Dogs naturally seek out the protection of a confined den area for sleeping and shelter. Training your dog to feel comfortable in a crate mimics this wild den environment. Knowing how long your dog can be confined within his crate is essential for ensuring a positive crating experience.
Introduction to the Crate
When you are first introducing your dog to the crate, it is important not to confine him by closing the door. Allowing your dog to enter and exit the crate as he chooses will give your dog an opportunity to acclimate to his new space without fear. Sometimes a dog will require coaxing with treats and praise to enter the crate. Once your dog enters the crate, start serving his meals in the crate with the door closed, but let him out once he has finished eating.
Lengthening Time in the Crate
Crate training your dog takes time and patience. Increase the amount of time your dog spends in his crate incrementally by keeping him confined longer after meals. Eventually, you can crate your dog at other times, such as when you must leave the house. Give your dog a durable toy that will occupy his attention while he is crated. If your dog does not remain calm or whines excessively while confined, that is a sign he is uncomfortable with the duration of time spent in the crate. Decrease the length of time your dog is in the crate to a level that does not cause him distress. You can then begin to increase the duration again, but at a slower rate.
It is important to remember that puppies can only hold their bladders and bowels for short amounts of time. The general guideline for determining how long a puppy can hold their bladder is to figure approximately one hour for each month of age. For example, a 4-month-old puppy can likely hold his bladder for four hours. This time restraint applies for overnight crating as well, so it is important to remember that your dog will need to have an opportunity to relieve himself outside of his crate during the night.
Never leave your dog unsupervised in his crate with toys or bones that could pose as a choking hazard. It is important to take into consideration the total amount of time you are crating your dog. If you keep your dog crated during the day while he’s home alone, as well as all night long, chances are that your dog is spending too much time confined to a small space. Dogs are social animals that require adequate amounts of physical activity, and crating limits both of these natural emotional and physical needs.