Whether you are bringing home a puppy or a rescue with an unknown history, crate training your dog is essential to their wellbeing and to the serenity of your household. When your dog is comfortable accessing its crate, you can be confident that they have a safe place to retreat to whenever they need it (or when you need them out from underfoot) and when you are out of the house.
Successful crate training can happen quickly for some dogs, but may take more time for others. How well your dog does depends on their personality, may depend on their breed, and can be influenced by what else is going on in the household at the time.
The key to successful crate training is to not rush it. You will want to place the crate in an area that is easy for the dog to access. Allow them to be curious about it, explore it, and move in and out of the crate without pressuring the animal and without expectation. If you move too quickly with crate training, you are more likely to encounter resistance from your dog.
The tips listed below are just an overview of basic crate training tips. Always consult with your veterinarian or a certified dog trainer to troubleshoot issues in your dog’s crate training process. You may also find the resources at the end of the article to be helpful in crate training your pup.
Introducing the Dog’s Crate
Ideally, you will place the crate where you can keep an eye on it as your dog explores it. If at all possible, the dog’s crate should not be in a busy area of the house. Set up a few treats from just outside the door and all the way to the back. Leave the crate door open and watch what your dog does.
As the dog explores inside the crate, go over to the crate to palace a few more treats inside. Do this 2-4 times over the course of 30-45 minutes until you see the dog is going into the crate for the treats without hesitation and without rushing to get out of it.
Naming the Crate and Familiarizing the Dog with the Crate
The next few times you place treats into the crate you are going to let the dog see you have the treats. Say the word that you will use consistently to “name” the crate to the dog. This can be as simple as “crate” or “kennel” or “bed.” (Don’t name the crate “bed” if you have a nother cushion for it to rest on and have name that “bed.”)
As you toss the treat into the crate, say, “crate.” Stand in front of the crate to prevent the dog from leaving the crate; wait for the dog to settle into a lying position. You may have to be very patient, especially if you have a fiesty pup who wants to be out. Use treats to entice the dog to a lying position. Every 10 seconds or so, feed a treat until you see the dog is calm. Close the door and sit near the crate. The dog may bark. Be patient. As long as your dog is not trying to jump out of the crate or getting anxious, trust that they will settle down in anticipation of another treat. Once the dog is calm, open the door and allow the dog to walk out. Take a break for a while.
Repeat this step 1 more time. If your dog seems tired or no longer cooperative, then resume the training another day. Pet your dog, give praise and a treat, and allow him to rest.
REMEMBER: Always follow your dog’s cues during training. When tired or frustrated, stop. That goes for the pet parent, too!
Continuing Crate Training
When you come back to crate training, you’ll begin again with a trail of treats and continue spacing out treating the dog once the y are in the crate. You are watching for relaxed behavior and rewarding for that behavior. The crate door will continue to remain closed as training continues. Remember, always end crate training when the dog is calm. Open the door and offer praise.
Increasing Your Dog’s Tolerance for Crate Training
This time around, you will not begin with the treat trail. Prepare a Kong or a similar toy that you can fill with with some peanut butter, greek yogurt or soft dog treats, or something else your dog really likes (e.g., bully stick). Say "kennel" guide your dog into the crate. Once he is in the crate, toss the chew toy inside and close the door. Once he is engrossed in chewing, go about your business, moving around the room and occasionally leaving the room. After 15 minutes or so, and once your dog is calm, release your dog from the crate before he finishes his chew treat.
Gradually increase your dogs time in the crate while you are home and while are away from home, using the method described above. Depending on the size and age of your dog, they may be able to manage being in the crate for up to 4 hours. Generally speaking, a dog should not be left in the crate longer than 4-5 hours unless absolutely necessary.
Never use the crate as punishment.
Never place our dog in the crate using an angry or hostile tone.
Never leave things in the crate that the dog can shred and/or choke on.
Eventually your dog will begin going in and of his crate by himself and whenever you say "kennel". If your dog should fuss in the crate you must always ignore it (unless he seems truly uncomfortable). When you return from being away, release your dog from the crate only when he is calm, otherwise he will learn to fuss in order to be released and that is a difficult behavior to untrain.
There are many ways to crate train. The methods shared here is just one of many ways to crate train your pup. You will need to be flexible and adjust according to your dog’s needs, but don’t let the dog run the training! If you get stuck, contact a dog trainer or take a dog training class..
Dog Training Resources
Step-by-Step Crate Training Guide Chewy.com