When you read this statement “how to make your dog’s crate feel like home” the first thing that comes to your mind is probably a nice looking large crate with a comfy bed and lots of toys and props, well you’re not the only one, this is the general idea about crate training.
Sure, having a comfortable crate does help, but there is more to it than the bed, the toys and the nice-looking crate, the core idea of crate training is to make the crate a safe place for your dog.
Dogs are den animals, meaning they need a den or a safe place where they can relax when they don’t feel like playing or hanging out, and that’s what the crate offers.
Crate training is making the dog consider the crate as his den, his safe spot, his home and to achieve that you need more than toys and a nice bed.
Before you can make your dog’s crate feel like home, you need to know what kind of crates is best for your dog.
Choosing the perfect crate
Choosing the perfect crate for your dog is crucial, it’s so important that it can ruin the whole crate training process.
So, how do you choose a crate for your dog and what to look for in a crate to make the right decision?
There is a variety of crates out there made of different materials, wire plastic wood or even soft-sided crates, each one of these crates has it’s unique features and focuses on a different aspect.
What you need is a crate that does a good job in crate training and can keep your dog comfortable and safe.
Not all crates are good for crate training, wooden furniture crates for instance have a great design and can blend in perfectly with your home decor but they are no good for crate training.
Your dog’s breed and personality will determine the type of crate you’ll need, a strong aggressive dog would not fit in a soft-sided crate.
The crate we recommend to all our readers is the wire crate because it does a great job in crate training and the one we like best is the Midwest Ultima Pro Metal Crate (check current price at Amazon).
The wire crate, especially the one with two doors and a divider panel is the best option, it offers a lot of open space making it easier for you to lure your dog into it, giving you a huge boost at the early stages of crate training and you can adjust the size as the dog is growing up if you’re training a young puppy.
A perfectly sized crate should be larger than your dog but not too large:
- The dog should be able to stand in it and have extra space at the top.
- Your dog should be able to turn around in it easily.
- The crate should be large enough for your dog to lay down in it.
Having a crate that is larger than your dog is understandable, but not too large is what you’re probably wondering about.
If the dog’s crate is too large and he’s not potty trained yet, he’ll probably use one side of the crate to lay down and use the other side as a potty corner.
Dogs are clean animals so unless they don’t have a choice, they will not eliminate where they eat.
Introducing your dog to his crate
Introducing the dog to his crate before he goes in it is often overlooked by most dog parents, but making a good first impression can make the crate training way easier.
This is not just for crate training, you should never introduce your dog to something new when it’s time to do it.
Start by installing the crate and make sure the door is open and secured to avoid any incidents (and this is the part where the wire crate come in handy) and just take your dog to it with the leash on and let him explore the crate freely.
You don’t need to force it, dogs are naturally curious and playful, just let him sniff it and walk around and in it for a few minutes then repeat the process a few times before you can move on to the next step into making your dog’s crate feel like home.
Using the proper toys and treats
Introducing your dog to his crate is one thing but getting him inside is another, and that’s what treats are for.
Treats will make it easier for you to lure your dog inside, simply toss a treat inside the crate and your dog will get into the crate to get it.
Dogs are clever animals, repeat the treat lure process for a while and your dog will get the point and start offering to get in the crate on his own to get the treats.
However, luring the dog into the crate doesn’t make it feel like home, you need your dog to spend more quality time inside the crate.
Toys are the best way to make a dog spend time inside the crate and we recommend using the kong, it does a great job in keeping the dog busy.
The kong toy can be filled with snacks making a great food puzzle that will keep your dog entertained in his crate for a while.
Your dog needs to play with his toys inside the crate, you can secure one to his crate and let him enjoy it inside.
Verbal praise, treats, and toys will sure send good vibes to your dog about the crate, you are emphasizing the idea that whenever he gets in the crate good things happen.
Now, all that is left to complete the bonding process with the crate is food.
Using food to bond with the crate
If I had to pick one thing to answer the question of how to make your dog’s crate feel like home it would be food.
Dogs love food and wherever they’re given food is certainly a happy place, in fact, food, when associated with something, dogs make a great memory of it.
Russian physiologist, Ivan Pavlov in his Pavlovian Conditioning study considers food to be a conditioned Stimulus that can be associated with anything, in this case, a crate.
Feeding your dog his meals in the crate is the ultimate way to making the crate feel like home.
Serve your dog his meals in the crate and make sure he is not disturbed, and it would be even better if the meals were served at the same time every day for a while at least to trigger a conditioned Response towards the crate.
Making the crate a safe spot
Making your dog’s crate feel like home is not the hardest part, keeping it that way is.
There are a few mistakes dog parents do when crate training their dogs that could make their dogs hate the crate.
Using the crate for punishment
Many dog parents use the crate as a punishment for their dogs, they make the dog go into the crate for a time out.
When you punish your dog by locking him in the crate while probably yelling at him, all you are achieving is associating the crate with bad experiences which is the worst thing you can do when crate training.
You should know that punishing your dog is useless unless you catch your dog in the act, there is no point in punishing him it only confuses him.
Forcing your dog into the crate
For you to be able to make the crate a great place for your dog you need patience, dogs learn by experience, emotions, and memories, you can’t expect your dog to love his crate overnight.
Rushing the crate training process and forcing your dog into the crate will only backfire and make the process longer.
Letting other dogs/pets use the crate
The crate is supposed to be a personal safe space for your dog, allowing other pets or dogs to use it will trigger a territorial reaction.
Your dog’s crate should be his own and never used by any other pet, even sibling dogs should have separate crates.
Making your dog’s crate feel like home is really simple, all you need to do is make sure only great things happen in the crate, associate good feelings and happy memories with it.
On the other hand, nothing bad should be associated with the crate, no punishment no yelling not even a bad smell your dog doesn’t like.
If you follow these basic steps which also apply to playpen training puppies you can be sure that your dog will adore his crate and spends time in it without you forcing him into it.