Crate training has become one of the major fundamentals in training your dog or puppy. From potty training to trick training, the use of a crate can be a major building block and tool to reach successful and reliable behaviors from your canine companion. The crate can be a useful tool and help manage life with a dog in the home. However, using the crate in a proper manner means teaching your dog or puppy to not only go in on his own, but to love being inside his crate!
Step One, Step In
It is best to use a high value treat, such as real meat or cheese to begin crate training your puppy. A high value treat is something your pup would really love, but should be in very small pieces that are quickly eaten so as not to distract your dog for too long. This will help your pup to develop a positive association with his crate.
Toss a treat into the opening of the crate, just inside the door. Your pup should have to put his head inside to pick it up, but not walk in just yet. When he gets the treat, you can click your clicker or say “Yep!” to let him know he did a good job. Repeat this a few times before moving on.
Next, toss the treat into the middle of the crate. The goal is to encourage your pup to set both front feet into the crate to get the treat. If he only leans in without putting his feet inside, toss the next treat in further. If he hesitates after getting the treat to investigate the crate, even for a moment, click or say “Yep!” and reward him yet again. Hand him the treat while he is still inside, not when he steps out! If he willingly steps all the way in, do it again! He is catching on that being in the crate is a good thing.
The last part to the first step is tossing the treat all the way into the back of the crate. He must place all four feet in the crate to get the treat and turn around to come back out! For every two seconds or so that he remains in the crate on his own, he should be rewarded. He will eventually need to come back out, though, to continue this exercise. You can toss a treat a few feet away from the crate for him to fetch, then continue.
Closing the Door
You don’t want to slam the crate door on your pup or make him feel nervous about being closed up in the crate. This is why it is important to help him become comfortable in the crate and trust that it’s not only a safe place but a comforting place to be.
Toss the treat all the way into the back as done before. When your dog is all the way and eating his treat, gently close the door, but don’t lock it yet! Right after closing it, hand your dog a treat through the crate bars or drop one in so he can easily get it. Then, open the door back up so he can come out if he wishes. If he stays, reward him for every two to three seconds he remains in. As you may have done previously, you can toss a treat out on the floor for him to fetch so you can repeat this practice.
When you think your dog is comfortable with the door closed, you can ask him to stay in for longer periods, periodically giving him a treat and opening the door. This is so that instead of feeling trapped, he will feel safe!
Many dogs can become fully crate trained in one to two days, but always go at your dog’s pace. Keep each training session short, under 15 minutes! Short sessions mean your dog won’t get bored and will always look forward to the next sessions!