That’s almost always the answer I give when people ask if they should crate train their dog. Crate training is an important life skill.
Even if your plan is to never use a crate, crate training can ensure your dog’s safety and happiness.
Even if your dog doesn’t have a crate at home, there is almost no chance they will not be in a crate at some point throughout their life.
Some situations where you’d dog might end up being put into a crate:
- At the vets office
- Staying with a dog sitter
- At the groomers
- In the car
- On a plane
- If you are in an accident
- If they go missing and are picked up by animal control
While some of these things are more likely to happen than others, we don’t want your dog’s first time in a crate to be traumatic because didn’t prepare them for it.
Not only is your dog likely to spend time in a crate during their life, there are also several practical reasons why a crate helps you out.
Some situations where a crate is helpful :
- Potty training
- Having your dog take a nap
- Putting them inside when there are a lot of people over
- Separation anxiety
- Home alone safely for dogs who chew and aren’t potty-trained
- When there are, or will be kids in the home
When we put our dogs in the crate, there are essentially three things we want them to do.
- Go inside willingly
- Lie down and relax
- Stay inside of if for a period of time.
As you begin crate training your dog, it is important that they have a positive associate with their crate. Tolerating it because they know they are stuck there is not enough.
To make this happen, there are two simple and quick exercises you can do with your dog, no matter their size or age, that will jumpstart their crate training.
These exercises don’t take a lot of time or energy, but the payoff is big! If you are reading this before you started putting your dog into a crate, great! Try practicing these exercises for a week or two before you put them in their crate with the door closed. If you are reading this after you have already introduced your dog to the crate, great! You can supplement their normal crate routine for these exercise, and they will learn to love their crate even more!
Training Game 1: Treat surprise
- Set up your dog’s crate, and if they are potty-trained you can include a nice comfy bed.
- When your dog is looking at you, grab a handful of their favorite treats, and drop the treats in the crate.
- Let your dog go inside to get the treats, then walk away.
- After you have done this a few times, put treats inside your dog’s crate while they are not paying attention.
- Then, when they walk past their crate they smell the delicious treats, go inside, and find a big surprise.
This exercise is helpful because it teaches your dog to willingly enter their crate.
Not sure what treats to include? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Some great treat options can be found here, and include:
Training Game 2: Toppl and Chill
- Fill a toppl with your dogs favorite lockable food, and then put it in the very back corner of their crate.
- Walk away, or sit with them, as they eat the toppl
- If they go into the crate, and take the toppl out and eat it in a different location, that it ok too!
This exercise is helpful because it teaches your dog to stay in their crate for longer and longer periods of times, and to lay down and relax inside.
If you do not have a toppl you can use a kong! But, I prefer a toppl because it (1) is easier to clean, (2) the opening is larger, so it is less frustrating for your dog, and (3) the rocking motion and the soft silicone “spikes” in the middle make it take a while for your dog to lick every last drop of food out of the toppl.
Lickable is best for this game! Not sure of a lickable snack that your dog likes? Try these out:
- My favorite is to use canned dog food
- Peanut butter (be sure it is all natural and does not contain xylitol)
- Cream cheese or yogurt (careful! Introduce this in small increments at first, some dog’s stomachs do not do well with dairy)
- Find more options here!
If your dog eats at breakneck speeds and finishes the toppl faster than you can blink, you can also freeze the filled toppl before placing it inside the crate. But most of the time, this step is not necessary or helpful. Most dogs just wait for it to melt before eating it, which to eat it, the whole point of this game.
This is not supposed to be a game that is as challenging or takes as much time as possible. It supposed to be fun and easy for your dog. No frustration or challenge is needed for this to be effective. In fact, removing frustration and challenges make this exercise even more effective.
Utilizing these two exercises will easily allow you to teach your dog to go into their crate, lay down and relax ins their crate, and then stay in there for a longer period of time. All the pieces you need to crate train your dog!
You will know your dog has a positive association with their crate when you see them run inside as you walk towards it, and sleep in it at other times of day.
These games do not expire. You can start at any age. And you can play these games with your dog throughout their entire life. A puppy and a senior dog are both capable of entering a crate, and both should have fun doing it.
Wags and Happy training!
PS. Another great life skill for your dog is muzzle training, wondering why? Find out here!
© Leash and Learn 2020