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Become an expert: how to properly cage train a puppy

Cavalier King Charles puppies in a cage advice
© Shutterstock

A cage (or crate) will be quickly regarded by your puppy as a place of safety. Learn how best to cage train your puppy with this useful guide.

By Nick Whittle

A cage should never be used as a place to which you banish your dog as a punishment or to ‘keep her out of the way’ when your friends come to visit. Proper cage training engenders your puppy's positive attitude to the cage. Should she feel unsafe, unwell or simply want to be alone she has a place to go that she can call her own.

What is cage training?

Cage training is a way to teach a dog to feel comfortable inside the relatively confined space of a crate or cage. A properly cage-trained dog has a place to retreat to that feels safe.

A cage also gives her a chance to be alone if she wants to be.

Normally a cage is cuboid and made of metal mesh; at the bottom of the cage is a plastic tray on which can be laid bedding. Some manufacturers use alternative materials to make their cages and have created cages of various shapes (see later).

 The cage has various purposes, some of which are listed here:

  • As a means of transport.
  • As a place of confinement, but only for short term use.
  • As a den, where a puppy or dog can feel secure.
  • As an aid during training for separation or toilet activities.
  • As a place to recover from surgery or illness.

How to cage train your puppy?

Dr. Sophia Yin has produced an excellent guide to cage training. You require patience and tolerance to cage train your puppy or dog. Simply shoving her into a cage will NOT work, whereas dedicating sufficient time, money and energy to the process leads to your dog’s easy acclimatisation to the cage.

Importantly, even when your puppy is cage-trained you should not leave her on her own and locked inside for any more than two hours, except at night.

Learn how to cage train with these simple guidelines:

Choose a cage that has enough space in it for your dog to be able to stand up, stretch out and otherwise move around.

You may want to place a cover over the top and sides of the cage to make it darker and cosier.

  • Do not put newspaper or puppy pads in the cage. This urges her to use the cage as a toilet, which defeats the purpose of the cage altogether.
  • For your puppy, provide a bowl of water and feed her while she is in the cage.
  • Provide treats for her in the cage.
  • Do not shut your puppy in her cage overnight before she has learned to accept it (this can make her distressed).
  • Shut the cage door when she is asleep and open it a few moments after she wakes up: following this step over the next few weeks allows her to become used to the idea of being enclosed.
  • When she is used to the door being closed, leave the room for a few moments and then return: repeating this step gets her more used to being alone.

For dogs, in particular,’ writes Dr Yin,

learning to enjoy staying in their crates for extended periods of time can be important for teaching them that it’s okay to be alone in their “bedroom.” Then they’ll be less likely to develop anxiety when separated from their owners down the road.’

What types of cage are there?

When buying a cage for your puppy you must remember that she grows… fast. It isn’t advisable to buy a cage that you think will fit her current size because she will soon need a bigger cage.

It is best to buy a cage that fits her adult size (your breeder will be able to tell you what size she will end up being), although you should be careful that a larger cage does not encourage her to use the space as a lounge and a toilet.

Buying a crossbreed may mean that you have to upgrade in time because the adult size of a crossbreed is hard to predict.

Cage training makes your puppy feel safe.
Your puppy will grown fast. Buy a cage that she will be comfortable in.  © Pixabay
 

Here are five types of dog cage you may want to consider:

Folding Wire

This is the most common type of dog cage on the market. It is constructed with wire mesh allowing your dog to see everything that is going on around her. It is cheap, easy to erect and dismantle, and depending on its size, it is relatively light weight. The cage is also easy to clean, and most come with a plastic base onto which you can put bedding or cushions.

Furniture (Fashion)

This type of cage is made to look like a piece of furniture. It is not easily cleaned nor is it portable and tends to be very expensive. So you might feel as though you are shutting the dog away as you would a television or the cheap china. Most behaviourists do not believe that furniture crates are a useful way to train, or keep, an animal.

Plastic Carriers

Plastic carry cages are most often seen when you visit your vet. They are an ideal means to carry cats and small or medium-sized dogs. They are made from hard plastic, the front side of the box being a door. These sorts of cages are strong and sturdy which makes them people’s first choice for carrying their pets on long journeys.

Buy a cage that is suitable for training.
Cage training is for puppies and older dogs.  © Pixabay
 

Heavy-duty

Heavy-duty cages are those which most resemble a prison cell. They are not ideal for your puppy’s wellbeing nor are they portable. They also do not provide the sort of safe house we want for our dogs, and some designs add credence to the move to ban the use of cages. Heavy-duty cages are often the choice of kennel owners and dog owners who believe a dog will destroy a cage made out of anything other than solid steel. This type of cage is often used for service dogs.

Soft-Sided

Although a cage made from soft fabric is infinitely more portable than a wire cage, it is not suitable for cage training your puppy. Puppies enjoy biting and scratching objects, and the canvas sides of this kind of cage are fair game for the more inquisitive animal. Furthermore, cage training your puppy requires you to possess a cage that is solid and safe. Buying a cage that can bend and fold doesnot give her a sense of safety.

Some animal activists disagree with the cage but reputable breeders and kennel clubs around the world think it is a valuable device during your puppy’s development, and agree with its use as a sanctuary. However, in order for it to work cage training must be done patiently and sympathetically. You should be mindful of your dog's fears and anxieties when you first try to get her used to the idea. If you train her well, you will have created for your dog a place of safety and protection.