Man, if somebody told me to go lay in my bed I would kiss them on the mouth!
Some people feel a natural aversion to crates. But crate training is not the end of the world. Let’s think about what we’re asking our dogs to do — Go lay in their bed and take a nap. Sounds delightful to me.
Why crate train your dog?
At some point in their life, your dog will spend time in a crate. It may be:
- Grooming appointments
- Vet testing or overnights
- Boarding – they will be crated or in a kennel run.
- Injury – When bed rest is required
- Potty Training – the crate can be a wonderful tool. (Learn more at my Free Potty Training Workshop )
- Fear – a crate is the safest (and often the most comforting) place for them if they fear thunderstorms or fireworks.
As you know by now, I am a huge believer and lover of the crate. It's a powerful training tool and a place the dog can feel protected and safe. I start all my dogs in a crate from day one.
Because your dog will likely experience the crate at some point, they need to have a positive introduction. Socializing your dog to the crate should be part of your training.
How do I make the crate a positive, happy place?
One word – food.
If your dogs are anything like mine they love food. All new puppies and dogs that come to me take all meals inside the crate. Right off the bat, the crate is that awesome place where they get to eat.
I also have special treats that my dogs only get when they are in the crate. The list includes Kong stuffed with canned dog food, Cream cheese, leftover pizza crust, chicken, hotdog, leftover macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter. The key is to get super creative here.
Speaking of special treats, I'll give my dogs raw bones in the crate. They are a super special treat, AND they are gross. I do not want raw meat on my floor or around the house at all. The crate works perfectly!
Keep the Crate Zen
I was doing some research and confirmed that, legally, your dog can not own property. The crate serves as a space of one's own, so to speak.
- If a dog is new to the crate or having an exceptionally difficult time, I start them off as far away from the daily activity of the house as possible. In my home that is the spare bedroom. Removing external stimulation makes crate quiet and relaxing.
- Soothing music helps not only to calm, but also to quiet other noises. I'll play talk or classical radio in the room with the crate. The volume is not blasting, but it is loud to drown out external noises or busy activities indoors.
- If it seems your pup is still overstimulated cover the crate. This den atmosphere provides a sense of peace and safety. An overanxious dog may pull in the covering and tear it. Be sure to use an old throwaway sheet or blanket. If all your linens are nice, take a trip to the thrift store and get yourself a doggie cover.
Sit Mofo, Sit!
If the dog is still having a hard time after food and zen, we begin to integrate obedience training.
- (With an open door the whole time) have them go in the crate and do a sit for a treat. Release them to come outside the crate. Then send them back inside the crate and do another sit for a treat. Repeat.
- Once sit in the crate is mastered, I up the ante and do the same protocol for the down command in the crate. Repeat.
- Once that is going really well I teach them to do a down-stay in the crate and then release them to come outside. Repeat.
Notice the word REPEAT. Practice 5-10 short sessions a day, and expect this process to take several days to a week. Each dog is different and repetition is the key to effective dog training.
On days that I stay at home, I still give my dogs a few hours of crate time. Staying consistent in behavior and training allows the dog to get used to a routine.
A routine is relaxing – Don't you feel calmer when know what is going to happen in your life? When I'm home and the doggos are in the crate I can focus on my zillion other tasks and they have a safe place to take a nap.
Everybody wins!There are no “bad” dogs, just mofos with problems. Problems generally have solutions, and I’ve encountered them all. ( Check out my easy, 30-minute Potty Training workshop.)