Crate training can be a very useful way to give your dog a comfortable den all of their own where they can relax and enjoy feeling safe. Crates can also be useful when travelling with your dog, or should they ever need to be confined during recovery from surgery or following an accident. Teaching your dog to enjoy spending time alone within a crate, even when you don’t really need them to, means that whenever you do need to use a crate they will already be comfortable doing so! Most dogs quickly and easily learn to love having their own special space to chill out in!
Choosing a crate - types and sizes
- Crates can be made of fabric, metal or plastic and are often collapsible and lightweight, so are easily portable. Choose a design you can easily set up and carry.
- Your dog should be able to stand up, turn around, lie down and stretch out inside their crate, so make sure the crate you choose is large enough for them to be comfortable inside.
- You can cover the top and sides of the crate with a blanket for added cosiness and to prevent drafts and muffle out noises too.
Setting up and introducing
- Choose a design you can easily carry and set up, and that is large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down stretched out in.
- Place some comfy bedding and a few of your dog’s toys and chews inside, with the door fixed open, and let your dog spend time getting used to it being there. If they do venture inside be sure to praise them and throw them a few tasty treats!
Teaching your dog to enjoy going into his crate
Keep training sessions short and fun, a few repetitions at each stage is fine so they are always interested and enjoying themselves!
- Start by throwing some extra tasty treats around the room for your dog to chase and eat, and then include occasionally throwing a treat into the crate as well so they have to run inside to enjoy it! You can say “get in your bed” as you throw the treats into the crate!
Once they’re happily zooming into the crate to find and eat the treat, throw the next treat right back into the crate so they have to go straight back in to find it. Keep throwing treats into the crate until your clever dog waits inside for you to throw them the next one.
Building up the time your dog happily spends in his crate
Your dog will now be feeling positive about the crate as good things always happen to them in there! However, we need them to learn that it’s just as fun to stay inside for a little longer with the door closed.
- Feed your dog their usual meals inside their crate with the door still secured open and when they’re comfortable with this gently close the door while they’re enjoying their food.
- As they finish their meal slowly drop some more treats into the crate so they enjoy staying inside, waiting for more food to appear!
- Build up the length of time they spend in the crate with the door shut after eating their meals by stretching out the time between dropping in treat after treat, when they are calm and quiet.
- Once they’re remaining calm and relaxed for a short period in their crate with the door closed after a meal, you can open the door and place in a food-releasing toy or chew for them to enjoy. This way they’ll learn that someone reaching into their crate is a good thing and they’ll be rewarded for staying inside for even longer.
- Tough rubber toys designed to be filled with food that your dog can take time to lick out, or long-lasting tasty chews can be given to your dog within the crate with the door closed to give them different opportunities to enjoy spending more time within their crate.
- When your dog is enjoying themselves inside the crate, start to engage in your own normal day-to-day activity including leaving the room, for short periods to begin with, so they learn that this is okay.
- By now your dog should see the crate as a wonderful place to be! They might start to choose to go into their crate at other times, all by themselves, maybe to have a nap or just to relax. Whenever they do naturally choose to go into their crate, don’t make too much of a fuss so you don’t disturb them, but gently and calmly tell them what a good dog they are so you capture this lovely moment and add to their good feeling! If at any point of training your dog appears worried, go back to a stage at which they were confident and start again from there.
Using the crate in everyday life...
- It is important that the crate is never used as a punishment. A dog can’t understand the reason for this and might start to feel unhappy about being in their crate, excluded from the fun they were having moments before!
- Adult dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than 4 hours. Even though a dog might really love their crate, they shouldn’t spend too much time inside as they might become stiff and might also need the toilet!
Top Training Tip
- Always make sure your dog is having a good time in their crate, whether enjoying their toys, chews or simply dozing and snoozing – the safer and more comfortable they feel inside, the happier they’ll be spending time in their crate when you need them to!