This is one of the most valuable behaviors you can teach your dog. While our human brains may be apprehensive about “shoving our dogs in a box,” this is a very natural behavior for our canine friends who have been born to seek protection in a den or doghouse, under a table, in a closet, or behind the couch. Not only do they need security if they are frightened, but need sanctuary when left alone or are insecure about a new environment. If your dog must stay for any length of time at the groomer or vet, even just an hour, he will most likely be put in a cage. The crate keeps a dog safe in the car as well as his owner. Even the best mannered dog will become a projectile in a collision. And what better way to secure your dog in the event of a natural disaster?
- Choose a crate size that allows your dog to stand up and turn around.
- Read “Location Training” article.
- Your training may take just a few hours or days, and could take several weeks depending on you and your dog.
Conditioning your dog to enter his crate If your dog seems fearful of the crate, you may want to get him conditioned to going into it before actually training him to enter.
- Place crate in a high traffic location so that your dog does not associate the crate with being alone.
- Prop open the door.
- Toss a piece of food just inside the door. Repeat several times then start tossing food farther back.
- Feed your dog every meal in the back of the crate.
- While your dog is happily eating his meals and/or treats in the back of the crate, quietly and calmly close and open the door repeatedly.
If your dog is frightened of the crate then take it apart and use just the bottom half. If you can’t take it apart then use a cardboard box.
Training your dog to enter his crate
Perhaps your dog is eagerly running into his crate before you put his food in. The goal is to get him to happily go into his crate without luring him in each time with a treat. Now just add a verbal cue, such as “crate” right before he steps inside and be sure to give a treat after he goes inside.
For those dogs who won’t go in without a lure, follow these steps:
- When dog looks at crate, toss a treat. When dog takes a step toward crate, toss a treat.
- When dog puts nose in crate, toss a treat. Treat for one paw in the crate, two paws in the crate, etc.
- If your dog goes all the way into the crate, give a big handful of treats.
- Once dog is reliably going in the crate, add a cue such as “crate,” and don’t forget to continue working on opening and closing the door as listed above.
Staying In The Crate Start with a very tired dog in a room void of people, pets and children milling about.
- Give your dog his cue to go in the crate, throw treat to back of crate.
- Shut the door, wait several seconds, open the door. Don’t fuss with the dog when he comes out of the crate – we’re trying to reward him for being IN the crate.
- Repeat several times while increasing the amount of time that the door is shut. If your dog is tired and does not whine or scratch at the door you may be able to increase the time by several minutes each session.
- Don’t make a bad association with the crate by shoving your dog in.
- Never make a fuss when you let your dog out of his crate – even if he’s been in there for an hour. All you are doing is reinforcing him for coming OUT of the crate.
- Give your dog his favorite chew toy, treats, stuffed Kong, in the crate and nowhere else.
- Give your dog access to his crate at all times by leaving the door open.
- Vary the amount of time your dog spends in the crate. Just like the dog who hates car rides because the only car ride he gets is to the vet office, the dog who gets locked up for six hours every time he goes in his crate might become reluctant to do so.
Janine Allen Rescue Me Dog Trainer
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