Crate Training

The key to crate training is to make the crate the best, most comfortable place for your dog to be, we want to work with the dog's natural instinct to have a den. The way you can do this is by using a comfortable bed, a piece of clothing that has your smell and by covering the crate with a blanket to make it a cosy den for your dog.

Other ways to help your dog love their crate are to use it as their eating space. Start putting their food bowls in there every evening. Always give them positive feedback when they enter.

Not all dogs need to be crate trained but it's a useful skill to have, should they need to be admitted to the vets at any point it will be less stressful for them to accept being put in a cage or kennel if they are already used to using a crate. If you visit friends or family a familiar safe place can help them settle.

Where to start?

So to teach 'crate' you need some of your dog's normal kibble, toys or tasty treats to begin with I use small bits of chicken breast, later frozen kongs are useful

  • Start by simply rewarding your dog for going in the crate. Use a piece of food or a toy and throw it in. When your dog steps in- great, give your positive approval signal (use a word like 'yes' or click if you clicker train) as soon as your dog steps in.

  • Don't close the crate door at this stage, let your dog come and go as they please but as soon as they step inside remember the praise!

  • When you feel your dog is comfortable going in the crate add your verbal cue- 'bed' is a common cue to use, it's nice and short and easily memorable.

  • Start by saying 'bed' as you toss the treat inside, mark the correct behaviour (your dog stepping inside) with a positive 'yes' or click. You can also add a release cue too, like 'ok' when you see they are about to step out.

  • Repeat this exercise a couple of times until your dog consistently makes the decision to enter the crate when you say 'bed' and throw the treat.

Next Stage ...

  • The next stage is to get your dog to enter the crate with just the verbal cue. Stand close to the crate and say 'bed' your dog will look at you waiting for you to throw the treat inside, they need to work out for themselves what you want them to do. It can help if you look at your dog then look at the crate. Once they have got the hang of this and have discovered how great their crate is you can start thinking about closing the door.

  • Repeat this process a number of times until saying the word 'bed' results in your dog entering the crate. Click and reward each successful time.

Up the Ante

Find something extra specially tasty that they will need to work on. A kong toy filled with pate is good. Give the 'bed' command and wait for them to enter. Put the kong inside and close the crate door. At this stage do not leave! Stay with them and only keep the door closed for a few seconds at a time. If your dog is happily munching on the kong and not bothered about the door being closed you can leave it closed for longer, but stay in the room.

  • It's important to look out for your dog wanting out the crate and making sure they can get out when they feel the need to.

  • As you continue with this practice you can build up to leaving the room for a few seconds with the door closed. Don't say goodbye or give any indication you are leaving, when you return a few seconds later there is no need to make a fuss either. If your dog reacts to you leaving go back to building up the time your dog is happy with the door closed with you present.

  • You can then move on to building up the time you spend going out the room.

  • Rinse and repeat, always finish the session on a high and keep the sessions short and sweet.

Eventually you will be able to reliably leave your dog happily comfortable in their favourite place. Don't leave your dog for too long, they need your company too but they can be left for up to four hours without too much worry.