Crate TrainingMike Romberger, CBCC-KA
Many dogs will naturally enjoy their crate and use it as a sleeping and resting area. Some dogs, however, may have negative feelings about their crate. It is up to you to make the crate a warm and inviting place. Getting a dog used to a crate can be a time-consuming activity, but it is time well spent in the end. Here are some steps to getting your dog acclimated to a crate. Whenever possible, you want to make the crate experience as positive as you can. Nevertheless, there are times that you may need to crate the dog before the dog is entirely comfortable in the crate.
Always start with the crate door open. Throw some treats into the crate to entice the dog to go in. Start by putting treats near the door and slowly work the treats to the rear of the crate. In between training sessions, hide some treats in the crate so if the dog goes in the crate, the dog will find a surprise. As the crate becomes a positive experience, your dog is more likely to go in the crate in the future. At this point in the training, you do not want to close the door on the dog. The idea is to get the dog comfortable in the crate. You may also feed meals to the dog inside the crate and keep some safe toys in there.
When you are confident that your dog is comfortable in the crate, begin using the cue “crate” with the dog. You will simply say “crate” and throw a treat in the crate. After the dog understands the meaning of the word “crate,” you can begin working on closing the door.
Before you start, you may want to put a toy in the crate to keep the dog occupied. Start by saying “Crate” and wait for the dog to enter crate. Gently close the door and wait one second. Open the door and give the dog a treat. Keep practicing this and slowly increase the time you close the door until you reach 8 to 10 minutes. When you are practicing, just go about your business and ignore the dog.
Next, start this process over. This time move out of dog’s sight after the door is closed. Again, start at one second and slowly work towards eight to ten minutes.
This process may take an afternoon or it may take a week or more. Every dog will be different. The key is to increase the amount of time in the crate gradually. If your dog begins barking or whining in the crate, you must ignore the dog. Any attention, positive or negative, the dog receives will reinforce the barking or whining. This may also be an indication that you increased the dog’s time in the crate too quickly. If this happens, take a break and try again later with less time for the dog in the crate. At no point should you ever release the dog from the crate when it is barking or whining. This teaches a behavior you do not want. To the dog, it means, “If I bark, I get out of the crate. Next time I am in the crate I’ll bark and I’ll be released.” For the dog, this is a great example of positive reinforcement – the dog performed a behavior (barking) and was reinforced (released from crate) for that behavior.
The final step of crate training is to continue increasing the amount of time you are away from the crate. After the dog is comfortable in the crate for about ten minutes, you increase the time in the crate 20-30% each time. Keep practicing until you reach the desired time.
The procedure listed above is the way you want to introduce to a crate. In reality, many obstacles may prevent you from crate training in this manner. Work and sleeping at night are just two examples. As was previously stated, it is up to you to make the crate as positive of an experience as possible.
©2013 Who's Your Doggie.
Mike Romberger is the owner of Who’s Your Doggie in Harrisburg, PA. Mike is a certified canine behavior consultant that specializes in rescue dogs. He has spent most of his career preparing dogs for adoption by modifying behavior through positive reinforcement methods. Mike can be found at www.WhosDoggie.com.