Crate Training 101: How To Teach My Small Dog To Love his Crate


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Crate training isn’t cruel. Veterinarians and dog experts even recommend that you expose your dog to this as early as you can. Dogs, in their natural environment, would seek for small and constraint spaces for shelter. With this, they feel secure and at rest. By having the best dog crate for small dogs, you can transport your pet or potty train it indoors.

But as much as doggos are considered den animals, some pooches won’t yield to crates easily. Domestication and failure to train can sometimes be the reasons. Improper crate training may cause your buddy to fear than love the small space. Take note that puppies don’t have pre-conceived ideas about things. You should be careful so you and he will have an easier time dealing with crate training.

Purpose of crate training

First of all, crate training isn’t a punishment. A lot of newbie pet owners have this wrong notion which makes crate stay feel like jail time for the doggos. Crate training is intended to give your little buddy a space of his own. You’re just going to lead them to their natural “den” instinct.

Crate training is important for a variety of reasons including the following:

Injury recovery. Small dogs tend to be yappy than other breeds. With this, injury prevention becomes challenging if you don’t confine them in a smaller space. The best crate for small dogs can give them a private space and limit their movement.

House training. Puppies and small dogs are playful babies. They will run outdoors and get inside with muddy paws and a soiled fur. The worst part is they will jump happily into your bed or couch. During rainy days, you can place your dog in a crate to prevent this.

Transportation. Air and land travel usually requires dogs to be placed in a kennel or crate.  If your dog is used to the confinement, he won’t howl or bay if you transport him inside it.

Anxiety relief. Dogs can be overwhelmed by a large and empty house. Small lap doggos are also prone to separation anxiety. If you’re going out for an hour or two, crating them will give a safe and warm feeling.

Peace of mind. On the part of the owners, crating provides peace of mind that their doggos aren’t up to any mischief. Nothing will be chewed, soiled, toppled, and the dog won’t be injured.

How to perform crate training

Here goes the tricky part. Crate training can either be a smooth-sailing experience and a nightmare of shouting and snarling. If you want to prevent the latter, here are some tips guaranteed to work (for my doggos, at least):

Be casual about it

Shoving your dog inside and locking him up the moment you get the crate is outright cruel. Your pet will hate it and you’ll be frustrated as to why he won’t go near the crate next time. Instead, be casual and treat it like you’re just placing a doormat on a corner. Place the crate on a spot your dog frequents together with a bed, toys, and goodies inside.

Let the pooch explore the best dog crate for small dogs on his own. Don’t ever lock the door when he’s inside. It will feel like a trap and your doggo will be heartsick about it. Some dogs will be curious enough to sniff around but if your pup is a bit skeptic, place his favorite treat inside.

Feed them inside

Food is every dog’s kryptonite. They will smell food even if you’re 25 feet away. So to encourage your little buddy to get used to his crate, place his meals inside. He would probably hesitate at first so I recommend that you leave him alone. This way, he can explore the crate and eat without the feeling that you’re going to lock him up.

If your dog is still reluctant, place the food near the door. As they get used to it, push it further until they are fully standing inside the crate. At this point, you can close the crate door but don’t lock it yet. See if the doggo will be flustered. If he seemed to be engrossed on his food, you can lock it up.

Open the door right after the dog finished his meal. In the coming days, you can keep the door closed for additional minutes after they are fully fed. The little the increments, the better for your dog. If your pooch starts to whine to be let out, you probably closed the door for too long.

Increase crate time

You can increase crate time if your pooch can tolerate a 30-minute lock-up without agitation and crying. Try leaving them on the crate for an hour while you’re cleaning. Observe if they are unsettled or they comfortably sleeping or playing inside. Let them out of the best crate for small dogs after that.

Next time, you can try crating them for two hours. Again, observe their behavior. If they didn’t exhibit any sign of worry or fear, you’re on the right track. You can now start crating them when you leave home, BUT remember that there’s a limit to this.

Let them sleep on it

When your dog is comfortable with their crates, let them sleep on it at night. But don’t lock the door. Dogs have to pee and poo and you’re probably not apt to clean a mess early in the morning. You can place it beside your bed or anywhere you prefer.

How to make your dog love it

Lure them with treats. Treats and meals are dogs’ weaknesses. If you have a frightened puppy, place a treat inside the crate and let him enjoy it without closing the door. You would have to do this repeatedly until they relax. Don’t ever trick them by closing the door. They will hate you and you would have to start from square one.

