Many people have asked me about crating their dog and it seems that some people do think it is mean to put their dog in a crate.... Well...If you are literally putting the dog in the crate, shutting the door and leaving them there I would agree, however there is a bit more to it :)
A crate CAN be a safe haven for your dog, especially if you have young children or a dog that is noise sensitive (please note: providing a safe area for your dog is a great management technique but is not a long term solution, please do get in touch if you want to know more about reducing your dogs fears.) As you can 'sound proof' a crate with egg boxes and blankets.
First before you start training, you must consider the best size of crate for your dog, at a minimum the crate must be big enough for your dog to stand up, stretch out naturally and turn around. Then you are going to create a dog’s safe haven, where he will feel secure, place a comfortable bed inside along with safe, interesting chew toys, and also it is important to place the crate where your dog will not be in direct sunlight or in a draught. It also helps a nervous dog if part of their crate is covered. Ensure that everyone is the house knows this is going to be your dog's safe place so no-one bothers him when he gets in there.
Now you are ready to start training... To get your dog used to the crate it is important to introduce the crate slowly as a positive safe area.
Place the crate somewhere you spend a lot of time such as the sitting room and secure the door open
Put treats inside the crate and allow your dog to explore at their own pace, you also can throw treats inside the crate or his favourite toy to encourage him to explore
Remember to keep sessions short (3 minutes) and eventually he will go all the way inside the crate
Next once your dog is comfortable it is a good idea to feed his meals to him inside the crate
If he enters happily and eats his food, shut the door, but open it as soon as he is done
If he is unsure you can feed him by his crate and slowly move the bowl further inside the crate at each meal time (remember to go at your dog’s pace)
Once he is comfortable eating his meals inside the crate you can start extending the time he stays in there. After each successful meal time leave the door shut for
an extra minute or so until he is happy to stay in there for ten minutes.
Next, once he is happy in his crate you can start going out of sight. Ensure he has plenty to keep him occupied (eg. Kong filled with peanut butter) and stay around for 5 minutes and then calmly and quietly leave the room for a short time. If your dog is experiencing anxiety while you are away from them please do get in touch as the crate is not a solution for separation anxiety.
Please ensure you progress on to each step at your dog’s pace to minimise any distress. Leaving your dog to cry will not teach your dog to be okay alone, instead he might not cry as he's too tired but still experiencing distress.
When you are going at you dog's pace- you are on the road to success!