Teaching your Dog to Love their Crate
Things To Keep in Mind
- Crate training is challenging for most dogs–Lean into the challenge! Your time and patience will be rewarded.
- It’s easy to accidentally reinforce unwanted behaviors; Be mindful when interacting with your dog inside and around the crate.
- Be sure your dog is getting enough exercise! Plenty of physical and mental stimulation throughout the day will make the process easier for everyone.
- Integrating basic obedience training into your daily routine will ensure your dog is mentally stimulated while reinforcing the kinds of behaviors you want to see from your dog.
Making the Crate a Desirable Location
- It’s important to set your dog up for success from the very start. One of the easiest ways to do this with crate training is by teaching your dog that the crate is a nice place to be.
- In general, dogs feel safer, happier, and more secure in your presence. Avoid turning the crate into a lonely, isolated location. Place multiple crates around the house where people are likely to be (kitchen, living room, bed room, office, etc).
- From there, be sure to have plenty of good things associated with going and staying in the crate. You can do this by:
- Feeding meals inside the crate
- Giving high value treats to your dog inside the crate
- Throwing toys into the crate for your dog to fetch
- Giving your dog high value chews/bones to chew on in the crate
- When you put any dog into a crate, you take away their freedom to go where they want. The stark contrast between the freedom of walking loose in the house to being closed into the crate can make the transition difficult for some dogs. To avoid this, try using a leash more often indoors. This way, you ultimately have control over where your dog can go, but they still have some sense of freedom. This will help reduce the contrast of being in the crate with no freedom vs outside of the crate with complete freedom in your dog’s mind. You can also utilize exercise pens and gated rooms in a similar fashion.
Training your dog to get into the crate using the "Yes!" Marking System
- Practice luring your dog in and out of the crate using high value treats. Put a tid-bit of treat up to your dog’s nose, and slowly lure them into the crate. This might take time at first, especially if your dog is more anxious or reserved. Be sure to praise and encourage your dog for doing the right thing.
- Once all four paws are in the crate, exclaim, “Yes!” and give your dog the treat. Allow them to exit the crate as soon as you say “Yes!”
- Repeat! Repeat the luring, yes-ing, and rewarding process. As your dog learns the process, you can decrease your lure by increasing the distance between the treat and their nose and speeding things up.
- After a few sets of repetitions, you will likely find your dog anticipating what you are going to show them to do. Begin to say “crate” just before your lure into the crate. After a few reps, say, “crate” and wait. If your dog goes into the crate, “Yes!” and reward immediately. They may need a helpful lure or two before they start to do it on their own.
- Practice, practice, practice! Practice this routine with all of the crates in the house. As your dog continues to learn, bring a crate into the yard and practice there. Practice with the crate in the car. Your goal is to have your dog generalize and know that no matter the crate, no matter the location, when he is told, “Crate” the behavior of getting into the crate will follow.
Training your dog to stay in the crate - Building crate endurance:
- Once your dog is comfortable getting into the crate, you will naturally want to work on having them STAY in the crate. Start from the top, and lure your dog into the crate. Instead of exclaiming, “Yes!” when they are in, praise them by saying, “Good!” Reward a continuous stream of treats while praising, “Good, good.” Do not worry about shutting the crate door just yet. To release your dog, say “Okay!” as you stop the treats and allow them to exit the crate.
- If during this process, your dog steps out of the crate before release, immediately turn off all verbal praise and stop giving treats. You might help your dog with an informal “Uh-uh!” or “Uh-oh!” verbal correction, before luring them back into the crate. Resume verbal praise and treat rewards while your dog is doing the right thing.
- Begin to decrease the amount of verbal praise you are giving your dog, and start intermittently rewarding with treats, rather than rewarding a continuous stream.
-“Good” praise does not always mean a treat is on the way, but it DOES mean your dog is doing the right thing. If your dog anticipates that there MIGHT be a treat because they are doing the right thing, they are more likely to repeat that behavior!
- After repeating this process a few times, start closing the crate door. Continue to praise your dog with “good!” and treats, as long as they are staying and being quiet. (Treats can be tossed through the closed door or through slots in the ceiling/walls. Try switching it up as your repeat the process!)
-If your dog vocalizes or scratches at the door, immediately turn off all praise/reward.
- While your dog is staying quietly in the crate (even if only for a minute) practice opening the door and releasing them with “okay”.
-Do NOT celebrate their exit from the crate. You want to avoid accidentally reinforcing the idea that “not being in the crate = a good time”
- Remember, training your dog to be happy and quiet in the crate takes time and patience! Gradually increase the amount of time you are leaving your dog closed in the crate. You might start by closing them in for a few minutes at a time while you are still in the room, then begin for extended periods of time while you are still in the house (a half hour while you take a shower, an hour while you cook dinner, etc).
- Be sure to ignore any vocalization and NEVER let your dog out while they are vocalizing.
-You want to avoid your dog internalizing that “barking/whining means I will be let out as long as I do it long/loud enough.”
- When you actually need/want to close your dog into crate for an extended period, do so only after a handful of repetitions going in and out 4 or 5 times before closing them inside.