Guidelines in crate training your dog

11 Jun

I am a huge fan of crate training, but I was not always like this.  Up until a few years ago, I thought that crating dogs was cruel.  Then, due to financial reasons, I moved into a friends house for two years who is a professional breeder (Portuguese Water Dogs) and a master groomer.  It was there that I learned the facts about crates and how to properly train and use them.  Now I swear by them and will never not-crate train my dogs.

Dogs, by nature, are den-dwelling animals.  Secluded cave-like environments provide them with the same security as their non-domesticated ancestors.  Properly crate-training your dog is the key to a happy, crate-loving pet.  Young puppies are by far the easiest to crate train.  They have not yet learned what the freedom of a house is about.  Plus they still have faint womb-like security instincts within them.  Therefore, a cozy, dimly lit, and quiet spot is so safe, secure, and relaxing.  However, as they get older and start learning that the world is full of surprises and is such a fun place to be, they may start protesting when it comes time to be crated.  So when they have reached this stage, or if you a just now starting to crate train an adult dog, here are a few very important and critical items to always follow.  Remember, consistency is the KEY to training your dog ANYTHING….

1.  Never, ever punish your dog by putting them in a crate.  This is the most important rule to remember.  Dogs learn by association, and as soon as they start identifying crates as punishment, then you are doomed.

2.  Always feed your dog in their crate.  This is assuming that you have a feeding time for your dog, and do not leave the food out for their convenience.  I have done both and much prefer the scheduled feeding.  It provides routine to their life, and they never “snub” their food.  Eating begins as soon as the bowl hits the floor, and does not stop until it has been licked clean.  Plus it is much easier to manage their intake thus avoiding a future over-weight dog.  Feeding your dog in their crate gives them a positive association to the crate.  Crate = food (YUM) = positive experience.  It’s a rare creature who does not look forward to eating.

3.  Treats.  My dogs get treats in only two manners.  One is in their crate, and the other is a reward for “working.”  Which working refers to some sort of training (for me either agility or obedience) or a trick (a simple handshake is enough).  Again, simple association.  Obviously, every time you crate your dog it is not going to be dinner time.  So especially in the early stages of crate training, if it’s not dinner time, give them their favorite treat.  Crate = treat (YUM) = positive experience.

4.  Their crate is “THEIR” crate.  This mean setting it up with their favorite blanket, bedding and toy(s).  Crate = their things = positive experience.

In early stages of crate training, it is quite normal for them to start protesting very loudly.  And I mean, raise-the-roof loud!  This is one of the hardest parts of crate-training.  And it’s not necessarily because you feel bad for your dog – it’s because it is so annoying!  Here are some tips on handling the protesting:

5.  Do NOT let your dog start training you.  You are alpha, and it is critical they understand this relationship between the two of you.  If they start howling or barking, and you give in and let them out within minutes after they have started, your dog will very quickly learn, “Oh, if I bark, I will be let out.”  If you do this, your dog just trained you.

6.  Plan on finding something to do where you are further out of earshot of your dog.  Do some gardening, run the vacuum cleaner.  Anything to help cut out their protests to help you from “giving in.”

7.  Baby-steps.  Start with 15 minutes in the crate.  Then 30 minutes.  And so on.

8.  Quiet = coming out of the crate.  If they are carrying on when it’s time to let them out, don’t.  Kneel down in front of the crate and talk to your dog in a soothing manner until they quiet down.  Praise them in your most happy voice, then let them out and start loving away.  This is another positive association they will eventually pick up on about their crate.  Your dog is crying because  you are leaving them, and they feel helpless as they cannot follow you.  So the positive experience when releasing them also teaches them that you WILL return, and there is something good to look forward to after you return.


My two dogs LOVE their crates.  The crate doors are always left open when they are not being crated, and I will often notice I have a missing dog.  So I go check the doggie room, and there is the missing dog… snoozing away all content in their crate.

Soon, your dog will associate their crate as their “safe” place.  If they need to just “get away” from life, they have a secure place to go.  My two are living proof of this.


Posted by on June 11, 2011 in Dog Blog, Tips / Advice, Training


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2 responses to “Guidelines in crate training your dog

  1. Stacey

    August 29, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    This method works great if your dog is food motivated. I have a dog which is not. I can pour loads of treats in her crate, she ignores them. I can try to feed in her crate and she will walk away from it. I put her bed in there and her toys and a bone for her to chew on to keep her busy and she spent her whole time trying to get out. She eventually separated the two walls of my wire crate and got out. I got her a plastic one and she has just about chewed the closing mechanism off. I have yet to find something that will motivate her to associate her crate with something positive.

    • She speaks....

      August 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm

      This is absolutely true. All my dogs have always been food motivated so I have been fortunate in this regards. I have one friend in particular who has a Golden who has earned her Masters in agility – so he is very experienced in training dogs. He has a bad back and this Golden is even service trained to assist him with picking up items. Yet, he has an older, rescue Golden whose teeth are nubs because she has chewed through every crate she’s ever been in. He has never been able to successfully crate train the old rescue. So very tall baby-gates is what he uses to keep her in a certain area when needed. Sadly, there is no easy answer for these circumstances other than really getting to know your dog. What are the dogs happy times and things, and work on associating the happy with the crate. Even if it is having happy time outside the crate – but very near it – with a quick in and out of the crate (i.e. a toy). Some dogs can never successfully be crate trained, so then it’s a matter of adapting to the situation and figuring out what will work.


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