A crate is a tool. You can transport your dog in one, he may wait in one while at the groomer’s and it’s useful in basic house training. Before you can begin to use it, however, your dog or puppy must first be trained to use the crate. He may sleep in it, wait in it for you to come home from work, and even have his meals in the crate. He won’t learn to use it on his own, and it’s up to you to help him learn to love the crate!
Your dog or puppy must first be comfortable going into and staying in his crate before you can confine him to it for any length of time. Give him a few moments to check out the crate with the door open before you engage him in any training sessions. Once your dog has had the chance to investigate the crate on his own, toss a treat just inside the door. If you use a clicker during training, click when he retrieves the treat. Otherwise, give a “Yep!” or “Yes!” when he sticks his head in the crate to get the yummy treat.
Allow this first session to last about 5 minutes. If your canine seems to catch on quickly, you can move on to the next session. Toss the treat into the middle of the crate. He should have to place both front feet into the crate before getting the treat. If he stays in that position after grabbing his treat, give him another one inside the crate. The goal is to help him identify the crate as a safe and positive place to be.
All the Way
As your dog or puppy becomes more comfortable with stepping inside the crate, you can show him that it’s okay to place all four paws in! Toss your treat into the back of the crate so that he must walk all the way in to be rewarded. Don’t forget to mark the correct behavior with a click from your clicker or a “Yep!” so he knows what he’s being rewarded for!
For every second your pup stays in the crate, hand him another treat. If he stays in and won’t come back out, it’s okay to toss a treat outside of the crate for him to chase after. Then, you can toss a treat back inside again. This helps him to associate going into the crate and staying in it with positive emotions!
Closing the Door
Your dog is now comfortable walking in and out of his crate, but that doesn’t mean you can lock him in and head out for a while. Not yet! It’s time to teach your dog that closing the crate door is just as rewarding as stepping into it.
Toss a treat into the back of the crate. When your dog is all the way in, close the door and hand him a treat through the bars. Don’t lock the door, because you will open it right back up. If he comes out, toss a treat in again and repeat. If he does not leave the crate, close the door again and give him another reward.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Training sessions in general don’t last more than 15 minutes at the absolute most. This makes it fun and interesting for your dog as well as easy for you to work training into your daily schedule. You can have 1 to 3 training sessions a day to practice working on your dog’s crating skills. Meanwhile, you may feed him in his crate as well as provide special chew toys that he only gets while in the crate with the door shut.
It’s Always Positive
The crate should always be a positive place for your pup to relax in. Give him a bed or soft blanket so he can be comfortable, and always provide praise when you use the crate. Meanwhile, never use the crate as a means of punishment or leaving your dog unattended for more than a few hours at a time. Keep it positive, and your dog will always love his crate.