How To Successfully Crate Train A Boxer Puppy

Crating can be a useful part of dog ownership, but only if you know what you’re doing.

If you’re contemplating crate training your Boxer, make sure you understand the dos and don’ts before you start.

If you’d rather not use a crate, there are effective alternatives to managing your Boxer in the home.

How Not To Crate Train A Boxer Dog

Crates are NOT :

  • somewhere to confine your dog as a substitute for teaching good behavior when loose in the real world
  • a shortcut to a well behaved Boxer (It takes quite a bit of work to effectively crate train a dog.)
  • a cage where you send your dog as punishment when she’s done something wrong
  • a suitable place to leave a Boxer cooped up for six, eight or ten hours straight (This degree of confinement is difficult for a dog to tolerate and will lead to problems.)

Even if you’re using a crate, it is important that your Boxer be given plenty of opportunities every day to learn how to be in the house without endangering herself or being a nuisance.

Boxers are inquisitive, active creatures that need to be with their people.

They are not the kind of dog that will thrive and feel happy if kept segregated in a one meter square space for hours on end, day after day.

How To Crate Train A Boxer Dog

To properly crate train a Boxer, it’s important to understand the principle of the crate as a safe place.

Dogs are den-dwelling animals.

A right-size crate set up with comfortable bedding .. and perhaps a partial cover to provide some darkness … can mimic a den and create a feeling of safety and security for your Boxer.

For your dog to feel this way about her crate, you need every association she has with it to be positive.

In other words, if your Boxer does not like being in her crate, you are doing something wrong.

To establish the crate as a pleasant place to be, it’s crucial to introduce it to your Boxer correctly.

Here are a few exercises that will help with basic crate training.

Phase 1 — Create A Positive Association With Being In The Crate (Treats)

  1. Before your puppy comes home for the first time, position the crate in a central but not high traffic area of the house. The kitchen or living room usually make good choices. Perhaps cover the back half of the crate with a blanket to make it den-like.
  2. Leave the crate door open and tied back, and place an interesting toy inside.
  3. When your Boxer puppy wanders inside the crate to investigate the toy, praise her calmly and reward with a treat. Allow this to happen on multiple different occasions.
  4. If your pup never goes in the crate of her own accord, you can try tossing treats in there so that she has to go inside to retrieve them. Start with treats outside the crate, then in the entrance, then thrown further inside. Just do short sessions of a couple of minutes here and there throughout the day.
  5. Once your pup is comfortable entering the crate, feed her meals inside the crate. This will create another positive association with the space.

Phase 2 — Get Pup Used To The Door Being Closed

  1. Once your pup has become comfortable going in and out of the crate, put a new and enticing toy in there.
  2. When your Boxer goes in and is engrossed in checking out the toy, quietly close the door — just for a minute or maybe two. Long enough that your pup notices the door is closed but short enough that she doesn’t have time to get worried about it. If it seems like your pup is about to worry, push a treat through the bars to distract her.
  3. Then open the crate door again and allow your pup to exit if she pleases.
  4. Once your pup exits, immediately toss another treat back inside without closing the door behind her, to reinforce that she won’t be shut inside every time she enters the crate.
  5. Practice this routine of closing the door when pup is in the crate, each time feeding treats through the bars to keep her happy while she’s in there. Each time you do the exercise, slightly increase the length of time spent in the crate.

Phase 3 — Establish The Crate As A Cosy Place Of Rest

  1. Place some super comfy bedding in the crate, leaving the door open. Chances are your pup will end up voluntarily curling up in the bed at some point. When this happens, leave the door open and give yourself a high five. Things have just taken a giant leap in the right direction.
  2. If it doesn’t happen, perhaps establish the use of the bed outside of the crate and then once pup is attached to the bed, move it inside the crate and let her seek it out there.
  3. Let her get used to sleeping inside the open-doored crate.

Phase 4 — Put A Name To It

Be working on this at the same time as continuing with phases 2 and 3.

  1. Tell your pup, “Go to your crate!” in a breezy, calm tone and encourage her in the right direction, luring with a treat if necessary.
  2. When she enters the crate, say “Good go-to-your-crate!” and give her the treat.
  3. Once she’s mastered this, add a closing of the door after she enters, before praising and pushing a treat through the bars. Then immediately open the door, game over.

Phase 5 — Nighttimes

  1. Put the crate by your bed, close enough that you can stick your fingers through the bars to touch your dog as you both fall asleep.
  2. It’s okay to comfort her if she whines a little during the night. Talk soothingly or stroke her through the bars. But don’t reward whining by taking her out of the crate. If you’ve tired her out, pottied her and followed the other steps in acclimating to the crate, she should settle quite quickly.
  3. During the night your pup may legitimately need to come out of the crate to go potty. If so, you can take her out and straight to the pee pad or potty spot in the backyard. Make sure there’s no playing or even much interaction, and as soon as she’s done her business, return her straight to the crate to continue sleeping. You don’t want to encourage nighttime disruptions by making it fun.

