Dogs Trust

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Crate training your dog

Crate training can be a very useful way to give your dog a comfortable den all of their own where they can relax and enjoy feeling safe. Crates can also be useful when you have guests who are worried about dogs, when travelling with your dog or should they ever need to be confined during recovery from surgery or following an accident.

Teaching your dog to enjoy spending time within a crate, even when you don’t really need them to, prepares them for any time when you might. Most dogs quickly and easily learn to love having their own special space to chill out in!

A coach putting a puppy in a crate
  1. Choose a crate large enough for your dog to be able to stand up, turn around and lie down fully stretched, and one which you can easily pack down, carry, transport and set up again if necessary.

  2. Position your dog’s crate in a calm, quiet place where they’re unlikely to be disturbed when relaxing inside.

    Make it as cosy and comfortable as possible with your dog’s bed, blanket and a non-spill water bowl inside. You can also cover the top and sides with a blanket too to exclude draughts and reduce sounds from outside. Fix the door securely open so there’s no risk of your dog accidentally being shut inside while they’re learning about it. 

  3. Don’t try to encourage them inside so you don’t risk putting them off but simply allow your dog to become used to the crate being there, sniffing it or even venturing inside as they wish, in their own time.

    Have some treats ready so that if they do go inside you can throw them in a couple to celebrate – and if they seem a little reluctant then throw them some treats whenever they’re near the crate, so they associate it with nice things happening.

     

  4. Start to encourage your dog to explore inside by preparing some of your dog’s favourite treats and tossing them out into the room for your dog to chase and eat, then simply throw the next one into the crate so they dash in to get it, knowing they can safely come straight out again. If your crate has a roof you can open this and drop treats in through here. Keep repeating this until your dog is enjoying running into the crate, expecting to find tasty treats. If your dog prefers, you could use their toy instead of treats.

     

  5. With the door securely held open, so your dog can be confident there’s still a way out, keep throwing treats into the crate quickly while your dog is still inside to keep them there.

    They’ll be learning that staying inside their crate is the quickest and easiest way to keep on eating and should soon start to wait for more treats to appear. Now you can start to eek out the time between throwing in each treat, so your dog learns to enjoy waiting inside, looking forward to their next reward.

  6. Start to feed your dog their usual meal inside the crate. Simply place their food inside and let them go in to enjoy eating it. Once you’ve done this for a few mealtimes, close the door to a very slightly ajar position when your dog is eating, so they can still exit if they need to.

    It might feel different being inside with the door almost closed, so always go at your dog’s pace and if they look worried just go back a stage.

    Once they confidently eat their meal inside start to secure the door while they’re eating, and when they’ve finished use the roof opening or slightly open the door to toss a few treats in one at a time, again gradually eking out the time in between, so your dog learns to stay in their crate for longer without their main meal.

    Aim to drop a treat in when your dog is calm and quiet, because this is the behaviour we want when they’re in their crate.

  7. Practice during times when your dog has been exercised and is naturally tired, so they’re ready to completely relax and even go to sleep inside their comfy crate.

    By this stage you should be seeing them visibly relax, knowing they’re in a safe place and that good things happen here – they might even choose to rest here of their own accord because you’ve made them feel so happy in there.

    You can give your dog tough rubber toys designed to be filled with food that they can take time to lick out, or long-lasting tasty chews, within the crate while the door is closed, to give them different opportunities to enjoy spending more time within their crate.

  8. The more you practice, start to engage in other household activities while your dog is inside their crate. It’s important that they still feel comfortable inside when you’re busy outside – this will be useful should you ever have visitors who are worried about dogs for example, and you need to pop your dog inside their crate for the duration of the visit.

    It’s also important that the crate is never used as a punishment. A dog can’t understand the reason for this and might start to feel unhappy about being in the crate, excluded from the fun they were having moments before! Adult dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than 4 hours. Even though a dog might really love their crate, they shouldn’t spend too much time inside as they might become stiff and might also need the toilet!