Crate training your dog is a great way to provide a safe, comfortable environment to keep him while you’re away or when you travel with him. And learning how to crate train a dog is a simple process if you take your time and allow your dog to get used to the idea at his own pace.
Where to keep the crate
Your dog’s crate should be kept in an area with a lot of traffic like the living room or kitchen. Being able to see his environment while he’s in it will keep your dog from feeling isolated. Put an old blanket or sweatshirt, something with your scent, in the crate with him.
Once you’ve settled on a place for the crate, open the door and let your dog investigate. You can place a food-stuffed chew toy inside to lure him. When your dog goes inside give him plenty of praise. Keep your dog’s crate training experience positive and upbeat. You should repeat this process several times: use a treat to lure him and then give lots of praise as he enters the crate.
It can take a few hours, or even a day or two, for your dog to get used to his new den. Never force him into the crate; training should only progress when he’s comfortable. If you’re dog doesn’t respond well or you feel frustrated, take a break and come back when you’re both rested. You don’t want him to develop a negative association with being crated.
Feeding in the crate
Once the initial phase of crate training your dog is over and he’s at ease with the new crate, you can feed him while he’s in it. Use the food bowl to lure him into the crate and then close the door while he eats. As he finishes eating, open the door again. Your dog might want out sooner at which point you can let him out but close the door behind him and keep his food bowl inside. If he paws at the crate door to be let back in, open it, let him in, and close the door again. You may need to repeat this several times during the meal.
Closing the door
Once your dog is comfortable eating in his crate, you can try closing the door when he’s not in it for mealtimes. Put food in a stuffable chew toy (peanut butter is great for this) and place it in the crate. When he goes in after the toy, you can quietly close the door behind him. Only keep it shut for a minute or two. Then open it, call your dog and praise him. Make sure the treat stays in the crate. Repeat the process several times, but each time leave the door closed for a little longer.
If your dog barks or whines in his crate when the door is closed, do not open the crate! He’ll think that barking and whining is what gets him out rather than you calling him. Wait until he calms down for ten to fifteen seconds and then open the door. When you go to repeat the exercise, don’t keep the door closed as long.
Crate training tips
Never crate your dog as punishment
Your dog’s experiences with his crate should be positive. If you use the crate to detain him as punishment, he eventually won’t want to go into it. You should use other training techniques to deter bad behavior, not crating.
Crate your dog when you’re at home, too
If you only put your dog in his crate when you leave the house, he’ll connect the crate with you leaving. Over time he can develop issues of separation anxiety or, at the least, he won’t want to be crated. You should randomly put your dog in his crate even if you don’t plan on leaving the house.
Your dog shouldn’t live in his crate
During the initial phases of crate training your dog, you should leave him alone for no more than 30 minutes. Over the course of several weeks you can increase the time, but never leave your dog in his crate for longer than 6 to 8 hours. Give him plenty of exercise before he goes in and provide several chew toys to keep him entertained.
If you find that you consistently have to leave your dog in his crate for more than 8 hours, you should consider hiring a pet sitter to care for him during part of the day.
Learning how to crate train a dog can be a rewarding experience for you and your pet and it’ll give him a comfortable place to call his own.