When a lot of people think about crating their dogs, they associate it with being mean, abusive, or unloving. The truth is that proper crate training can prevent or eliminate lots of behavior problems in your dog. We believe that crate training involves a lot more than simply shoving your dog in, and closing the door. We expect dogs to go in when asked, stay inside the crate even with the door open, and relax once they are crated. Dog crate should never be used as a punishment or a way to avoid giving your dog sufficient time and energy outlets.
Dog Crate Training Basics
1. Choose the right size.
You want to choose a crate that is big enough for your dog to comfortably sit, stand, turn around, and lie down. If your dog is still growing, be sure to choose a crate that has a divider included with it. While a few dogs can handle being in a larger crate with zero issues, most will use a crate that is too big for them as a bathroom or a way to stress load.
2. When you have your crate set up, have your dog leashed and walk them up to it with the crate door open.
Having a little food to use as a positive reward can help, but it’s also important to understand that food sometimes doesn’t help if the dog is stressed out or apprehensive about a situation. DON’T throw food in the back of the crate and shut the dog inside if they go after the food. This is entrapment and will cause a lot of dogs to panic. If your dog does go in after the food praise them while they go in, and allow them to come back out on their own. Keep doing this a few times until they get the idea.
3. If you have a dog who doesn’t go in the crate after the food, you will need to use leash pressure to help them.
Applying steady leash pressure towards the crate opening until the dog goes in will help them understand what you want. If you’re using a wire crate, threading the leash through the top wires in the back of the crate will give you more leverage. As soon as the dog goes in, release the leash and praise. If they will take food, give them a little bit as an added reward. It’s a good idea to keep repeating the exercise until the dog is going in on their own with no hesitation. Depending on how resistant they are, you may practice for a while, so it’s a good idea to make sure that you aren’t in a hurry.
4. Keep your cool.
It can be frustrating to work with a dog who is fighting against what you want them to do, but it’s important to not get emotional. The crazier the dog gets, the calmer you should be. If you feel yourself getting upset take a break for a while and try again. If you feel as if the dog may need a break, give it to them and try again.
5. Adding a name.
Once you have your dog going in the crate willingly, it’s time to name it. We often use the word “Kennel”, but you can use any word you want to. As the dog is going the crate you want to say for example “Kennel, followed by good boy/girl”.
Creating & Reinforcing Calm Crate Behavior
It can be easy to get in the habit of letting our dogs out of the crate when they are excited, especially if they have been crated for a while.One thing you want to be aware of it that you are rewarding your dog for excitement if you let them out while excited. If you are just getting up in the morning, wait a while before letting your dog out. If you are still potty training, you may need to get up a little earlier to prevent accidents. Once you go up to the crate, only open the door if your dog is calm, if they are wildly bouncing around walk away, and try again. Open the crate door, and have your dog wait to let out or leashed. If your dog goes to rush out of the open crate, firmly close the door on them to get them to wait. How firm you close the door, will depend on the individual dog. Once your dog is waiting patiently, then you can let them out.