Want to know how to crate train your dog? You’re not alone. Every year, millions of dog owners around the country learn how to keep their dogs in a crate or separate room when they leave the house so they can reduce anxiety, destructive behaviour and barking. It is also a very valuable tool when trying to housebreak a new puppy and make your life much easier than if your dog sleeps on the couch or on your bed.
The Value of Crate Training
Whether you’re learning how to crate train a dog or just determining if it is safe for your dog, know that most dogs love their crate so long as it’s introduced in the right way to them. In the wild, dogs will seek out a small, safe space to burrow into that will keep them safe and warm. A crate performs that wonderfully, giving them a safe space that is theirs alone.
How to Crate Train Your Dog
Set Up Your Crate
Firstly you will need to make the crate a safe, comfortable environment for your pup. It is ideal to cover the dogs crate with a cover or towel so only the front of the crate is exposed. Inside the crate you can place a dogs bed, blankets or crate mat, you want to make it as comfortable as possible. The dog should be able to stand up, turn around and lie out flat without being pushed up against the crate.
Where to Place the Crate
To start you will need to introduce your dog to the crate in a positive manner. Set the crate up in the room where you would like your dog to be left when you are not home or its bed time. Family room, kitchen or bedrooms are ideal.
Introduce Your Dog
Once the crate is in place. You should have some tasty treats on hand. Touch the treat to the dogs nose and start to lead him into his crate. As he follows the treat, when his paws touch the base of the crate, praise and reward him with the treat. Keep practicing and reinforcing going in and out of the crate until he his happy to have all four paws inside the crate. Once he starts to go in and out of the crate at ease, you can start using the command “go to bed” with luring him into his crate until you can phase out the lure and your dog will go in on command. Do not close the door at this stage.
In between training sessions (10 mins max per session) leave the crate door open so your pup has the option to go in and out. At meal times you should feed your pup all his meals in the crate creating a positive association with the crate. At meal time you can practice closing the door and leave the room for 2-5 minutes. Play music or leave the TV on, do not make a fuss. When you come back into the room and your pup is quiet simply walk over to the crate open the door and say hello and keep calm.
Frozen Kongs are also great for crate training. Building up time spent in the crate a frozen kong should keep your pup busy for 20-30 minutes. You can put kibble pieces in the kong as your pup will still be motivated by kibble.
Keep it Positive
Keep crate training up beat and positive. Do not open the crate for your dog if they are barking or crying; wait for the moment of silence to open the crate. If you open the crate when your dog has been barking, what is simply happening is that your dog is learning if I bark my owner will come and let me out. To the dog it doesn’t matter if he barked for one minute or for ten minutes once the end result was that his owner came and opened the crate then the dog has learned ‘hey if I bark, I get outta here’. It’s that simple to the dog so do not reinforce unwanted behaviours.
Please do not leave your pup in his crate with the door closed while you are still in the room as this may result in your pup exhibiting unnecessary anxiety.
So the key to crate training to your pup is creating a nice, comfortable environment; step by step positive reinforcement, building up time spent in crate and leaving crate open for your dog to go hang out in during the day when people are home. Your dog will grow to love his crate and it will become his safe space that if he is ever feeling uncomfortable or afraid (fireworks, loud noises etc) he will seek his crate as it’s his safe place.