Teaching your Dog the Crate is Great!

Whether it is for house-training, travel, visitors or medical rest purposes, crate training is one of the most useful management tools for dog owners.

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During heart worm treatment, Ozzie was forced to spend a lot of time in his crate, but he learned to enjoy it.

Your dog’s crate should be just large enough for her to stand up, turn around, and lie down. Any larger than that and you risk having the dog relieve herself at one end and curling up at the other. To ensure that you do not go backwards with potty-training, an appropriately sized crate is crucial.

The goal of crate training is to make the dog love the safety and comfort of confinement. It is vital when you first introduce the dog to the crate that she is not forced inside and left with the door closed.  Place the crate in an area where the dog can observe the household; where she can see and hear what is familiar to her.  Make the crate enjoyable, with comfy bedding (unless you have a dog that likes to shred fabric), and a durable chew toy tied to a rope that hangs in the back of the crate, long enough that she can enjoy the chew while lying down but not remove it from the kennel.

We want the dog to explore and discover the crate on her own, so just drop a few smelly treats like cheese or hot dog bits in the back of the crate every so often and let her find them. Once she is going in and out without acting cautious or afraid, it’s time to start cueing the behavior. Tell her “Go to your crate” and toss some treats into the crate. Repeat this a bunch of times over the course of a few days, then change it up: tell your dog “Go to your crate” and wait to see if she goes in on her own. Don’t toss the treats into the crate until she has gone in.  When she does, praise her heavily and let her exit the crate again.   At no time during these early stages should the door be closed.

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When you have played the in and out game on cue for a while, now you can close the door, walk around the crate, then let her back out again. Make sure to reward her when she is INSIDE the crate, not when she comes out! You can start building duration after a few rounds of this, but make sure to take it slowly and drop treats every so often into the crate while you keep the door locked as you make dinner or watch a movie.

Never open the crate if the dog is whining, barking or scratching to get out, otherwise you have rewarded this behavior and it will continue. Also, it is essential to not make a big deal about letting the dog out of the crate. The good stuff should happen when the dog is inside. When it’s time to come out, just open the door and walk away.

Check out our detailed plan if you need some extra help!

dog pen
Once your dog can be happy in a crate and is fully house-trained, transitioning to a play pen is an excellent option for dogs left alone for more than a few hours a day.

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