The dogma of Crate Training

Having a dog accustomed to a crate can be helpful in many situations. However, some people feel it is unfair to the dog and are concerned about this type of confinement. A crate can become a dog’s safe place and becomes a critical part of many behaviour problem solving plans. Below are some reasons to crate train your dog:

  • House Training: A crate provides a close confinement that inhibits the dog from urinating or defecating. If you have accidents in the crate, remove any bedding (also refer to our house training handout, which will be posted shortly). Ensure the crate is only big enough for the dog to stand, lie and turn around in.
  • Prevents Destructive Chewing: The dog is not given the opportunity to do this out of sight of the owner and have free reign in the house. You can give the dog appropriate chew toys in the crate.
  • Settling: Through proper training, crate training teaches the dog to be lie and settle when alone.
  • Prepare for Travel: A crate accustoms dog to close confinement. It prevents added stress when traveling or situations where kenneling is required.
  • Safety: The dog will not be able to gain access to items that could be harmful or fatal.

You can create trauma for the dog if you don’t introduce the crate properly. The steps to accustom your dog and create a positive association to the crate are:

  1. Put the crate in a high traffic area and keep the door open (you may even remove it to start).
  2. Occasionally toss treats into the back of the crate for your dog to find on their own.
  3. Feed the dog’s meals inside the crate.
  4. Tie a high value toy to the back of the kennel so that the dog must lie inside to chew on it.
  5. After a few days, begin introducing a cue. Say your cue (ex: ‘Into crate’, ‘Go to Bed’, etc.), and toss a treat into the crate. Praise as dog eats treat and then cue him out with another cue of your choice (do not reward the dog for coming out of crate).
  6. Repeat step 5 numerous times until your dog enjoys going into the crate for the treat.
  7. Start to cue the dog and encourage them to go in on their own. Once they are in, reward with a treat. Ensure you cue them to come out.
  8. If they are hesitant to go in on their own, wait it out. Do not repeat the cue! You may toss more treats into the crate to encourage the dog to go in.
  9. If the dog still will not go on their own, end the session without saying anything to the dog.
  10. Try again at a later time. If the dog does go in, jackpot reward them.
  11. After dog will go into crate on cue, begin to shut the door when they go in. Treat repeatedly while they are in the closed crate to start. Only do small increments of time to start and then increase.
  12. Start to get up and walk around crate or around room, while remaining in sight. Ensure you are returning to your dog and rewarding.
  13. Begin increasing duration by keeping yourself busy while your dog is in crate. Go back and reward as needed when your dog is being quiet. Ignore any crying or whining. Never let your dog out of the crate if they are crying! They need to learn they only get to come out when they are quiet.
  14. Next, start going out of sight for short periods. Build this up the same as the above steps.
  15. As your dog begins to use the crate more, ensure you are not just using it when you leave the dog home alone. They may begin to pair the crate with isolation and create a negative association.
  16. Always teach your dog that the crate is a positive, safe place for them!