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Crate Training Made Easy

A very important ‘first thing’ to teach your puppy or ‘new to you’ dog is to love his crate. Your pup’s crate is his sanctuary! Teaching your puppy to be comfortable in his or her crate will ensure that both you and your puppy get a good night’s sleep and will enable you to have a life away from pup without worrying about coming home to a destroyed house.

So many times I meet owners who have “felt sorry” for their pup and taken it out of the crate as soon as he makes one little peep. This innocent act of good intention resulted in an endless battle and stress filled life.  It doesn’t have to be this way … proper crate manners are easy to teach.

Teaching your pup how to enter and exit his or her crate and how to behave while in the crate can easily be incorporated into your daily training routine.  This issue presents some options and tips to help both you and PUP get the most out of the crate experience.

  1. Do you ever notice how some dogs like to rest under chairs or in small spaces? When presented properly, crates can easily appeal to your puppy’s natural denning instinct.
  2. Size matters! A proper sized crate will allow your PUP to stand up, turn around and stretch out full length when he lies down. If you want to avoid owning multiple crates of progressively larger size, buy a crate that will be the proper size when he is full grown. Use a space divider (cardboard or light weight piece of plywood) that can be adjusted as your pup grows.
  3. Proper sized crates can make potty training so much easier. Dogs and puppies do not naturally soil in their sleeping space. Be sure to take your puppy outside for a potty break just before crate time.
  4. DO NOT put pee pads in the crate to encourage pup to ‘soil in his den.’ Soiling in their den is unnatural and can be extremely stressful for your puppy.

Crate training doesn’t have to be difficult. It just takes an awareness of doing it!

ENTERING the crate:

  1. Place the crate in a location in your home that is easy for PUP to access,
  2. Leave the door open to allow access for PUP at all times.
  3. Add his favourite toys in the back so that he must enter the crate to play with a toy
  4. Feed all meals in the crate:
    • Sit on the floor in front of the crate;
    • Toss kibble into the back of the crate.
    • If PUP will not chase the kibble, place a piece of kibble between two fingers and lure him into the crate. Feed the kibble as soon as all four feet are inside the crate.
    • Praise pup when he rushes into the crate to consume the kibbles;
  5. Reward with a kibble from your hand and toss more kibble into the crate
  6. Repeat until PUP is rushing to his crate, anticipating the food game;
  7. Add a handful of kibble at the back of the crate;
  8. Toss in a few kibbles
  9. Close the door once he is in; gradually extend the rest period in the crate after he eats, before letting him out for a potty break.
  10. Repeat steps 7 – 9 for each meal.

EXITING the crate:

Teaching your PUP how to exit politely from his crate is just as important as teaching him how to go in.  The following steps are one option to create a PUP who exits his create calmly.

The goal is to set up an expectation in PUP’s mind that food is coming when you open the crate door:

  1. Sit or stand in front of the crate (depends on the size of the crate and PUP. Sit on the floor if your PUP’s crate is small).
  2. Drop one kibble at a time in the side and through the door of the crate to simulate ‘bread dropping from the sky.’
  3. Place a kibble in one hand and reach for the door with the other hand while PUP is scooping up the kibble that you have dropped in.
  4. As you open the crate door, present the kibble to PUP as you lure/shape him to “sit”;
  5. With your other hand, add more a few more pieces of kibble to the floor of the crate.
  6. When PUP has consumed the kibble, remain calm and is calm, release him to come out of the crate;
  7. Greet him with food from your hand as you shape him to sit.
  8. Calmly attach his leash and go quickly to the door for a potty break.

Occasionally, return him to the crate and repeat Steps 4. To 7, – only do this when you are certain that an urgent potty break is not required. You want pup to focus on YOU to know what to do next. Staying quiet and calm will show PUP that you are in control and all is safe.

Be sure to follow this procedure every time you let pup out of his crate. With consistency and repetition, PUP will sit before you touch the door and will look forward to a food reward and your gentle touch.

Keep your initial crate time short and positive – During your initial days and weeks with your new pup, practice following the steps to Enter/Exit the crate several times throughout the day.  Keep the rest intervals short and ONLY let PUP out when he is calm and quiet. This training will teach PUP the value of working for all food while building excellent crate manners for life!