A properly used crate can be your dog’s sanctuary for your dog and your home when you leave for the day, go on a trip, or have company over. Most dogs learn that the crate is their “safe place”. However, there are some dogs that have crate anxiety. For these dogs that are unwilling to go into the crate, you need to teach them it is OK.
Start the introduction with no pressure. Allow your dog to investigate the crate by placing toys, treats, or food and water inside, leaving the door open. Encourage him to investigate it. Lavishly praise him when he does enter the crate on his own.
Feed your dog in the crate every other meal. When you want to give him a treat, bone, or dog toy, toss it in the crate for your dog to retrieve. Put his favorite blanket in the crate. Sit down and play with him in the crate. Continue to leave the door open to teach your dog to trust the crate as a voluntary sanctuary where good things happen.
After about a week, start closing the door once in a while when your dog is in the crate. Don’t keep the door closed all the time, just for a few minutes every third or fourth time. Slowly increase the time the crate door is closed. After a few days, start walking out of the room for a few minutes to make sure that your dog doesn’t whine or bark.
Now that your dog has become acclimated to using the crate for “fun things”, it is time to teach him to use the crate when you want him to.
- When you are home, put a leash on your dog. Let him walk around the house with it on for a couple of days, for small periods of time each day.
- Then walk him around the house on loose leash, passing by the crate.
- After a few days, walk him right into the crate, and say the command “Crate”. As soon as he enters, praise him. Make sure to have a treat based toy or his food waiting for him in the crate.
- Repeat this for a few days until he starts to go towards the crate when you give your command. Start saying the command farther away from the crate’s door until you have reached the spot you would normally want to give the command.
The final step is to teach your dog to go in the crate on your command without you walking him in.
- To do this, say “Crate”, drop the leash and let your dog go to the crate all by himself. Practice this for a few days.
- After he consistently goes to the crate every time the command is given and leash is dropped, take the leash off.
- Now practice by walking around the house with your dog off leash, get to your command place and give the “Crate” command.
By changing your dog’s perception of the crate and breaking the learning process into smaller steps, your dog should now go easily into the crate.
Jeri Wagner is a canine behavioral therapist and master trainer. Jeri uses a natural training system leveraging the same communication methods – body language and voice control – that dogs follow as part of their instinctive pack mentality. Training takes place in the home where the problems generally occur. Jeri trains in western Montgomery County, northern Chester County and eastern Berks County. For more information, call 1-877-500 BARK (2275) or visit www.barkbusters.com.
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