Whether you’re bringing home a new puppy, a new dog, or trying to train an existing dog to use a crate, there are plenty of ways to do this without traumatizing both yourself and the pup. Lots of love, patience, and observation go into most training exercises, and those are no less important for training your pup to use their crate daily.

Photo by Derek Story on Unsplash

It’s not always easy integrating a new dog into the household, or training an established one with new habits if it’s been a while since you’ve engaged them in those kinds of activities. All dogs are open to learning though, if you are, and are willing to, with the right motivation, learn what you have to teach them. Making training fun, appealing and positive are all great ways to get started in crate training, while following a few simple rules.

Crate training can either be a simple process or one that’s more involved depending on your pup and your level of involvement. Training them to love their crate, however, is an effective way to teach them they have haven within your home, a place where they can go which is theirs and theirs alone. Above all, a crate is a dog’s sanctuary and should represent a place of peace, quiet and security.

Not all dogs or puppies will like their crate at the onset, nor will they find the activities fun. This is where patience, time, and motivation come in handy. Most will fight you if you don’t have these tools in your back pocket, and forcing them to comply will only make things harder. Crate training often means to them they’re not with you, and this is a negative consequence, which sucks – because they’d rather be with you all the time! Try to keep it fun, positive, and upbeat, and soon you’ll have a pup that’s always happy to go in their crate, if not going in there on their lonesome during the day to hang out.

Tips To Crate Train Your Dog

Feed them in their crate. Feeding them in their crate lets them know that not only is the crate a quiet spot where they can enjoy something they love, but it’s a positive reinforcement technique much like using treats to mark a suitable behavior. This is a positive motivator that will have them looking forward to being in their crate for mealtimes, and will reinforce when you want to put them in their crate any other time with the lure of a treat.

Give them a toy which will entertain them while they’re crated. These can be toys such as kongs that are stuffed full of frozen peanut butter, so it takes a while for them to lick them clean, giving them a bit of mental and physical stimulation to keep them busy. This will also, if you stuff it with a portion of their meal, act like a snack, or positive motivator, much like feeding them in their crate.

Don’t give in to the crying. Yes, it’s hard. However, if you let them out when they cry (unless they’re causing damage to themselves), a light bulb will go off in their doggie brain that they’ve trained you to do what they want to do. This also gives them the reward they want the most. You! Make sure, of course, that it’s not something like needing to go potty or anything else important. Giving them time to potty outside before placing them in their crate will help you determine if this is the case, or if it’s something more urgent.

Have the crate door open during the day so they can come and go as they please. Don’t shut the door each time they go inside, that way they can explore, feel secure and not feel like it’s a negative thing to be shut away from the household if you’re home and they’re unable to spend time with you.

Use treats, much like the feeding and toys above, to lure them into their crate and use a cue word or phrase. A wonderful phrase to use would be “Kennel up!” or “Time for bed!”

Respect their space. Make sure you’re not invading their space while they’re in there. This is their haven and place to escape when they may feel overwhelmed with what’s going on in the household. Give them the courtesy that you would expect of anyone in your house with your room and leave them be while they’re in there.

Build their confidence while inside the crate. At first, leave them for about 5 minutes at a time. Return and praise, treat, or give positive reinforcement with low-key energy. Stretch out the times longer and longer until you are confident in their ability to be comfortable in their crate. Usually, it’s best to leave the house when you do this so they don’t hear you moving around. This is to teach them it’s okay to be alone, and you will be back.

Watch for any behaviors you have which are routine before leaving the house. Picking up your keys, putting on your coat, your shoes, etc. These are all habits we have before leaving the house, and something our dogs notice and get anxious about. This may cause your pup to get upset or distressed and associate the crate with you being gone, which they don’t like! This is where those distractions such as toys, food, or otherwise will help.

Photo by Derek Story on Unsplash

Types of Crates

There are tons of different crates out there to use, and you must find one that suits your needs, and your dog’s size. Make sure that you’re choosing one that will allow your dog to sit and stand comfortably, and lay down mostly stretched out. There are tall crates, long crates, small crates, wire crates, and airline crates to choose from, so make sure that you’re choosing the right one for your dog and they’ll be much happier for it.

Wire Crates

Wire crates are great if you’re wanting something within the house that isn’t too much of an eyesore and is easy to put together and transport. These come in a variety of sizes, from x-small to x-tall. I have a large greyhound at 98 lbs and he fits into an x-large crate that is longer than it is taller, while my saluki fits into a large crate just fine at 56 lbs. This makes them highly customizable on what you can find depending on your dog’s size.

These have a tray at the bottom that is easy to slide in and out for cleaning and typically come with a side and front door for easy positioning that makes them easier to maneuver. You can place blankets over these to make them more den-like for your pup to help them feel more secure or a crate cover, and they make a lot of beds to fit these perfectly.

Airline Crates

These are crates that airlines use to ship dogs in, and are ones that you typically see with solid sides, tops and bottoms with wire windows, and a wire door. These are best for those that are transporting over distances, flying dogs, or for those that want something that is more den-like for their dog when wire crates won’t do the job for them. These crates usually go from small to x-large and don’t take length into consideration, making them less customizable for dogs in their size.

These are safer for a lot of dogs that like to chew at the crate while in them and can be zip tied shut for flying purposes so that your pup doesn’t get loose. In fact, zip tying it shut if you’re transporting your dog, to not risk accidental escape is highly recommended. There have been too many stories of dogs running around on an airport tarmac because of improperly secured crates, don’t let that dog be yours!

The Bottom Line

No matter what kind of crate you use, you’re bound to help your dog be a good canine citizen with one. They’ll be happier, more confident, and capable of knowing that it’s okay to be left alone while knowing that they’re secure and safe in their own little spot in the house. Training can be easy and effective with patience, time, and love if you’re willing to put in the effort, just remember that you get out of it what you put into it.

Follow these steps and you will have a fun time training, bond a bit closer to your pup, and find that you’re better at this training thing than you thought you were! Creating a foundation of trust is important, and bonding while training is critical to getting your dog to listen to you in any situation, whether it’s inside, outside, or in a moment of dire need. While just doing crate training may not seem like you’re setting them up for that, it lays good groundwork for positive reinforcement, security, confidence, and fun that will last throughout your relationship.