate to remedy separation anxiety won’t solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get an injury in an attempt to escape. Resolving separation anxiety problems through counterconditioning and desensitization procedures works best. You may want to consult a professional animal-behavior specialist for help.

Courtesy in part HSUS.