Teaching your dog to cope well with confinement is a vital skill that will likely be needed many times over their lifetime.
Confinement may involve the dog being crated, or kept behind a baby gate, in a room with the door closed or an outdoor area. Whatever the situation, it’s important that you prepare your dog to be able to settle when confined and to be happy with not having access to you or fun.
Some benefits of confinement training:
- Speeds up toilet training by taking advantage of a healthy dog’s natural reluctance to toilet where they sleep.
- A crate provides safe travelling by car, train, plane etc.
- A crate becomes a mobile confinement area for holidays, trips or times when you can’t directly supervise your dog.
- Becomes a safe place and conditioned relaxer – this will prove to be very helpful to help your dog to feel calm in times of upheaval, should the family move home, or the dog go to a new home, for example.
- Confinement is likely during the dog’s lifetime e.g. spending time at the vets and groomers, when there are children or guests in the house, when the family is busy or when they are involved in activities not suitable for the dog.
- If it’s done properly, confinement training helps with settle training, toilet training, alone training, anti-destruction training and developing self-control.
Tips for crate and confinement training
- Think of confinement as your dog’s own bedroom where they can have their toys and chews and can take refuge from noisy or overwhelming household activities.
- Make sure that your dog’s crate or confinement area is a positive, relaxing place by associating it with yummy treats, chews and toys.
- If using a crate, ensure that the dog has room to lie down, stand up fully and move around. It’s best to allow room for growth too.
- Use baby gates or puppy/child play pens to confine your dog to specific areas.
- Make sure your dog cannot fit his head between the bars of a crate, playpen or baby gate.
- Position the crate so that it is not in an overly warm or cool spot and not in direct sunlight.
- Provide a hook-on water bowl with water for your dog if they are to spend more than a couple of hours in there during the day or night.
- Children should never be in a crate with the dog or puppy and should be taught not to approach, stick their fingers in, or open the crate.
- During training have the crate or confinement area as close to you as possible as you work on building the dog’s ease with being confined and then with being separated from you.
- During toilet training dogs will need breaks to toilet every 1-3 hours and overnight every 4-6 hours, depending on age.
- If you need to confine your dog for longer periods, set up a long-term confinement area with the dog’s crate open so your dog can access his bed, water and a toileting area at all times.
- Never force your dog into his crate or confinement area or use as punishment.
Always work at your dog’s own pace and slowly build up the time they spend in their confinement area.
- When starting out, hide some of your dog’s food in their confinement area and wait for them to go find it. Do this regularly so that your dog will readily check the area for food and eat there.
- Crate and confinement training are well documented online so do your own research for the best method to suit you and your dog.