Congratulations on your Australian Shepherd puppy! Crate training can be a great way to make sure your Aussie is comfortable when you leave your home for short periods or to put them to bed for the night.
You can crate train an Australian Shepherd, though there are certain steps to follow. As with any breed, you must gradually teach your Australian Shepherd to be comfortable with their crate. Aussies are highly intelligent dogs, and with patience and determination, you can easily crate train them.
It is not an arduous process if you make sure to follow a few key steps. It’s important to introduce the crate gradually and reward with treats and praise, and you will have your Aussie crate trained in no time. Read on to learn how to crate train your Australian Shepherd.
How To Crate Train Australian Shepherds
If you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to crate training your Australian Shepherd. Australian Shepherds are among some of the most intelligent dog breeds, but they need a lot of mental stimulation in order to develop their cognitive abilities. This is best achieved by repetition and rewarding training.
Decide Your Reason
If you want to crate train your Australian Shepherd properly, your aim needs to be to teach them that their crate is a safe place. If your pup learns early on that they will be put in their crate for the wrong reasons, it will prove much harder to convince them to obey when you need them to go into their crate.
Australian Shepherds are prone to anxiety when left alone for too long, so you should not use their crates as a punishment or for convenience when you do not feel like watching them.
The main reasons you should crate train your Australian Shepherd include:
- When you leave for several hours
- When your Aussie is going to bed
- When your Aussie is eating
- To potty train your Australian Shepherd
The Crate While You are Away
If you have to leave your house for a certain amount of time, you might want to crate your Australian Shepherd. Keep in mind, however, that it is not recommended to leave your Australian Shepherd puppy for extended periods. Instead, find someone to watch over your Aussie for a few hours while you are at work or for multiple days.
Crating your Aussie for short periods while you are away can be beneficial and comforting. It helps keep them in a safe place away from potentially destructive behavior and in time they come to prefer their crate over other places in the home.
The Crate as a Place to Sleep
Crate training your Australian Shepherd for bed time provides a comfy place for them to rest. Especially if you have a particularly hyper pup, teaching them that their crate is a place for sleeping will help immensely in the long run. This way, you will not have to worry about your Australian Shepherd waking you up as you are sleeping. Plus, it keeps them from making a mess around your house.
Crating for Meals
You can also crate train your Aussie for meal time. This teaches them that they have a designated area for eating while also instilling in their heads that their crate is a place for safely completing tasks. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your Aussie becomes more comfortable with eating in their crate.
Potty Training with a Crate
A crate is also an ideal way to potty train your Australian Shepherd. When your Aussie begins to recognize that their crate is their personal space, they will typically stray from using the bathroom in it because they want to keep their place clean. This is great for when you put them in their crate for the night. Your Aussie will learn to hold it in until the morning when you let them outside.
What Size Crate Is Best For My Aussie?
Buying a crate for your Australian Shepherd is a bit like the story of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, a crate shouldn’t be too small or too big, it should be the right size for your Aussie. Finding out which Aussie breed you have is key to understand which crate is best.
Choose Your Crate
When picking out a crate for your Australian Shepherd, the most important thing to keep in mind is the size of your dog. Aussies need a crate large enough to move around freely. Here’s some great options for medium sized Aussies.
It is always better to go bigger rather than smaller. If you are buying a crate for a puppy, you may decide to buy a smaller temporary crate, although this would require larger crates as they grow.
Fitting the Crate to Your Pup’s Adult Size
As a medium-sized dog, your Aussie will need a sufficiently-sized crate to be most comfortable. A standard size crate for a standard Australian Shepherd is around 42 inches in length and around 20 inches in height. It’s good to ensure that your Aussie has plenty of space to move around.
Obviously, a 42-inch crate will be way too large for an Australian Shepherd puppy. But the chances are that you would rather not spend money on a new crate every time your Aussie goes through a growth spurt. A great way to avoid this problem is to buy a wire crate that comes with adjustable dividers.