Keep the door open. Dogs, especially the pups, don’t have any fear of crates. So if you trick them and force them to go inside with doors locked, they will hate it. Keep the door open, besides, there’s no reason to rush this over.

Wire and foldable crates could be best. Foldable crates give your dog the freedom to see the surroundings. It feels less confining and fearful. For my dogs, I got a foldable wire crate and they loved it along the way. I think plastic crates can be used later on when they are familiar with the idea of such confinement.

Make it comfy. With a cozy bed and toys that await, a doggo will be more than excited to enter the crate. Let him play inside the best crate for small dogs to develop familiarity.

Slow your roll. Crate training shouldn’t be rushed. Be as patient as you can and let your dog adjust to the new crate slowly.

What to avoid

Trust me, crate training is a tricky job. It’s not enough that you have the best dog crate for small dogs. You go overboard and the little doggo would run away from it. It took me two to three months to finally get them inside without coaxing and rewarding. Anyway, a part of it should be blamed on me because I rushed a bit when I closed the door on the first week.

I want you to learn from my mistakes so here are some haphazard moves you should avoid:

Crating the dog for long

An adult doggo that’s left crated for the whole day and night won’t get enough exercise. Their muscles will grow weak and they will start to become unhappy. If you’re going to be away and you want peace of mind, hire a pet sitter for the day. Some pet owners also opt for a dog daycare where the pooches are sent to some kind of playschool together with other canines.

Crating a puppy for more than 3 hours

Your little guy under six months of age doesn’t have full control of his bladder. Although older dogs can hold it, it’s not healthy for them to do so.

Using crating as punishment

Here goes my biggest mistake. If your little boy chewed your shoe or poop on the carpet, don’t send them to the crate. They will begin to associate crating with punishment. So the next time you put them in, they will be sad and heartsick thinking they’ve done wrong.

Yelling or pounding the crate

Just imagine being placed inside an enclosed container. Your dog can either be afraid or just testing you when they whine. If the whining doesn’t go off, let them out or unlock the door. Don’t ever pound on the crate. It’s not a wrecked cathode ray television. It’s your dog trying to fight off his fear but simply can’t.

Choosing the proper crate

Now that you know some crate training tips, it’s time to look for the right kind of crate. Kennels or crates vary in size and shapes. But as a general advice, I recommend that you get a breathable one. For me, that’s a wire crate with all sides providing visibility to the dog.

Also, get the size that fits your pooch. If you have a large canine, get a bigger one. If you’re like me who has a little pooch, it’s not best to let them in a large crate. They may over-explore the interior and sustain injuries in the process. Just get one where they can stand and circle comfortably. A few more centimeters won’t hurt in my opinion.

Anyway, if your purpose is to travel with your pet, a wire crate won’t be the best dog crate for small dogs. Pick one with plastic sides where the doggo can’t put his paws out and where foreign matter won’t poke them.

It’s understandable that crates don’t usually come with beddings, but if you’re going to shop for one, might as well add a dog cushion in the cart.

Best crate for small dogs

MidWest Homes for Pets Dog Crates

For that little pooch of yours, I recommend the MidWest Homes for Pets dog crate. It comes in different types including single and double doors as well as one with dividers. The 24 x 18 x 19 crate worked like a charm to my little buddy and since it has no coverings on the side, she was able to observe around.

It already comes with a divider panel which is ideal in crating two toy breeds. There’s a plastic pan inside which is great for catching pee, poo, and dander. This is foldable and very easy to assemble. You don’t have to worry if you don’t have much space in your apartment.

What I love the most here is the heavy-duty latch. Many times I’ve been outsmarted by my little pooch, but not with this crate. Just a tip: watch out for the size since this crate ranges from small to large breeds.

Paws & Pals Store Folding Metal Dog Crate

If you want another option, this crate from Paws & Pals would be excellent too just the like the one from MidWest. It has mini dividers and tiny bar slits at the bottom of each side so your doggo won’t stick his paw out. If you want, you can also add or use the plastic divider that comes with this product. There’s a plastic pan too where you can place a soft cushion or use it as a tray for poo and pee.

This is a double-door type and has slide-bolt latches to ensure that your pooch won’t escape. When not in use, you can fold this crate and lift it using the attached handle. You can use this for both home and travel purposes.

Make sure that you use this best crate for small dogs only. From what I see, the wire won’t withstand aggressive chewing of large hounds.

Aside from proper training, the best dog crate for small dogs will ensure that your little buddy will love his den. Always be patient and put yourself on your dog’s paws. If he seems to be afraid, don’t force him inside. Let him develop familiarity with and trust in the new dungeon.