Phase 6 — Extended Stays

  1. Get your pup a raw meaty bone. (You’ll want to put down a towel you can wash, for this one.)
  2. Tell her “Go to your crate!”
  3. When she goes inside, give her the bone (a lamb neck or chicken frame/back is perfect) and close the door.
  4. Then sit down to do something of no interest to her, like watching TV or working on the computer, while pup enjoys her bone inside the crate.
  5. Every so often casually get up and go out to the kitchen to get a drink of water, or go to the bathroom, but be sure to come quickly back.
  6. The idea is to have your Boxer happily crated for an extended period and having a fine old time with her bone.
  7. You can vary this by having your Boxer stay quietly in the crate with a chew or a treat dispensing toy like the Diggs Groov crate training tool, pictured below, while you do some housework, at first in the same room and then intermittently leaving the room and coming back as you potter around. Check in on your pup every few minutes and give her a treat if she’s hanging out calmly. Again, start by just walking out and straight back in, then be gone for 30 seconds, then 1 minute etc until you can be out of sight for 5-10 minutes.
  8. You’ll later apply the same method of leaving the house with pup in the crate for just a brief few minutes at first and then increasingly longer periods. Always be low-key with your exits and returns, so you’re teaching your pup it’s no big deal.

Tips To Remember When Crate Training Your Boxer

  1. When you release from the crate, have that moment be as dull and boring as possible. You want the interesting thing to be entering the crate, not leaving it.
  2. Never release pup from the crate while she’s protesting or misbehaving. Ignore any vocalizing, whining or barking. Ideally this doesn’t arise if you’ve progressed slowly enough through the steps. Always wait for pup to settle before letting her out of the crate. Otherwise you’ll be teaching her that being noisy gets her out if she persists long enough.
  3. Never push or pull your pup into the crate. Remember, only positive experiences happen in the crate.
  4. Always have your pup go potty right before you have her enter the crate with a closed door .. this way she’ll be comfortable and you’ll know any whining is not likely to be because she needs a potty break.
  5. Vary how long you require your Boxer to be in her crate, so that she doesn’t always think if she steps inside she’ll be stuck there for hours on end.
  6. Always exercise or play with your Boxer before she’s crated, so that she is tired and ready for a rest. This will make her more compliant.
  7. Don’t force any of these steps. If things are not working, try again later and up the value of the treat you’re giving as reward, so that it’s something she really loves and wants to get.
  8. Whenever you’re requiring pup to be in the crate for more than a few minutes, leave her with a bone (if you’re there to supervise) or a puzzle toy, treat-release toy or snuffle mat — something to keep her occupied and make her forget she’s confined.
  9. Work within your Boxer’s capabilities, not according to your own timeline.
  10. Don’t go too fast — increase the degree of difficulty in gradual increments.
  11. If anything stops working, go back a step .. or all the way back to the beginning if things have gone way off track.

The above steps will establish the crate as a place of rest and somewhere your Boxer is happy enough to be contained for periods up to a few hours.

However, this is only the most basic level of crate training.

If you want to see the full potential of what can be achieved with a crate, check out trainer Susan Garrett’s Crate Games program which builds impulse control in dogs.

How To Use A Crate To Potty Train A Boxer Puppy

Crates can be a helpful part of house training a Boxer puppy, because no pup wants to soil her own bedding.

Keeping a pup in a crate in between toilet breaks can lower the chances of her wandering the house and having a random accident.

However, a crate will not accomplish potty training on its own. There is a lot more to it than that.

See also: How To Potty Train A Boxer Puppy

Using a crate to house break a puppy requires very careful attention to your dog’s needs, even moreso than if she was free to access a backyard or pee pad whenever she liked.

If you are not attentive and don’t anticipate her needs, or leave her too long in the crate without offering a potty break … your pup will have no choice but to pee or poop in her crate.

Then you will have trained exactly the wrong behavior .. and just confused your Boxer.

To use a crate to help house train a Boxer puppy:

  1. Have the crate be small enough that there’s no far corner where she can pee and poop and still stay warm and dry on her bed down the other end. If the crate is too large the natural instinct not to dirty her sleeping area won’t kick in.
  2. Provide lots of frequent potty breaks. An 8 to 10 week old Boxer puppy will only be able to hold her bladder for 30 minutes to an hour. From 11 to 14 weeks one to three hours will be the limit. From 15 to 16 weeks the limit will be 3 to 4 hours. Your Boxer really shouldn’t spend longer than this in the crate even as an adult
  3. Never punish your pup if she has a toileting accident in her crate. If this happens it’s because you left her there too long, didn’t read the signs she needed to go, or didn’t take her for a potty break right before crating her.
  4. Never clean your dog’s crate with bleach or other chemical cleaners. Mild unscented soap and warm water is safest for your pup. You don’t want her inhaling toxins.

What Size Should A Boxer Dog’s Crate Be?

Your Boxer’s crate needs to be:

  • tall enough for her to stand and still have plenty of head room
  • wide enough for her to easily turn around without brushing the sides
  • long enough for her to lie down on her side fully outstretched

At the same time, the crate should not be so large as to lose the sense of cosiness or undermine potty training, as mentioned above.