Wire crates are probably the most practical and effective crates for at-home use, and since many of them come with dividers, they can be great for adjustment as your Aussie grows. Remember, you must consider the size of your Aussie’s crate for several reasons:
- Maximum comfort
- Reduced anxiety and restlessness
- Potty training
- Familiarity in a designated area
With an adjustable 42-inch wire crate like these on Amazon, you can use the same crate for your puppy as you do for your full-grown Australian Shepherd. When it is a puppy, simply put up the dividers to separate a small or large enough space for your smaller dog.
Other Crate Considerations
There are a few other things you might want to know before you decide which crate to buy for your Australian Shepherd.
Wire crates are best for at-home use. However, plastic crates are better for transportation.
Once you understand the reasons for crate training your Australian Shepherd, you can begin the actual training. It is important to start slow because, as mentioned before, Australian Shepherds need close attention to their cognitive development. The easiest way to start this is by incorporating basic mental stimulation into your dog’s crate training.
The first thing you can try is to reward your Australian Shepherd every time you encourage them into the crate. By using any command word you want, you can teach your Aussie to go into the crate. If they do so successfully, reward them with a treat. Many Aussie owners recommend using a special treat for this type of training to teach your Aussie that they get something different if they go into their crate.
If you prefer not to use treats – or if you want to add to the reward of a treat – you can praise your Aussie when they properly enter their crate. Reassuring phrases and pets work well with this tactic. Interactive training can be extremely beneficial, especially if you have an Aussie pup who struggles to maintain their attention span.
Another helpful tactic could be to fill your Aussie’s crate with some of their favorite toys. Adding to the familiarity of their crate is essential. When they know that their crate is a place they can go for things they enjoy being around, they will be more likely to cooperate. Keep in mind, however, that toys with squeakers and other choking hazards should not be available in their crate.
Once you have taught your Aussie a basic familiarity and comfort with their crate, you can start trying to teach them to be comfortable with the crate closed. Whether you use the method of leading them in and rewarding them with a treat or another way, such as tossing a treat into the crate and praising them when they go in, you can try this next step.
Once they have entered the crate:
- Give them a treat and a little bit of praise
- Then slowly close the door of the crate
- Do not keep the door closed for too long – a few seconds will do.
If you keep the crate door closed for too long, your Aussie may start to whine. You do not want that to happen because if you open the crate right when they start whining, it will teach them that all they have to do is whine to get out of the crate when they want to.
To avoid this, just keep the door closed momentarily to get your Aussie to understand that they are still in their safe environment. If you open it before they start worrying, it will help them get used to being closed in their personal space.
Isolation is not meant to have a negative connotation in this sense. Once your Australian Shepherd is relatively accommodated with their crate, you can start leaving them – in reasonable circumstances – in it. When they are trained to know that their crate is their own area, you can leave them for short amounts of time safely.
If you have not done the necessary crate training for your Australian Shepherd, they will suffer in their crate while you are gone. Dogs are prone to restlessness and anxiety when left alone for extended periods of time, especially when they are a breed – like Australian Shepherds – that needs a lot of attention and exercise.
It may be more difficult to leave your Aussie in their crate as part of their training if you are home. If they know you are around them while they are in their crate, they might think that they are being kept in isolation as punishment. Additionally, they might start whining in an attempt to get you to let them out.
Find a convenient time – such as an hour when you need to run some errands – to leave your Australian Shepherd in its crate for temporary isolation. If you complete the initial training correctly, the idea is that while your Aussie is enclosed in their crate and you are gone, they will be comfortable because they are already familiar with their crate.
If you do not want to start by leaving them in their crate for a full hour, consider isolating your Aussie for fifteen-minute intervals during training. However, try your best to prevent them from falling back to the whining tactic to get out of their crate.
Once both you and your Australian Shepherd have the hang of crate training, you can try a few other exercises. If you do a good enough job, your Aussie might begin going to their crate on their own when they want to rest and relax. If you see that your Aussie has gone into their crate without any convincing, make sure to stop for a second and give them some attention. It is up to you, whether that be with:
- A treat
- A short game of tug-of-war with their favorite toy
Keep in mind that if your Aussie becomes comfortable enough with their crate, they may feel inclined to go there specifically to take a break from what the energetic life of a dog can be. If you stop to reward them for going into their crate on their own, make sure that you do not overwhelm them or stay for too long. If you spend too much time with them around their crate, they might not be as eager to use it as a safe space to take a break from people or other pets.
