Too often, people just put their dog into a crate and close the door. This usually creates a bad first experience, and the dog has no desire to go in again. It is important that you take the time to TEACH your dog to love the crate.
Being in a crate involves building comfort with three separate components:
- being confined
- loss of choice
- the potential for social restriction
It is vital to address each separately to successfully acclimate your dog and make them comfortable in a crate. There are fun and easy training games to play with your dog for each of these. They gently build the dog’s tolerance using manageable steps while working at your dog’s pace. Getting a hand with actively teaching your dog to enjoy a pen or crate can make the process much easier and get great results in a much shorter period. Do you want a hand teaching your dog to love the crate?
Build a Positive Association to the Crate
You can also passively condition your dog by offering them something fantastic in the crate. Here are a few rules to live by when getting started:
- Make sure the item will keep them busy for a while. A quickly gobbled treat won’t work.
- Your dog needs to LOVE the item. Whether a special food destuffer or an extra-tasty chew, it must be really good to build value for being in the crate.
- They only get the item in the crate – don’t give it to them elsewhere. You want the positive association to be created in the crate.
- Short, regular sessions are best. Do it a few times a week rather than once a month.
- Do NOT close the door – yet. Not being able to leave the crate is a more advanced step. Your dog must not feel trapped in their early experiences.
For this passive training, you can place the item into the crate first and then move away from the crate so they don’t think it’s a setup – and you will lock them in. I like to lock the item in the crate first. Usually, the dog will then begin trying to get into the crate. You can then open the door and let them in. Rather than having to lure them, they want to go in!
After doing this for a while, you can just show your dog the special crate goody, and that’s their cue to go in on their own. Once your dog happily goes into the crate without needing to be lured, they are ready for the next step.
Check out A Day With Dogs for more articles on crate training.