A crate used in the car should always be small enough to actually prevent the dog being thrown in case of an accident.

If you are crate training your dog from puppyhood, the crate will need to grow with her — just like her bed does.

Don’t just put pup straight into the full-size crate that she’ll use as an adult.

You can buy crates with dividers so you can expand the size as pup gets bigger.

What Type Of Crate Is Good For A Boxer?

Crates come in 2 main styles:

  • Wire crates
  • Hard plastic kennels

Each has its pros and cons.

A wire crate like the Titan from Majestic Pet Products allows better air flow, crucial for Boxers with their tendency to overheat.

But a plastic kennel like the Petmate Ultra Vari Kennel feels more den-like.

You can use a sheet or cover to make a wire crate cosier.

However, depending on how your Boxer behaves in the crate, this may be just provide something to chew on and pull through the bars.

Either way, make sure the crate has space enough for your Boxer to choose whether to lie in the bed or on a cooler surface.

Position the crate in a cool, but not cold, part of the house, with good ventilation.

Don’t let it get stuffy.

What Should A Boxer’s Crate Have Inside?

Your Boxer’s crate must contain:

  • A permanent water supply that will not spill and is small enough to not be a drowning hazard
  • Supportive bedding (orthopedic memory foam is best for your dog’s joints)

A Boxer’s crate should NOT contain:

  • Toys that can be chewed apart or become choking hazards

Crate Safety For A Boxer Dog

No Collars

Your Boxer should NEVER wear a collar of any kind when inside her crate (or when loose in the house or a secure backyard).

Collars and tags can and do get hitched on and wedged between the bars of crates, in air conditioning vents and between decking planks).

Dogs have choked themselves to death this way.

Keep Crates On The Floor

Crates should never be balanced on chairs or put in other precarious positions where the movement of your dog could cause the crate to topple over or shift around.

This is dangerous and a sure way to traumatise your Boxer to the crate.

How Long Can A Boxer Stay In A Crate?

An adult Boxer dog should never be left longer than about three to four hours in a crate during the day.

It’s more like one hour for a new puppy, because her bladder won’t last any longer.

Overnight is fine to be longer, as a dog’s metabolism slows during sleep and she won’t need to pee as often as when awake.

Excessive crating should be avoided as it’s distressing for the dog and can cause or exacerbate problems like anxiety, destructive chewing and hyperactivity.

Are Crates Necessary?

Crates have their place but they are by no means a necessary part of raising a Boxer dog.

It is helpful for your dog to have some experience with a crate, so that she’s prepared if she ever has to spend time in one:

  • at the vet’s
  • during travel
  • to enforce rest when recovering from an injury/operation
  • between events at obedience or sporting competitions

Whether crate training is the right choice for your Boxer will depend on:

  • how much time you can devote to crate training
  • whether your house has been/can be dog-proofed
  • how many people live in the household
  • whether there are young children
  • how chaotic or orderly the home environment is
  • whether there are other pets like cats
  • the age of your Boxer
  • whether your Boxer is already potty trained
  • whether your Boxer has been taught not to chew poisonous house plants etc
  • whether your home is open plan or can be closed off in sections
  • how constantly you can supervise a free-roaming Boxer
  • your Boxer’s personality
  • whether someone is always home or whether your Boxer will be home alone for a full work day
  • how you feel about having a great big dog crate as a permanent part of your interior design (!)

How Crates Can Help In The Home

Crates can make life easier for both you and your dog in several ways.

Behavior Management

Crates can play a role in preventing your dog from having opportunities to rehearse and ingrain bad behaviors.

A crated Boxer cannot destroy your couch while you duck out to the shops.

Safety

Crates can keep your pup safe when she can’t be supervised.

A crated pup cannot shred the toxic houseplant.

One situation where crates can be particularly useful is in busy households with young children where adults are distracted and the floor is strewn with objects that may pose a hazard to the dog.

In this situation, a crate may be one way to protect your Boxer from ingesting foreign objects and can provide a peaceful refuge for the dog to retreat to and sleep uninterrupted, knowing she will not be bothered by children.

Alternatives To Crate Training Your Boxer

Effective alternatives to crate training include:

  • dog-proofing the entire house (this can work very well in small apartments and calm, orderly households without kids)
  • closing doors and using childsafe gates to cordon off parts of the house that are not dog-safe
  • using a pen to create a safe zone in the living room while your Boxer is a puppy
  • a comfortable dog bed in a quiet place in the house
  • a rule that the kids do not bother the dog when she’s in her bed

If you dog proof your home to the point where there is literally no trouble your Boxer can get into .. then a crate becomes much less necessary.

A camera that allows you to live stream your living room via an app on your mobile phone is an invaluable tool while your dog is learning how to stay home alone .. or while transitioning from crate to free-roaming.

Conclusion

Being relaxed and comfortable in a crate is a good skill for your Boxer to have.

Depending on what your home life looks like, a crate may be more or less useful as a part of every day life.

Either way, make sure you teach your Boxer to love her crate and to see it as her own personal bedroom where only good things happen .. like treats and snoozing.

What To Read Next

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