Consistency Matters and is the Key to Success
If you follow the steps above, you should have a strong foundation for your efforts in crate training. Remember that crate training your Australian Shepherd does not rely on your convenience; you need to set aside the time to focus your attention on your Aussie so that they can receive the proper guidance to become comfortable in their crate.
The benefits of sacrificing your time to crate train your Aussie include:
- A more well-behaved pup
- Mental stimulation and cognitive development for your Australian Shepherd
- The existence of a designated area that your Aussie will feel comfortable in
- Avoiding having to deal with your Aussie being around or doing their business in places that they should not
How Long Should An Aussie Stay In Their Crate?
The question of how long your Australian Shepherd should stay in their crate is extremely important, both in terms of:
- How long they should stay in it during their life
- How long you should leave them for temporary intervals
All dogs are prone to negative effects if left in their crates for too long, and it is even more of a pressing matter when discussing a breed like an Australian Shepherd that requires an active lifestyle.
The disadvantages to leaving your Aussie in their crate for too long of a period at a time are numerous. It will likely result in:
- Separation anxiety and stress
- Bladder problems
Leaving them in their crate for too long can also make your Aussie uncomfortable, both physically and mentally. If you leave them alone and do not let them out to use the restroom frequently, they may be confused about what to do. They may either go to the bathroom in their crate and learn that such an act is okay, or they will hold their bladder for too long, which can lead health problems.
Australian Shepherds are particularly active dogs. They need both physical and mental exercise. Leaving them in a crate for too long restricts your Aussie from reaching its potential, which is never good for a dog.
Total Time Period
When thinking about the total time period you should keep your Australian Shepherd in its crate once it is crate trained, the results often vary. It typically depends on their personality, whether it will be: nine months, two years, or continue using it throughout their life.
The question regarding individual increments of time that you might leave your Aussie in its crate deserves more of a concrete answer.
What Are Some Alternatives To Crate Training?
Perhaps you do not like the idea of crate training, or you simply cannot figure out how to keep your misbehaved Aussie in check with a crate. Do not worry. In some circumstances, dogs are just not cut out for a crate. However, there are alternatives to crate training.
Playpen or Play Area
If your Australian Shepherd is too restless and cannot become comfortable in a crate, you can try setting up a playpen in an open area of your home. By gating off a certain area, you can provide your Aussie with a large enough space to move around and fill it with toys, treats, bedding and food and water bowls.
You might also consider building or buying a large outdoor enclosure such as these listed on Amazon for your Australian Shepherd to stay in for a short amount of time. Being outside can be extremely beneficial for a dog, and with enough room that is still restricted to some extent, an outdoor cage can be a great way to keep them comfortable.
If you find yourself away from your home for most of the day due to work or other obligations, you might not like the idea of leaving your Australian Shepherd by itself for too long. Though it is more expensive than the other options listed, a doggie daycare might be exactly what you and your Aussie need.
Reliable doggie daycares allow you to go about your day worry-free while knowing that your dog is getting the attention and exercise it needs to fully develop. If you have the means, doggie daycare is well worth the investment.
Is It Ever Too Late To Crate Train An Aussie?
If you want to crate train your older Australian Shepherd, it might be more tasking, but it is achievable. There are a few things to keep in mind, however.
It is never too late to crate train your Aussie, but if they have already lived a few years in a certain environment, they may be less inclined or comfortable to make an abrupt change. So, if you decide to crate train an older Australian Shepherd, approach it with the same gradual technique you would use for a puppy.
Contrary to the popular phrase, you actually can teach an old dog new tricks. If you stay as motivated as you would be when training a puppy, you can crate train an older Australian Shepherd just as easily. Plus, you will probably not have to worry about potty training or extreme separation anxiety if your Aussie has a good enough relationship with you.
You can easily crate train your Australian Shepherd. Following the steps above is one way to make sure that your Aussie eases into the crate training process so that they can become as comfortable as possible with their crate.