For one reason or another, your dog absolutely despises his crate. Sure, he’ll go in for a tasty treat, but darts out as soon as he can, and will make a ruckus if locked inside, even for very short periods.
A crate is a very handy thing to have, almost as handy as a dog that is calm being inside one, so, let’s discuss how to achieve the latter.
In the beginning, the crate door will always be left open, and your dog is not to be left in the crate if he shows a strong aversion to it. Some dogs just won’t voluntarily spend their time in a crate, but have no problem staying in one, while others will panic if left closed in before they are properly habituated.
Feed your dog his meal(s) in the crate. I prefer scheduled feedings, especially if potty-training is also something being tackled. Leave Pooch his meal in the crate for fifteen to twenty minutes. If he doesn’t eat, it gets taken away until his next meal. As voracious as dogs seem, they can go quite a while without eating, so don’t be alarmed if your dog refuses to eat for two or three days. This is especially true if up until now he’s also had the choice to eat on his own terms.
Make sure that once you decide you are going to get serious about training, that you don’t allow yourself to feel needlessly guilty about ‘starving’ your dog. Your aren’t making him walk on hot coals. If he wants to eat, he’ll eat. For the first few days, you may have to lay off the training treats, but that depends on how hungry your dog is and how much exercise he gets daily. You shouldn’t be giving your dog more than five tiny training treats per day, anyhow.
Feel free to make Rover’s meals more appetizing but adding meat or wet dog food to his kibble. All four of his paws should be in the crate when he’s eating. If he is creative and tries to move the bowl out of the crate, tether it to keep it in place.
Fun things happen inside the crate
If Fido doesn’t have an issue with possessiveness, leave him something awesome to enjoy in the crate, and only in the crate. Bones (uncooked and not from birds), stuff-able toys with something tasty inside or homemade popsicles work wonderfully. If he tries to grab the money and run, just tether his treat to the crate.
No beds or blankets for a vandal
If your dog passes the time trying to rip up beds, toys and blankets into individual atoms, he doesn’t get to have them in his crate. Not only is this an expensive habit, but it can be a dangerous one, too. Maybe one day Fido will be calm enough to sleep on his bed, instead of eating it, but for now, it’s best to keep him safe by leaving anything destroy-able out of the crate.
If he splashes his water around and makes a mess, he stays without water while locked in the crate.
As with all aspects of dog ownership, do not reward anything you don’t want your dog to do. If he whines, barks, paws at the crate, chews on it, or invents his own unique way to make noise inside the crate or out, ignore him. If simply not looking at him doesn’t dissuade him, you may have to physically leave the room until he stops.
Do not reward for exiting the crate
Don’t give your dog a treat when he exits the crate, even if you were waiting for him to cease a nuisance behaviour, like barking. If you obtain quiet from your dog, feel free to toss a treat into his crate. Exiting the crate gets no reward at all. Your job is to open the crate using those nifty opposible thumbs and that is all. Do not sabotage your hard work by communicating to your dog that leaving the crate is better than being inside it, he can figure out that part without your help!
Location, location, location
If the crate is located in a forgotten corner of your unfinished basement, your dog may harbour crate-hate because of the location. As unstylish as it may be, the crate is best left in a commonly-frequented area of your home.
Short and sweet
Training sessions should be short but frequent. Do not allow for boredom to dampen your training sessions. Three five-minute sessions are more than enough at the beginning.
As you progress with training, don’t always leave your dog for long periods of time. Let’s say you have successfully worked up to five minutes (Gooooood human! You deserve a treat!), still include shorter durations in your repetitions.
With these tips in mind, the steps to a properly crate-trained dog are as follows, progressing to the following step only after the current one can be accomplished stress-free.
1. Leave the crate door open. You can take it off completely if you wish, you will not be closing your dog in at this point.
2. Close the door and open it a second later. Don’t even lock it. Just do this a couple of times while he’s eating. As you work on that, slowly start getting the door closer to being closed. Start with the door as wide open as it will go, then day by day, simply leave the door an inch or so more closed than the previous day.
3. Lock the door as he’s eating or enjoying a tasty treat, like a bone. Start to learn to read the signs that he’s getting bored with it, and lure him out of his crate before this happens. Leave him wanting more, as that’s the lasting memory he’ll have of that treat, rather than of having gotten bored with it.
4. Toss a treat in the crate and lock him in it for ten to fifteen seconds. Progress to about two minutes with ten second increments. From there, continue with thirty second increments to ten minutes, and so on, gradually increasing the time and time increments as you progress. This tends to be the hardest step for dog owners to follow correctly because of the temptation to increase the time too rapidly. Always stay in the room at this point.
5. Once you can leave your dog locked in the crate for a minute, start briefly leaving the room for ten seconds or so. You don’t have to go far, just out of sight for now. Progress as above, while working on leaving the room. Remember: do not come back in if he’s exhibiting any sort of undesired behaviour!
6. Repeat the above step while leaving the house completely. Stay outside your front door for now, don’t actually leave!
7. As you start to increase the time you are outside for, you can start actually leaving. Start by just leaving your dog in the crate to take the garbage out or rake the leaves, and progress to brief errands and eventually longer outings.
As you have likely gathered, this is not a quick fix, there are none! But with a lot of patience and perseverance, the work you put in now will pay off tenfold for years to come!
Good luck, and happy training!