If you have an Australian Shepherd puppy, you might be looking to start putting them in a crate when you leave your home or to put them to bed for the night. However, maybe you do not know how to approach this project because you fear your Aussie puppy will be lonely and scared. Would crate training be worth it, and can you even crate train an Australian Shepherd?
You can crate train an Australian Shepherd, though there is a specific technique to doing so. As with any breed, you must gradually teach your Australian Shepherd how to be comfortable with crate training. Aussies are highly intelligent dogs, and with patience and determination, you can crate train them.
It is not an arduous process if you make sure to follow set guidelines. From starting slowly to rewarding with treats or praise, you will have your Aussie crate trained in no time. Continue reading to learn how to crate train your Australian Shepherd.
How To Crate Train Australian Shepherds In 6 Steps
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
First and foremost, a crate is not an efficient tool to use as punishment or for when you are bored of your Australian Shepherd. 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 discomfort and anxiety when left alone for too long, so you should not use their crate 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 a relatively long amount of time
- When your Aussie is going to bed
- When your Aussie is eating
- As a way 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 ideal to leave your Australian Shepherd for a full weekend getaway or the like.
Maybe you cannot find someone to watch over your pooch for a few hours while you are at work. As difficult as it might be, crating your Aussie for short periods while you are away can be beneficial. 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 is also a good idea. Especially if you have a particularly hyper pup, teaching them that their crate is a place for resting/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 eating. 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. As they become more comfortable with doing something like eating in their crate, they will be more inclined to listen when it is time for them to go in.
Getting House Broken 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. They will learn to hold it in until the morning when you let them outside.
What Size Crate Is Best For My Aussie?
The size of the crate you buy for your Australian Shepherd is important. You do not want to buy a crate that is either too small or too big, as a small crate will restrict your Aussie and cause discomfort, while a big crate might make them feel too free in their crate.
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. If you are buying a crate for a puppy, you do not need nearly as big of a crate, though doing so is not the end of the world. In short, you need a crate large enough for your Aussie to move around in. As long as they do not feel trapped when they are in their crate, they should have plenty of room.
With that said, it is always better to go bigger rather than smaller. It is not good for a dog to be in a crate that is too small because even if they are trained to think it is a safe place, the discomfort they might feel when they are in the crate can cause them to see it as a punishment.
The major downside to buying a crate that is too big for your Aussie is that your Aussie may become too comfortable. While this may sound like a contradiction to much of the post, too much space can make your Aussie think they are free to act like their crate is not their personal place.
In return, they may think it is okay to use the bathroom in a crate with too much space. Especially if they have a certain area of the large crate picked out as their favorite spot, they might use other areas at their leisure.
Fitting the Crate to Your Pup’s Adult Size
Australian Shepherds typically grow between 18 to 23 inches in height and can weigh as much as 70 pounds. As a medium-sized dog, your Aussie will need a sufficiently-sized crate to be most comfortable. A standard size crate for an Australian Shepherd is around 42 inches in length and anywhere from 20 to 30 inches in height. This size of a crate will 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. The smartest path to take to avoid this problem is buying 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 gets bigger. 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 this one at 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.
You might not be transporting your Aussie all that often, so this is not typically a problem. Wire crates prove beneficial in numerous situations.
The fact that the crate is made of wire allows it to possess many advantages when compared to other crates. Both you and your Aussie will be glad that you went with a wire crate with its features such as:
Here are more details for each feature we just mentioned:
|Visibility||A wire crate allows your Aussie to observe its surroundings while remaining in its safe place.|
|Comfort||A wire crate typically comes with a rubber pad on the bottom to keep your Aussie comfy. Additionally, there is enough space to add blankets or a bed inside the crate itself.|
|Cleanliness||When using the crate for potty training, the rubber mat on the bottom makes it much easier to clean if your Aussie has an accident while in its crate.|
|Adjustability||The dividers that often come with a wire crate cannot be used in plastic, wooden, or other types of crates.|
While size is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a cate for your Australian Shepherd, you should also keep the above factors in mind. You want your Aussie to be as comfortable as possible in their new crate. Keeping them in a crate with poor visibility, comfort, etc., might encourage them to act out from restlessness or unease.
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 basic command word you want, you can teach your Aussie to go into the crate. If they do so successfully, reward them with a treat of your choice. Many Aussie owners recommend using a special, designated treat for this type of training to teach your Aussie that they get something extra-special and different than usual 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 their 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
Especially if you begin to crate your dog without any training, it will be highly likely to experience separation anxiety and stress. Being put in its crate often will make your Aussie think that they are being punished. If you do not give your Australian Shepherd the attention that it both needs and deserves, it may develop severe separation anxiety, which can add to stress and disobedience.
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, they may be confused about what to do. Thus, they will 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 cause health problems.
Australian Shepherds are particularly active dogs. They need both physical and mental exercise to develop their physical and cognitive abilities. Leaving them in a crate for too long restricts your Aussie from reaching its expected 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
- Their entire life
For example, an overly-hyper Aussie may benefit from being in its crate more often than an extremely well-behaved Aussie. You might even do everything perfectly correct in training your Aussie to behave; some dogs are just naturally more energetic. Keeping in mind that a crate is not meant for punishment, you might consider keeping your hyper Aussie in its crate for most of its life – for times such as:
- When you leave the house
On the other hand, you might find that your Australian Shepherd is much more well-behaved than other dogs of its breed. While all Aussies are extremely intelligent dogs, you might have happened to get one of the brightest. If your Aussie is a quick learner in the realm of potty training, obedience, sleeping, etc., you may not feel inclined to crate them after a year or two.
The question regarding individual increments of time that you might leave your Aussie in its crate deserves more of a concrete answer.
In general, puppies should not be left in their crates for more than a few – maybe 2 or 3 – hours. Especially if they are not yet potty-trained, you should not leave your Australian Shepherd unattended in its crate.
Those Tweenager Years
Dogs who are still in adolescence should be left in their crate no longer than 4 or 5 hours – a solid range between a pup and a full-grown Aussie. You need to keep an eye on your Australian Shepherd when it is in its crate, making sure that they stay comfortable and are let out to use the bathroom when necessary.
House Trained Adult Dogs
As your Aussie grows older and matures, it will likely be potty-trained and have a more comfortable feeling with its crate. If this is the case, you should not leave your Aussie in its crate for more than 9 hours at a time. While even this number is pushing it when dealing with a dog as active as an Aussie, sometimes life happens. Your job or another circumstance might require you to crate your dog for this amount of time.
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 parameter, you can provide your Aussie with a large enough space to move around and do everything it likes to do besides run long distances and use the bathroom.
With a playpen, you can fill your Aussie’s area with:
- A food and water bowl
A playpen is efficient because it keeps your Aussie comfortable in their own secluded area while also letting them roam a bit more freely than in a crate.
You might also consider building or buying a large outdoor enclosure such as this one listed on Amazon for your Australian Shepherd to stay in for 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.
You can add the same things in your Aussie’s outdoor cage as you would in an indoor playpen, but keep in mind that the object will likely become much dirtier more quickly. Additionally, if you have a fenced-in backyard, you might be equally as comfortable leaving them to roam freely – that is, if you take into consideration the weather.
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 need 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?
For any dog, familiarity is the key to obedience and calmness. 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 necessarily 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 crate train your Australian Shepherd, though improperly doing so will be detrimental for both you and your pooch. 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.