Crate training for dogs

Hey there dog lovers, just wanted to share some tips and info with you on how to successfully and enjoyably train your dog to willingly go into a crate. Crates can be a wonderful sanctuary for a dog at home, in the car, or when you travel. This training must be done with understanding and compassion if you wish to truly offer it as a sanctuary that can be utilized for small amounts of time while you are at work, running an errand, or to help dogs relax if they have become over stimulated or anxious.

It is much easier to start crate training when dogs are at a young age but adults can also be taught to utilize a crate. It is a wonderful gift to a dog if introduced properly. It becomes their “bedroom” that can go anywhere!

As with any dog training you want to make it fun and as enjoyable as possible for you and your dog. High value food and favorit toys can often be helpful and a positive way to get this training process started.

Be prepared to practice your patience when you start as it is a process. Don’t forget, each dog is an individual and will move at their own pace. It is of great importance that you believe in them and what you are training. Sometimes having the support of a trainer can be helpful in guiding you through some of the challenges that will come up. If you choose to crate train on your own, make sure you have a very clear plan that you truly understand and can follow through with otherwise it will be a confusing and frustrating experience for both you and your dog. There will be some bumps in the road as you and your dog work through learning this new knowledge together. Remember, the goal is to make the time to teach them that their crate is a good zone! Keep a good attitude as you work through this with your dog. Teaching and learning new information can be challenging at first for both you and your dog. Often crate training fails due to the vocal protesting (barking, whining, sometimes scratching) that occurs at the early stages of this process. People often feel like they are torturing their dogs. It is true that the dog does not understand what is going on in the first stages of this education process but they absolutely have the ability to learn. Your responsibility is to have a clear and compassionate plan of how to go about crate training. Seek proper instructions, reach out to educated dog folk who can help you navigate this process to help you succeed. Understand that this takes dedication, time, and energy to educate your furry family member. If you feel confident in what you are teaching then your dog will also pick up on this feeling and feel confident too. Proper crate training builds a confidence in your dog that they can be independently chill’n in their own private crate aka “cave” and all is safe, comfy and good with the world. In time your dog will connect the dots and learn what you are offering them and they will eventually seek it out all on their own.

Crate training is also a GIANT plus when you need to board your dog at a traditional kennel or an alternative dog care service like Moon Dog Lodge. A dog that has learned to practice independence through crate training is a more confident, happy, and balanced dog in general. This makes for a more enjoyable experience for both them and caregivers when your dog has to be away from their family.  And guess what, their sanctuary can always travel with them, what a gift!

Starting this learning off as a fun game and making sure you work with small time frames at the start of this training process are crucial to the success of this training. It must be a gradual building of larger time frames as you move through the process. Again, don’t forget, each dog is an individual and learns at their own pace. Be simple, clear, and consistent with your method.

When getting started, start off with leaving the door to the crate and every now and then when you walk by you can toss a high-value treat inside so they can get used to going in and out comfortably without having the door closed. You can also start off by putting their favorite toys in a crate while leaving the doors open so they know that their favorite toys will occasionally be in that area. Soon it will be a FUN zone to go and grab a snack (treats) or their favorite toy and help them to become more and more comfortable with going in and out of the crate. Do not hold back on praise! Let your dog know they are doing a good job going in the crate and grabbing a treat or their toy. YAY! Give them a love too! Small simple steps so the can adapt to going in and out of the space. Then start to offer feeding dinner inside the crate with the door open so they connect the dots that the crate equals another positive, a whole meal is coming!  When you feel like you are at the stage of closing the door you may experience some vocalization as mentioned.  The dog might even scratch at the crate and door and become physically agitated. Give your dog a minute or two to protest. Once you hear them pause and they quieted for roughly 2 seconds swiftly move to the crate and use the word “free” in a gentle calm voice as you open the door. Have a happy expression and a pleasant smile on your face. Offer plenty of vocal and physical praise when you can successfully move through these steps. A high value treat is also a delight for dogs and reinforces that they did a good job however small the step may be. Give your dog every opportunity you can to succeed in small portions.  This will start to help them connect the dots that that they are getting the lessons a little bit at a time.  This will take practice.

There are a large variety of different types of crates and bedding to choose from. This is an important area in this training process to research as the setup you choose for your dog can offer a great deal of support and success in this training process.

Below is a link where you can look at different options. I will also leave some bullet points steps that you can practice with your dog on a daily basis along with a few training sites that might be helpful.

Wishing you and your dog much success in building knowledge and a strong and loving relationship!

Steps for crate training

  • Have them walk in and out by tossing high value treats or toys inside the crate while the door is open. Have fun, make it a game. It’s much more enjoyable to learn when the activity is approached in a playful manner. Note, dogs need short training time frames and younger dogs sometimes need even shorter spans of focused training. If the dog or you start to get frustrated then stop. Next time dial back the time frame. Better to start with short bits of success then long fails. This will become discouraging for both of you. Keep it on the up!
  • Once you are at a stage where your dog is comfortable moving in and out of the crate, lead them into the crate with high value treats or a toy and practice closing the door for a minute and then open the door and say “free!” It is very important that you use a toy or treat that is safe. DO NOT give a dog something they can be destructive with or is small enough to be a choking hazard when they are inside the crate. This is dangerous and can lead to death!
  • As you move into longer stretches of closing the door, always wait for a couple seconds of quiet before letting your dog out with the word “free!” This is important as you do not want to reinforce the barking etc behavior. You want your dog to recognize that when they are calm you will respond and this reinforce your dog to connect the dots that settling is a positive. Then immediately follow your “free” with vocal praise “good job!” or a high value treat or play with them using their favorite toy. Let your dog know with praise and snuggles that they were successful, even if it was a small success. YAY, well done!!!

Link below for different crate styles to try out!

Please note, Moon Dog Lodge is not a training facility. We encourage all families to do be dedicated and thoroughly research training methods and tools for their own education and the education of their 4 legged family members. The above info touches on a portion of the crate training process.

More links are provided below to some videos of crate training.

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