To crate or not to crate? THAT is the question!
Crating training dogs is a long debated topic and ultimately comes down to personal choice. Like anything, crates can be used in the wrong way (the incorrect size or used as a punishment, for example) but when trained and used in the RIGHT way they can be a valuable resource in your pup training kit! Teach your dog to LOVE his crate!
So, why to crate? Here are a few reasons:
** If you have a puppy or a dog who is prone to chewing or even swallowing random objects when you aren’t around to supervise them then crating keeps them SAFE. In the time it takes you to nip to the shop a determined pup might have chewed though a shoe, swallowed a child’s toy or pulled a hot drink off of the side!
** It becomes another safe, calming zone for your dog. Check out our recent blog post on promoting calmness in your dog. A crate is a great example of a safe space for chewing on a kong or long-lasting treat.
** A dog who loves to spend time in his crate is wonderfully prepared in case they ever need future rest following surgery or an injury. Vet advice in these circumstances is often rest (at least for a period of time). The crate provides a safe space that your dog is happy and comfortable in whilst restricting them from jumping and leaping around!
** Crate training can help you toilet train your puppy at night
So how do you teach your dog to love his crate? Try this 10 step process:
As we would introduce any new object to our dogs, we use the shaping method:
STEP ONE: At first place the crate somewhere where the dog’s human family spend a lot of time such as the lounge. Equip it with something comfy to lie on, a non-toxic cooling mat in the hot weather and a bowl of water. To make sure the crate is cosy and inviting, ensure that it is covered on all sides but the entrance.
STEP TWO: Bring your dog into the room and sit down next to the crate.
STEP THREE: To begin with reward any interaction with the crate. At first this might be a glance or a step towards it. Reward by using your marker word such as “good” or “yes” and then throw a piece of food out away from the crate for your puppy to eat. When they move back towards the crate, repeat.
STEP FOUR: When your dog starts to realise moving closer to the crate is the idea of the game then they will gradually get closer and closer and eventually put a paw or a nose inside. This should get a big jackpot reward from you (at least two or three pieces of food and lots of verbal praise).
STEP FIVE: Over time make it harder for your dog. Only reward when they are touching the crate, then only when they have two paws inside and eventually only when they are fully inside.
STEP SIX: Once your dog reliably goes into the crate 100% of the that time you play the game then add in a cue such as “go to bed” or “in your crate”. You can then start to build a bit of duration – reward by throwing the treat out when they have been in there for 2 seconds, then 5 seconds and so on.
Top tip: When building duration don’t just make it harder and harder for your dog. Try 2 seconds, then 10 seconds, then 3 seconds, then 15 etc. This keeps the dog guessing and the game fun!
STEP SEVEN: When you can see your dog is comfortable in the crate you can offer them a chewie or a kong to enjoy and close the door for a few seconds.
Top tip! Build duration with the door closed in the same way as above!
STEP EIGHT: You can then start to experiment with leaving the room and eventually leaving the house.
STEP NINE: When you have reached STEP SIX let your dog have free access to the crate during the day whilst you continue with the short training sessions. Leave treats in there when pup isn’t looking for them to find later
Top Tip: Keep sessions short (a few minutes at a time) and fun! If you feel pressurised to hurry the process then your dog will also feel that pressure and it might make the training harder.
STEP TEN: There is no set time frame to complete this training. Some dogs might race through these steps in a single weekend and others might take a few weeks. Tailor the steps to suit your dog’s individual needs and never shut your dog in their crate and leave them before they are ready.
Top Tip: When you start using the crate to keep your dog safe when you leave for short periods then consider saving a special chew or kong that they really like for these occasions. Never use the crate as a punishment, only a happy place.
Top Tip: When crate training a puppy make sure someone is available to give them frequent age-appropriate toilet breaks. This reduces the risk of them having to go to the toilet in their crate and strengthens your toilet training
So there you have it! The 10 steps towards teaching your dog to LOVE his crate.
Click here for your own FREE crate training cheat sheet to stick to your fridge click here (p.s it comes with BONUS TIPS!)