Crate Training Your Dog
Crate training your dog may take some time and effort, but can be useful in a variety of situations. If you have a new dog or puppy, you can use the crate to limit his access to the house until he learns all the house rules - like what he can and can't chew on and where he can and can't eliminate. Dog crates are also a safe way of transporting your dog in the car, as well as a way of taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely. If you properly train your dog to use a dog crate, he'll think his dog crate is a safe place and will be happy to spend time in his dog crate when needed.
The Crate Training Process
Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while dog crate training. Dog crates should always be associated with something pleasant, and training should take place in a series of small steps - don't go too fast.
Step One: Introduce your pet to the crate
Put the dog crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the dog crate. Bring your dog over to the dog crate and talk to him in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the dog crate door is securely fastened opened so it won't hit your dog and frighten him.
To encourage your dog to enter the dog crate, drop some small food treats near it and then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the dog crate. If he refuses to go all the way in at first, that's okay - don't force him to enter. Continue tossing treats into the dog crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the dog crate to get the food. If he isn't interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the dog crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days.
Step Two: Feeding your pet in the crate
After introducing your dog to the dog crate, begin feeding him his regular meals near the dog crate. This will create a pleasant association with the dog crate. If your dog is readily entering the dog crate when you begin Step 2, put the food dish all the way at the back of the dog crate. If your dog is still reluctant to enter the dog crate, put the dish only as far inside as he will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed him, place the dish a little further back in the dog crate.
Once your dog is standing comfortably in the dog crate to eat his meal, you can close the door while he's eating. At first, open the door as soon as he finishes his meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until he's staying in the dog crate for ten minutes or so after eating. If he begins to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly in the dog crate. Next time, try leaving him in the dog crate for a shorter time period. If he does whine or cry in the dog crate, it's imperative that you not let him out until he stops. Otherwise, he'll learn that the way to get out of the dog crate is to whine, so he'll keep doing it.
Step Three: Conditioning Your Pet For Longer Time Periods
After your dog is eating his regular meals in the dog crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine him there for short time periods while you're home. Call him over to the dog crate and give him a treat. Give him a command to enter such as, "kennel up." Encourage him by pointing to the inside of the dog crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the dog crate, praise him, give him the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the dog crates for five to ten minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time, then let him out of the dog crate. Repeat this process several times a day. With each repetition, gradually increase the length of time you leave him in the dog crate and the length of time you're out of his sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the dog crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight the majority of the time, you can begin leaving him crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting him sleep there at night. This may take several days or several weeks.
Step Four: Part A - Crating Your Dog When Left Alone
After your dog is spending about 30 minutes in the dog crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving him crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put him in the dog crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave him with a few safe toys in the dog crate. You'll want to vary at what point in your "getting ready to leave" routine you put your dog in the dog crate. Although he shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate him anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged, but matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give him a treat for entering the dog crates and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to him in an excited, enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low key. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so he doesn't associate crating with being left alone.
Part B - Crating Your Dog At Night
Put your dog in the dog crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the dog crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when he whines to be let outside. Older dogs, too, should initially be kept nearby so that crating doesn't become associated with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his dog crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer.