According to the ASPCA, a dog crate when used properly is an effective tool for managing, training, and providing your dog with a safe, cozy place to rest and sleep. Psychologically dogs have a natural tendancy to seek out a shelter or "den-like" place to call their own. Crates help dogs feel secure and provide them with consistency and comfort. Crate traning also takes advantage of a dog's natural instinct to keep their home clean and therefore is ideal for helping the housebreaking process by teaching your dog a schedule and aiding in avoiding accidents.
Most dogs that are introduced to crate training in a positive way will have fewer behavior issues such as excessive chewing and barking and will generally be more self-confident. Some dogs may have had a negative experience with a crate before they joined your family so be sure to consult a vet or trainer for evaluation before starting the training process. Use this guide to help you learn more about crate training and decide if it's right for your new puppy or dog.
Introduce your puppy to his new home. From the moment they arrive in your home let your puppy or dog sleep and rest inside their crate. Leave the door open so they can come and go freely.
Move slow and be gentle. Never force your dog into his crate, this can cause negative feelings. A crate should be part of normal everyday life where your dog naturally wants to rest and sleep.
Make sure the crate is the right size. You should buy a crate for the size you expect your dog to grow to. The crate will be too big at first, but many crates now come with a divider panel. Use this panel to adjust the size of the crate as your dog grows. When a crate is too large a dog will naturally eliminate in one end and use the other end to sleep.
Don't close the door at first. Once your dog is comfortable being in his crate (this can take a few hours or a few days, so be patient), test restraining him inside using the crate door. Praise him lavishly so he understands this is not a scary thing. Repeat this exercise of closing and latching the door and stepping further and further until you are out of sight. Eventually your dog will feel comfortable and happy sitting quietly in his crate with the door closed.
Get him on a bathroom schedule. Always take your dog immediately outside when you take him out of his crate. This is especially important for young puppies as they are being housebroken. Most young puppies need to "go" every 2 - 4 hours. By taking him out at a consistent time you are teaching him an elimination schedule that will stay with him for the rest of his life.
Use the information and chart in this guide to help find the right crate for your dog.
A Quick Review: The Do's and Don't of Crate Training
Buy your dog a crate that will be large enough for them when they are fully grown. Most crates will be too big at first, so use a divider to make the crate small and cozy for a tiny puppy and increase the space as he grows.
Provide soft, washable bedding in your dog's crate to make it a warm, comfortable space your dog likes to spend time.
Supervise your dog whenever he is outside of his crate. Watching them closely enables you to correct and direct behavior such as chewing and barking. Early training makes for a well-behaved dog later in life.
Don't force your dog into his crate for the first time. Plan on taking time and being very patient as they get used to their new surroundings.
Don't punish your dog by forcing him into his crate. Your dog's crate should be a safe, comfortable place where they like to spend time, it should not be associated with punishment or fear.
Don't leave young dogs in their crate all day. Young puppies need to "go" every 2-4 hours. Be mindful and plan your time accordingly. When a dog has an accident in their crate this can lead to anxiety.
Don't put newspaper or "housebreaking pads" in your dog's crate. This sends a confusing signal to them. Crate training works becuase it takes advantage of a dog's natural instinct to NOT "go" in his home.
When you're first helping your new dog get used to his crate provide them something that has a familiar scent to help calm and soothe him. A towel or blanket from the breeder or one of your own sweatshirts typically does the trick.