Some dogs love their crates without any training. Yea, they do exist! Both my dogs took to the crate no problem! But some dogs may need some help and some dogs may downright have severe anxieties about being confined.
Here are my steps to creating a crate-loving pup. Every pup starts off at a different baseline, so it’s important not to move onto the next step until your dog is COMPLETELY comfortable with the step they are currently on.
- Crate games to create a positive association.
It’s wise to start exposing your pup to the crate in a fun manner before needing to even contain her in it. Do all the following with the crate door STILL OPEN. Here are some ideas:
-Make the crate a fun toy box. Load all your puppy’s fun toys in a pile with treats thrown in-between and let your puppy dig around and pull stuff out.
-Feed all meals in the crate with the door open. Try to put the bowl in the furthest corner so your pup has to really get in there to get her food. If you can’t do every meal, then make the meals that do come from the crate a little extra special by tossing some treats into the bowl.
-Hide treats in the folds and creases of blankets and bedding so your pup has to sniff and dig around. You can also use a snuffle mat.
-Tie a string through the holes of the Kong so you can tie it to the crate after filling with goodies. Tying is important so your pup doesn’t just take the Kong out and run with it.
-Smear a small amount of peanut butter on the crate tray.
-Tie your pup’s favorite toy to the back of the crate.
2. Teach your pup a kennel up cue and start closing the door. Don’t move on to the next step until your pup is very comfortable on the current step.
I. Have your pup’s favorite treats on hand. Give your pup your kennel cue “(Kennel up”, “Go to bed”, “Kennel”, etc. We use “After you”), toss a treat in the crate and let your pup grab it then come out.
II. When your pup is walking in comfortably, toss the treat and close the door without locking it behind your pup, toss is another treat and open the door. The more you do this, the longer the door stays closed but throw in a steady stream of treats until the door opens.
III. After you give your kennel cue, start waiting for your pup to get into the kennel BEFORE giving the first treat.
IV. Start locking the door behind your pup but keep the treats coming until the door opens.
V. After locking the door, start walking a couple of steps away but come back and toss a treat. Sometimes you’ll open the door after one treat is tossed in, and sometimes you’ll walk away and treat multiple times before opening the door.
3. Short confinements when you’re home
Put your puppy in the crate while you are still home for short activities such as making or eating dinner, making your coffee, or during the commercial break of your favorite TV show. Stay close by so you can toss treats in periodically. You can also use some of the crate games from step 1, now with the door closed.
4. Short confinements when you’re not home
Let your pup hang out in the crate while you go for a short walk, enjoy your coffee out on the patio, or walk to get the mail. I also recommend leaving some sort of yummy treat like a frozen Kong or bully stick with your puppy or still utilizing the crate games from step 1.
5. Gradually increase the length of confinement
You can now step out of the house knowing your puppy is happy and safe in her crate. Start making your outings longer and start running quick errands.
6. Sit to be Released
While working on steps 1-5, separately start teaching your puppy Sit. When she knows Sit well enough, start asking for a sit and only let her out once she has complied. Work your way up to sit-stays and waiting to exit the crate before being allowed out.
-If your puppy starts vocalizing in the crate, ignore the outburst. Wait for a second of quiet behavior to let her out. You’ll need to take a step back and work at the previous step for a little while longer.
-There is a difference between puppy whining/protesting and a panic attack. If your pup is pacing, excessively drooling or hurting herself attempting to get out of the crate, contact a training professional right away.