Positive crate training for dogs
Crate training may not be at the top of your list of things to teach your puppy or adult dog, but I feel it is something our pets should be accustomed to. Young puppies need to be in a safe place when you are busy or out of the house; a crate provides a perfect solution. A crate can also be helpful during toilet training. For adult dogs, it offers a safe space and provides an essential part of care if crate rest is needed. If you enjoy holidays with your dog, crate training also allows you to bring their 'bedroom' away with you, ensuring a regular night-time routine.
Place your dog's crate in a quiet area of the house where your dog feels comfortable. Line the inside of the crate with soft bedding. To make it feel more cosy and secure, try placing a blanket over the top (on the outside) so that it is nice and peaceful. During the early stages of training, use an item that smells of you inside the crate; this could be an old towel or t-shirt. This will make the crate smell familiar and feel safe.
The size of the crate is important. It should be big enough for your dog to be able to stand up and turn around in with ease. It is better to go too big than too small. If you have a puppy and there is a lot of spare space in the crate, try filling the extra space with a cardboard box. This can help avoid toileting mishaps in the empty area. The box can easily be removed when the puppy grows.
Steps to positive crate training
- Step 1. Begin training by placing some of your dog's favourite treats inside the crate. Allow your dog to approach the crate in their own time. Never force your dog into the crate.
- Step 2. Once your dog is entering the crate independently, teach your dog that the crate door closes. Do this by closing the crate door and feeding your dog a treat.
- Step 3. Between training sessions, keep the crate open and allow your dog to have a quick nosey around. Placing treats, toys or a chew in the crate will be a nice reward when your dog decides to pop in for a look!
- Step 4. You can create other positive experiences by feeding your dog in the crate at meals times. Whilst your dog is eating you can close the crate door, but remember to stay close by in order to let them out once they have finished to prevent them becoming distressed.
- Step 5. Once your dog is happily entering the crate, you can start to introduce longer spells in it with the door closed. During this stage of training use a Kong (packed with something tasty) or a chew, to help your dog settle. Staying close to the crate when your dog is inside it will help them to feel safe and relaxed.
- Step 6. Keep training sessions short and positive – you want to avoid your dog becoming anxious or frustrated in the crate. If you approach the crate when your dog is barking or crying, you will reinforce this behaviour. Manage the training sessions so they remain positive.
- Step 6. Once your dog is used to spending time in the crate with you nearby, slowly increase your distance away from the crate. Start with short, positive training sessions (just a few minutes in length) with a Kong or chew in the crate to help your dog settle, then gradually increase your distance and their time in the crate.
- Step 7. When your dog can happily stay in the crate for 30 minutes, you can try leaving them in the crate when you go out. Start with short periods of time and build up slowly. Leaving your dog with a Kong or a chew will help them to settle and forget that you are leaving. Recording your dog is a handy way to discover if they are settled when you are out.