Teaching your dog to love her crate is one of the most important things you can do. Owners should think of it as a place where their dog can feel safe rather than as a place to keep their dog locked up. Owners should never associate the crate with negative feelings as we want them to think of the crate as the place where they are comfortable during our absence.
It’s obvious that you can use a crate for safety during travels, but the crate should be kept in a quiet place in the house. It should be somewhere the dog has full access to it so it can be the place she goes to sleep or rest – even on her own when you are home. One of the main purpose of crate training is house training. The dog won’t like the idea of soiling the place she sleeps and finds comfort. Also, it’s a place to keep your dog comfortable while you’re away, until she learns what she may or may not chew.
We can teach our dogs to love their crates if we remember the following:
- Crates are suitable for a short confinement;
- Crates are never to be used as punishment;
- The confinement should be used only until they learn how to behave during our absence. After that they should use it voluntarily.
When you first choose a crate, be sure to consider size, cleaning, and resistance. There are many options to choose from as these range considerably. Once you have chosen a crate, dog training begins. Initially, the crate should be located in a place that you spend the most time in the house.
Once you are ready to put your dog in the crate, place a blanket or a dog mattress inside so that your dog can get comfy. Then incentivize your dog to go inside with a treat so she will explore. Never push her in. As she gets more confident, put food further away from the door, until she needs to get inside.
When the dog starts entering the crate without any problem, start closing the door but only while the dog eats inside the crate. Next, start adding dog toys, bones and other type of treats into the crate, so she stays in there and is distracted. The idea is to gradually leave the dog for a longer amount of time closed inside the crate.
As soon as the dog stays inside the crate quietly while being next to you, start adding a cue to make her enter and leave the crate. For example, imagine that the dog stays inside the crate while you watch your favorite show. Say something like: “go to bed” and throw a treat into the crate, do the same with teaching her to exit the crate but show her food outside to incentivize the dog to leave the crate. During this process, you are teaching your dog that only good things happen when he is inside the crate.
After this process is established and the dog gets inside the crate comfortably and easily start leaving him alone for really short periods ranging from 1 minute to 4 hours. You should only leave her alone and leave the house after she stays inside the crate quietly for over half an hour. During this process, never let the dog out if she starts to whine or tries to leave – only when she is quiet and calm. This way you don’t teach her that whining can get her out of the crate. Don’t forget to give her a treat when you open the door after a quiet period.
When leaving your home while your dog is in the crate, leave quietly without making an emotional goodbye scene. Just say, I’ll be home soon in a normal voice or something else you feel good with. When you return home, do not greet the dog with too much excitement.
Never use a crate to train a dog that has separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a serious behavioral problem and needs professional help.