Crate Training in 8 Easy Steps

“Need to Know” Key Points

  • Crate training isn’t “imprisoning” your dog. It teaches them responsibility and calms anxiety. Read up on anxiety here and determine if your dog has it.
  • Create positive associations for crate training through the use of rewards and games.
  • Be patient — crate training can sometimes take months or much less if you contact us.

We all want a well-mannered dog that doesn’t tear things up and goes to the bathroom outside — and crate training is an important part of that. It creates a safe and relaxing environment for your dog that teaches them responsibility and independence.

While many people view crates through the human perception of being “caged up,” dogs are naturally den animals and enjoy being in small, enclosed places. It provides a sense of security and calms anxiety.  We can all relate to that, right?

I sat down yesterday with Alyssa Megias, our Lead Trainer, for her advice on crate training your dog step by step.

Step 1: Choose the Correct Crate for Training Your Dog

“You want to get one that’s durable, comfortable, and flexible with whatever training you’re doing,” says Alyssa. She recommends investing in a quality enclosed crate, and notes, that you don’t buy a crate that is too big for your dog. “Depending on how big your dog is going to get, buy the right crate for their adult size,” he advises. “Then get a divider so you can build the space and grant them more and more space.”

Step 2: Establish a Relaxed Mindset

“The more dogs associate the crate with a relaxation, the more they’ll enjoy hanging out in there,” says Alyssa. If you put the dog in the crate when they’re playing, then they’ll want to come back out and continue to play. But if you bring them in it when they’re calm, they will likely view it as a place of rest. Start by bringing them in for 10 minutes at a time and work your way up from there.

Step 3: Figure Out How Your Dog Will Be Most Comfortable

Some people use dog beds or towels to create a comfy environment, but that isn’t always the best option. Once again, it’s trial and error. “Depending on the dog you have, they may tear a dog bed apart or they may use it to pee on,” she warns. “It’s not a bad thing for them to just sleep on the crate mat itself. Dogs actually do prefer hard surfaces believe it or not.”

Safe and Sound in my three-sided crate!

Step 4: Stimulate the Dog After They Go Into the Crate

Positive association rules for crate training. One of Alyssa’s go-to tricks is giving the dog a Kong toy filled with peanut butter that he’s put in the freezer. “When they’re hanging out in the crate, they have something that stimulates them, but they have to put time into working down the frozen peanut butter,” she says. It gets the dog used to being in the crate for an extended periods of time, while also associating it with an enjoyable activity.

Step 5: Keep an Eye on the Clock

Your dog needs time outside the crate to play, eat, and use the bathroom. Dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep, but if there’s too long of a stretch without a break, they might end up doing so.

Step 6: Play Crate Games

The dog can’t see the crate as a negative place. To ensure this, incorporate the crate into fun games where the pup goes in and out of the open crate at their own will. Alyssa likes to hide treats inside the crate for her dogs to find.

Step 7: Set Your Dog Up for Success

Once you are ready to give your dog more time inside the crate, do it in small steps. “You don’t want to go out to dinner for five hours,” warns Alyssa. “Just go get a cup of coffee at first and return home.” She also encourages using your home security camera to determine what your dog does while you’re gone. “Are they anxious? How anxious are they? Are they constantly pacing? Or are they chilling out?” she says. “The more you know the better — and when you come back, you can reward them.”

Step 8: Be Patient

Prepare yourself for sometimes months of training (Worst case!). There will be ups and downs since dogs aren’t linear learners, but success will come, says Alyssa. “It may feel like you’re banging your head against the wall, as long as you stay calm and consistent in your practice, your dog will settle into things and you’ll have the opportunity to reward them.”

Yes!…Your dog can look like this too.