Crate Training

The Crate is Great

Safe Space

You might not plan to use a crate on a regular basis, I don't crate my own dogs, but it's a useful skill to have, and I really believe EVERYONE should at least do some introductory crate training. 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.

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 puppy'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. Place the crate close to where you spend most of your time.

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.

For the next exercise it will be helpful to have both high value rewards and some lower value rewards, so chicken and some kibble.

Step One

Start by simply rewarding your puppy for going in the crate. Use a piece of high value food or a toy and throw it in. When your puppy steps in- click and reward. Reset by calling your puppy and reward with praise or kibble. Repeat until your puppy realises the crate is the best place for high value rewards. You will know this step is complete when your puppy heads into the crate before you throw the treat there.

Step Two

Step two is to reward staying in the crate. Click as they enter but instead of immediately calling your puppy, keep giving high value rewards at a fast rate, until they step out. Don't ask for a stay, just let them stay in for as long as they are comfortable. Release them by calling on them after 10 high value rewards if they look like they want to stay there all day. Repeat this 5 times when the puppy is out after the fifth repetition, close the crate door so they can't immediately go back in.

Step Three

Step three- Hopefully by now your puppy is keen to get back in the crate. Build some excitement by holding your puppy back as you open the crate door. You can then 'ready, set, go bed' and release them to get in the crate. Click and huge praise with high value rewards when they enter.

Step Four

Step four – Once they have mastered wanting to be in the crate, we are going to start closing the door. At meal times place their bowl in and close the door while they eat their meal. Open the door as soon as they are finished, you can remove the bowl and use a release word like 'ok' or 'free'.

Step Five

Step five – Leave the crate door open for your puppy to come and go as they please, except during meal times. Now we can start adding in special treats, something a bit longer lasting, for example a kong stuffed with pate and frozen. Make sure it is something your puppy loves. Wait until your puppy enters the crate and give them the kong, close the door but remain within sight. Be ready to open the door when they finish.

Step Six

Step six – Start moving around the house and doing other things during 'kong time'. Make sure you can hear if your puppy gets distressed.

Step Seven

Step seven – Go through your normal leaving routine during 'kong time', brush your hair, pick up keys, put on a jacket, step out the front door, come straight back in. You want to desensitise your puppy to these 'triggers' that indicate you might be leaving.

Step Eight

Step Eight – Add duration. Take a few minutes doing some gardening, while your puppy remains closed in the crate with their kong, don't make a big fuss about leaving or coming back in.

Step Nine

Step Nine – Repeat the exercises in step one and two periodically. We want the crate still to be rewarding and not just associated with you leaving.

Step Ten

Step Ten – When your puppy is fully loving their crate you can start leaving them for longer periods, but not so long that they are forced to eliminate in the crate.