Crate Training: The Basics
Crate training can be a fantastic way to set up your new dog for success! It is a great management tool for when you are unable to keep them from getting into trouble while they learn the “house rules.” Below is a brief overview on how to get the ball rolling with making the crate a safe space for your pup. If you run into snags along the way, try reaching out to a reputable dog trainer in your area to help trouble shoot.
Crate training your dog can help satisfy your dog’s internal instinct to be in a den. It is a safe and desired location for your dog when properly trained. Not only is it as “safe place” for your dog, a crate can also alleviate many problems for yourself and your K9.
Sanctuary, safety, security, house-training, prevention of developing destructive habits and ease of travel are just a few reasons why crate training is a positive route for you and your new dog.
Having a dog that willingly and obediently enters their crate when cued has benefits for the whole family. You can be comfortable leaving your dog in their crate alone knowing they are content, protected, and not harming your furniture, or themselves. The crate is also great while teaching house-training—encouraging control, establishing a walk routine, and preventing accidents. Comfortable containment in their crate also greatly helps in times of over-excitement and anxiety. For your dog, being comfortable and happy in their crate can provide them with privacy and security—a retreat from stress or exhaustion, and to productively avoid fear or confusion. When placed in a high-traffic area, being crated can also provide a sense of inclusion in situations they might normally be restricted, shut-out and left alone.
Before you start crate-training:
- Make the crate comfy and entertaining: example bedding and chew toys
- Place in high-traffic area so the dog feels included and safe: TV room, or wherever you spend the most of your time
First off, remember to always go at your dog’s pace. Like people, each dog is different. What one dog finds easy might be a challenge for another. If at any point you see signs of stress in your dog, take a step back and make things a bit easier for them. And to clarify, all of Step One and Two are done with the dog never being shut in the crate- the door is always open.
- Leave the crate open in an accessible location
- Feed your dog’s meals near the crate
- Slowly bring the food closer to the crate as your dog shows that they are comfortable
- Begin feeding the dog in the crate (with door open)
- Toss some high value treats into the crate periodically
- Once your dog has shown that they are comfortable walking into the crate freely, move onto step two.
- Use a high value treat to lure your dog into the crate-reward once they are in
- Practice this several times over the course of a few days
- Once your dog is quickly and happily hopping into the crate, start pairing it with the command “kennel up.” To pair the action with the command, always start by saying “kennel-up” and then lure if needed.
- Do about 10 repetitions of this each time you practice
- Your pup “knows” the command once they are consistently going into the crate when you give the verbal command (with no lure to help).
- Once the crate has become a super fun place to your dog, you can begin getting them used to being shut in it.
- Start by giving them the command “kennel-up”
- Have your dog stay in the crate and reach towards the crate door. Treat and release.
- In this very gradual manner, begin to close the door a bit more each time.
- Once your pup is comfortable having the door closed all the way on them, start slowly increasing the amount of time they are in the kennel.
- Remember, always start slow and build up from there!
Power Skill Training
Samuel Power, CPDT-KA