Tips From A Pro: Jessica Moll- Registered Vet Technician
There are a lot of different reasons why people want to crate train their puppies or dogs. Despite the “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” mentality, you can train dogs at any age, especially if you make it a positive and inviting experience. The key is to get your dog to see their crate as a safe space to escape to - much the same way your bed is your place to relax and escape. It is imperative that the crate is NOT used for ANYTHING else. Too many people shove their noisy or whining pup in their crates where they cry as they’re ignored. If you start to use it for punishment, this pretty much guarantees a stressful, frustrating exercise for both trainer and trainee. Below are steps that can ensure positive results.
Place the crate in an area that your dog spends a lot of time in - if you treat it like another piece of furniture, your dog will grow accustomed to it and therefore alleviate distrust and suspicion. Leave the crate door open, fill it with a cozy blanket, a couple toys and treats - I suggest Bullwrinkles Liver Lovers. Let your dog approach it on their own without influence - do not try coaxing them into it. You’re trying to teach that it is their choice: their space. Some dogs will willingly go inside and sniff around, others need that push with additional treats. For the dog who need an extra push, place a few more Liver Lovers in front and around the crate. Keep up this process until your dog feels comfortable going inside. This doesn't always happen overnight, but it is very important to be patient and let them do it on their own.
The Power of Persuasion
After your pup gathers the courage to go in and out of it a couple of times, the next step is to get them comfortable with staying in it for longer periods of time. This can be accomplished by using food to create a positive association with the crate. As pretty much all dogs LOVE meal time, you can start by putting each bowl of food at the back of the crate. Again, just place it back there and let your dog explore - DON’T try to encourage them. If you started with a pup who was hesitant or slightly spooked about going to the back of the crate when it was first introduced, start by placing the food closer to the front of the crate, gradually moving the bowl further back as the days progress.
Closing The Crate
Once your dog is comfortable eating at the back of the crate without stress or nervousness, it’s time for them to adapt to closing the crate. Continue doing this each time, gradually leave your pup in the crate a couple of additional minutes after each meal as over the course of the next few days.
If your pup is whining and putting up a fight, slowly open the door and do not leave him as long the next time. If he starts complaining at the previously allotted time, let him whine, wait until he stops and then open the crate. This way you are not teaching him that whining makes the crate open.
Longer Crated Periods
Once you have mastered the steps above and your pup is spending more time in the crate stress-free, it is time to try getting out of sight when they are crated. Use a Liver Lover or favourite toy to encourage them to get into the crate and close it. Sit beside the crate for a few minutes and then venture off to another room in the house where you can not be spotted by your dog. Return to the crate and sit beside it again for a few minutes before opening. Once your pup has reached the hour mark of being in the crate without seeing you, they are ready to be left for short periods of time or overnight.
Coming and Going
There a couple more factors in the success of long-term crate training. The first is to remember to avoid excitement. Encouragement and praise can be used when asking them to go in, but don’t overdo it. When you get home and they are super excited to see you, ignore them for the first minute while you put your stuff down and take your coat off, then proceed to the crate.
Crate training can be a slow process, but a very successful one if completed with patience from start to finish. Ensure that your crate is large enough for your pup to stand up, sit down and completely turn around in. Also, ensure you use a highly palatable (extremely stinky and tasty) treat to train with, you want to keep them focused and happy about the process. This is why I recommend Bullwrinkles Lover Lovers.