FREE dog training advice from a pro!

Crate train your dog to solve a variety of problems

How to crate train your dog and choose the right crate

Crate training is one of the most valuable skills you can teach your dog. Once your dog is comfortable in his crate, you can use it to prevent and solve a variety of behavior problems, including going potty indoors, separation anxiety, food aggression, destructive behavior, and more.

It's easiest to crate train a young dog, but I've successfully crate trained dogs of all ages — even seniors. In this article, I describe how to train your dog to accept (and even enjoy!) his crate, even if he currently hates it. l also tell you how to make sure you choose the right crate for your dog before you click "Buy Now."

Choosing the right dog crate

It's really important to choose a crate that is the right size for your dog. Obviously, if you choose a crate that's too small, your dog will be uncomfortable. But, you may not realize that if you choose a crate that's too large, your dog (and especially young puppy) may relieve himself in it — a situation you'd probably rather avoid.

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So, in short, you should choose a crate that is tall enough for your dog to comfortably stand up without ducking his head or bending his neck at all and just wide enough for him to comfortably turn around. Most crates include sizing guidelines that give you the manufacturer's recommended weight range; these guidelines are generally pretty accurate.

If you're crate training a young puppy, buy a crate that will accommodate his projected adult height and weight. Make sure the crate includes a divider you can use to adjust its size as your puppy grows. Insert the divider according to the directions in the last paragraph.

PETCO crates come in six different sizes and include a divider panel. PETCO offers inexpensive replacement trays; so, rather than replacing the whole crate when (not if) the plastic tray cracks or is otherwise damaged, you can simply buy a new tray. This feature is not available in most other brands of crates, but In my experience is really important since you'll likely need at least a few new trays over the course of your dog's life.

  • X-SMALL:
  • SMALL:
  • LARGE:
  • X-LARGE:

How to crate train your dog

Follow this same process whether you are working with a dog who is new to crate training or doing remedial work with a dog that doesn't like his crate:

  • STEP 1: Start the crate training process by simply getting your dog comfortable with the crate. Put treats and toys in the crate to encourage him to go inside, and leave the crate door open. Let your dog wander freely in and out of the crate for at least a few hours — and preferably a few days — before you move to Step 2.

    If your dog is reluctant to enter the crate on his own, don't force him. Pressuring your dog will create unnecessary anxiety and make the crate training process unnecessarily difficult. Just relax and give your dog plenty of space and time. DO NOT hover around the crate trying to verbally coerce your dog inside — you'll only make him want to avoid both you and the crate!

    If your dog is particularly wary of the crate, put the best treat you can — like a piece of cheese or a small piece of peanut butter sandwich — inside, and either leave the room or sit as far away from the crate as possible. Few dogs can resist the temptation of a tasty snack. Repeat as needed! And remember that patience is key.
  • STEP 2: Once your dog is comfortable walking in and out of the crate on his own, you can begin closing the door for very short periods of time — five or ten seconds is long enough at first. Remember to give your dog a small treat every single time he walks inside his crate.

    Gradually extend the length of time you leave the crate door closed. For example, once your dog is comfortable in the crate for 10 seconds, lengthen the time to a minute, then 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 30 minutes, etc. Start crate training at the beginning of a weekend, if possible, so that you can spend a couple of days on the process.

Remember that the length of time you should crate your dog is dependent on his age. An adult dog (one year or older) can hold his bladder for up to 8 hours at a time. For younger dogs, a good guideline is to leave your dog in a crate no longer than his age in months converted into hours — for example, a crate an 8-week-old puppy up to 2 hours at a time.


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  • Once you close the door to your dog's crate, do not open the door when he barks, whines or cries! If your dog vocalizes, turn your back and ignore him until he is quiet. When he's been quiet for at least 5 seconds, calmly open the crate door.

    CAUTION: If you open the door when your dog cries, you are rewarding him for bad behavior — which he will now very likely repeat!
  • Make the crate your dog's happy place. Give him treats and a safe toy (like this ) every time you crate him.
  • Only use bedding in the crate if your dog is not destructive. Leaving a pillow in a crate with a dog who may eat the stuffing can be dangerous. If your dog has destructive tendencies, line the crate with a towel or nothing at all.
  • If your dog consistently eliminates in his crate, try moving him to a slightly smaller crate. Most dogs will not eliminate where they sleep. Also, remember to take your dog outside for a potty break before crating him, and consider restricting water for 30 minutes before your dog enters his crate.
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