Crate Training Your Dog: Creating a “Home Sweet Home” atmosphere

I’ve been working with many new puppy parents, as well as families that have recently adopted adult dogs. From each and every one, I’ve received the proverbial crate question: “What do you think about me crate training my dog?” Fortunately I have an answer: I think you should. Why? For a few reasons.

  1. Bedroom: Just like us humans, our domestic dogs need a place to call their own. And okay, sure, a crate may not be a large as an average bedroom – unless you’re in New York – but it can certainly serve a similar purpose: a safe, comfortable, warm, cozy environment where they can be by themselves.
  2. Retreat: A crate can also be that safe-haven “den” (or bedroom or crib) where they can retreat in times of stress. For instance, if you’re having lots of company, and your dog is overwhelmed, they can go off on their own, with a yummy chew toy, and chew until they fall fast asleep.
  3. Management: Those times when you don’t have time to train your dog, or supervise and monitor their behavior, a crate can act as confinement to help set them up for success. If they’re in their crate, they’re not roaming about eliminating on the new rug or chewing up furniture.
  4. Pet Preparedness: You never know when you might need to put your dog in a crate. Crate training is a huge part of Pet Preparedness. If you even need to evacuate because of disaster, many places will require that your pet be in a crate. As I teach my dog training clients, you want train it before you need it!

So, what are some of the best ways for you to get your dog used to their “sanctuary”? The training steps are pretty simple actually, but just like any new behavior, you need to teach them slowly, helping them create a positive association.

Creating a Home Sweet Home For Your Pooch: Crate Training Overview

  • How to make the crate the best place to be: The “Do’s”
  • Take the time to teach your puppy or newly adopted adult dog that their crate is a fun, safe, relaxing place to be. Make it comfortable with bedding the individual dog finds comfortable (not what we humans think is)
  • Make sure the crate is large enough for your pup to be able to stand up turn around, and get comfortable. 
  • Teach your pup to associate their crate with all good things. 
  • Start slow and easy – treats for looking at the crate, going into the crate, then staying in the crate – for only a few seconds at a time. While you’re still there with them. 
  • Keep the door open until your pup is going in their on his own. Once your pup is going in on their own, you can begin closing the door, feed treats through the door. Let your pup out, then all treats stop. He’ll soon learn that being in the crate is much more fun than being outside of it. 
  • Feed him his meals in the crate 
  • Chew bones in the crate 
  • Food toys in the crate
  • Crate’s can still be used for a “Time Out” since the punishment is more about losing out on something the dog wanted, like freedom or playing with a family member or friend. A Time Out for a dog should only be for about 20 seconds. And, if they already have a positive association with their crate, and 99% of the time good things happen in their crate, then they shouldn’t end up hating their crate. Just like when children are sent to their room, its not the room they hate but the fact that they lost out on participating in some other activity. 
  • How to teach your puppy or newly adopted dog to hate their crate: “The Do NOT’s” 
  • Refrain from shoving your pup into the crate and slamming the door, and walking away. 
  • Refrain from pushing your dog into the crate and leaving them there on their own, after never being left alone before. 
  • Refrain from leaving them in the crate for so long that they soil their crate. 
  • Refrain from using the crate for punishment only. 
  • Refrain from using the crate as a “Time Out” because of house soiling or some sort of house destruction. The crate can and should be used for confinement when house-training. But, if a dog soils the carpet, it’s the humans fault, not the dogs. You don’t want to inadvertently punish your dog for greeting you when you get home. 
With time, patience, and consistency you too can get your dog to love their crate. You might create such a wonderful environment you’ll want to crawl in there too!