Step by Step Crate Training

Today Enzo, the golden retriever mix puppy, is going to help me explain how to train your dog to happily go into, and spend time resting, in their crate. Even if you are not planning on having your dog spend a ton of time in their crate I believe crate training is an important life skill for any dog to know.


Crate training can help with potty training, destructive behavior, and it gives your dog a happy safe space to spend time. In addition, there is almost no chance that your dog will never see a crate in their lifetime. Having your dog crate trained will help reduce stress when they are at the vet, at the groomers, or at the kennel. I could probably write an entire post about when the crate can be helpful, but that is not the point of this post.


The goal of this blog post is to walk you through one method of crate training. There are lots of ways to teach your dog to be happy in their crate but this this is my favorite. Your dog learns to go into the crate when asked, and then lie down a relax. This method is appropriate for older dogs and puppies. You can also use it for dogs who have previously had adverse experiences in the crate- just go extra slow between each step for those dogs!


I would recommend that you expect to spend a couple weeks working on this. If you rush it will take even longer for your dog to happily relax in their crate.


Now, before you get stated make sure the crate you are using is the appropriate size for your dog. The selected crate should be 6” taller, and 6” longer than your dog. He should be able to turn around, sit down, and stretch out comfortably. If you have a puppy buy a large crate that will accommodate his adult size, and then insert the crate divider to make it a little smaller for now.


For all steps listed you should use your dog’s most favorite treat cut up to be about the size of a pea. Each step builds upon the previous one so make sure you go step by step. If your dog is struggling with a step just go back to the previous one for a little longer.


Step 1

Put your dog’s crate bed or crate pan on the floor in the middle of the room. Walk around the bed. Anytime your dog has their feet on the bed click and deliver a treat.


Treat delivery for the entirety of this process should come from the bed. This means that instead of handing your dog the treat from your hand, put the treat on the bed between your dog’s feet.


Repeat this process until your dog knows to go onto the bed, with all four feet, anytime you walk towards it.


Step 2

Step 1 and 2 are similar, but we are now creating duration on the bed.


When your dog goes onto the bed with all four feet click and treat. Then a second later deliver another treat, and another second later another treat, and another second later deliver another treat. Deliver the treats frequently enough that your dog is not moving off the bed in-between rewards. Now, when you’re ready for your dog to get off the bed, say your release word (in this case “ok”) clearly, and toss a treat. It is important that your dog realize they are staying on their bed until they are told they can get off.


Repeat until your dog will stay on the bed for a minute or two duration.

Step 3

The only difference between steps 2 and 3 of this process is the location of the bed. Bring the crate out and put the bed right in front of it. Now, with the bed in front of the crate repeat step 2.


Step 4

Continue with step 3, but gradually move the bed into the crate. If your dog is starting to struggle to go onto the bed as you move it into the crate either move the bed much more slowly, or go back to step 3 for a while longer.


Step 5

This is the step where you will likely need to spend the most time.


Ask your dog to go into the crate, give them a treat, close the crate door for half a second, open it, and deliver another treat. Then release your dog. Repeat this a couple of times, then take a break.


As your dog becomes more comfortable you can open and close the crate door several times before releasing your dog. Do this lots and lots of times before moving on.


Step 6

Step 6 is what will begin to look like your final desired crate behavior. Your dog goes into the crate, he lies and relaxes, and stays there until you let him out. For this step, you will ask your dog to go into the crate, reward him, then give him a yummy stuffed Kong, and close the door. As your dog eats the Kong stay close by. Open the crate door before your dog starts to fuss or cry.


If you try this step and your dog starts fussing quickly after you give him the Kong and close the door, you should continue to practice step 5.


As you do this more and more you can slowly add to the amount of time your dog is in the crate, and then you can also start moving around and doing things as they are in there.



Happy Training!





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