Let’s HEAL Our Dogs Through Crate Training!

Posted on 06. Jan, 2015 by in Got a Question?, Pet Care, Pet Safety, Training Tips

Dogs are naturally den animals. Because of this you may have noticed your dog making their own den under a desk, a chair, or behind some furniture. Providing a crate for your dog will make him a happier companion and it provides you with a wonderful training tool. Crates are useful when it comes to multiple behavioral problems such as housebreaking, separation anxiety, barking or house destruction.  It also is a great way to allow your dog to feel safe in new environments.  Going to visit grandma for the week? Bring your dog’s crate and they will feel right at home! I have three dogs and we only crate trained my youngest. I won’t lie I wish I had trained them all and ever dog I own in the future will be crate trained!

There are two types of crates, wire or molded plastic.  Most dogs prefer molded plastic since it more closely resembles a den. When purchasing a crate it is very important to buy the proper size.  The dog should be able to stand up, lay down and turn around comfortably. The crate should be 1 1/2 times longer than the dog’s body (not including the tail) and two inches above his head.  It is very important that the crate is not too big for the dog if it is being used for house breaking.

Once you have obtained the crate you should place it in an area of the house which is well populated but also quiet, such as a family room.  Bedding may be placed in the crate if the dog will not destroy it.

If your puppy has never been crate trained or never had a bad experience in the crate training can go fairly quickly. During the first few days with the crate it is important to make the puppy feel like this is a fun place.  Place treats and toys in the crate and encourage the puppy to go in and get them as he pleases.  The puppy may also be allowed to eat in there with the door open.  Do not close the puppy into the crate during the first few days.  Once the puppy seems to feel comfortable going in and out of the crate (normally after a few days) provide the puppy with a lot of exercise late in the evening.  Make sure that the dog’s last meal was three to four hours prior to bed time.  Just before you are going to sleep let the dog out one last time to make sure he does not need to eliminate. Shut the dog in the crate (which can now be placed in the bedroom) with a new chew toy and shut off the lights.  The puppy should be tired and go to sleep.  If the dog begins to whine and you are sure he does not need to eliminate then ignore him.  Even hearing “No!” from their owner is rewarding to a puppy and it will result in more whining.
Please note that even once properly trained puppies should not be in their crate for more hours than the number of months they are plus one.  Also the instructions above are for dogs who have not ever been inside a crate.  If your dog has had a prior bad experience with a crate please contact us for further instruction.

If you are crate training an older dog or a dog who has had bad experiences in the crate the process will be a lot slower but in the end if you take your time they will end up viewing their crate as a safe place too!

Start just like you would as though you had a puppy. Place the crate in a populated but quiet location.  Tie the crate door open and put something that smells like you in the crate.  This will help the dog understand it is a trusting place.   When you are ready to do your training session make sure to have treats, a clicker, and 10 minutes.  Until you start locking the dog in the crate all sessions should be less than 10 minutes and always end on a good note!

When you are all prepared to train call the dog over to the crate and place a treat on the ground closer to the crate. If the dog goes to eat it click before they do.  Then place another treat closer to the crate. When the dog goes to eat it click before they do. Repeat this a few times until the dog is right outside the crate door.

Now wait until the dog looks at the crate.  You will then click and put the treat just inside the crate.  Repeat this over and over attempting to put the treat further inside the crate each time as long as it does not result in the dog hesitating to eat the treat.  If it does pull the treat out slightly and end on a good note for the day.  If you are using this technique because your dog has had a bad experience or is older and hesitant about the crate remove the crate when you are done training. This is because you want to reward all good interactions with the crate

Day One:

When you are ready for training session number two set the crate up and allow the dog back into the room.  You may need to repeat day one for a few training sessions depending on your dogs level of fear towards the crate.  Once the dog seems to be excited when they see the crate meaning they walk up to approach the crate without you placing a treat down first you can move onto day two.  Here you will click and treat the dog anytime she looks at the crate or steps towards or in it. As the dog starts to go into the crate you then also want to click them for hanging out in the crate too even if it is to just sniff around for treats

Day Two:

When your dog is starting to get more comfortable hanging out in the crate you then want to start rewarding them for any sort of relaxing that occurs in the crate such as sitting or laying down.  You also want to spread out your clicks and treats some so that the dog understands it’s about hanging out in the crate for a longer period of time, not just going in.

Day Three:

Once the dog gets comfortable relaxing in the crate you want to fill a bone or kong with food the dog loves so that we can start to focus on closing the door and getting the dog to relax for a longer time in the crate. During this session you will allow the dog to have their bone or kong once settled into the crate with the door open. If they go to leave the crate with their chew reward you take the reward away and place it back in the crate

Day Four:
Day Five:

Once the dog is doing well gets comfortable chewing a chew in the crate with the door open you then will work on closing the door but not locking it.  Start by clicking and treating her for going in the crate and relaxing as normal.  Then close the door but not lock it. If the dog stays in the crate click and treat.  If she stays relaxed in the crate give her a better chew to enjoy with the door closed but unlocked.

Day 6:

Once the dog gets comfortable relaxing in their crate chewing on their chew with the door unlocked give them try doing it with the door half locked.  Occasionally click and treat the dog for maintaining the good behavior of chewing their chew in their crate!  If the dog remains relaxed lock the crate completely.  Watch the dog playing with their bone until they are almost done with their crate. Once they are almost done with their chew unzip the crate so they don’t try to leave an panic.

Day 7:

After a few days of success at this level it’s time to have them chew their bone and then hang out in their after finishing it for a little longer.  Each session you will have them stay slightly longer but remember you need to always end on a good note so don’t push them too far.

Day 8:

I hope this helps teach your dog a safe place to go.  In the future you can use it when traveling, when you’re have guests in the house that are overwhelming the dog, when you have guest that your dog is overwhelming, or when your dog is just over tired and needs a place to sleep so they don’t misbehave!

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