When it comes to training a dog, sometimes you need a little help along the way and a crate can become your – and your dog’s! – best friend. But getting a puppy to not only accept time in his crate but also come to like it can be a complicated process. Look over these three methods to see which one will work best for you and your pooch.
Three Ways to Crate Train Your Puppy or Dog
Crate training is not just teaching your dog to go into his crate. Crate training is convincing your dog that his crate is the best place on earth. I use clicker training for this.
The general idea behind using clicker training to crate train your dog is that you will shape your dog’s behavior with treats and the clicker.
You put a tasty treat in the crate. If your puppy goes into the crate, click as he heads inside, and then toss another treat into the crate. For as long as your dog stays inside the crate, keep clicking and giving treats. If your dog leaves the crate or if he is reluctant to go in, try the tips below.
- Click and treat for any attention toward the crate at all. This includes even little eye motions.
- Once your dog turns his head toward the crate, try clicking for moving a paw toward the crate. Try tossing the treat toward, but not into the crate to get your puppy moving.
Leave your puppy’s crate open to him during the day, and hide treats or toys in there. Whenever he happens to head into the crate, he will find a reward. If you spot him heading into the crate at any time, say “kennel” (not so loudly as to disturb his progress) and either give him a treat or let him get the one inside the kennel.
Crate training is a slow process, but it’s worth it!
Different dogs respond better to different training techniques. If clicker training isn’t right for your pooch, consider trying targeting, a more physical method that encourages them to take an action by touching an item with their nose to get a reward.
Targeting is when you teach your dog to touch a body part (often his nose) to an object known as a “target”. Many dogs can be crate trained by using targeting. With targeting, you first teach the dog to touch a target object. Then you put that target into the crate and ask him to touch it. Finally you teach “getting into the crate” on cue.
For the steps below, every time you cue “touch,” and the dog does so, click and treat. If your dog doesn’t touch, put the target behind your back then place it out again, saying “touch.” If, after a few tries at a particular stage, your dog still isn’t touching, go back to a stage where your dog was successful.
- Put the target between your dog and the crate. Be sure the target is closer to your dog than to the crate. Start with the target only a few inches away from your dog. Ask your dog to “touch” so that he turns toward the crate.
- Move the target a step away from your dog, toward his crate. Ask him to touch.
- Slowly move the target a step more each time your dog is successful.
- Continue moving the target after each success until the target is inside the crate.
- Continue moving the target further into the crate as your dog successfully enters the crate and touches the target. You may need to maneuver the target through the sides of the crate.
- Eventually place the target at the back end of the crate so that your dog has to completely enter the crate in order to successfully touch the target.
Each of these techniques relies on the same basic principle – reward your dog for good behavior, which in this instance, is going into and staying in his crate. Positive reinforcement can take time, but the end result has far more lasting effects than negative reinforcement. It also encourages a respect-based relationship between you and your dog, rather than a fear-based one.
“Go To Rug”
Another option is to target train your dog, and then transfer that to crate training. For example, you can train him to “go to” a rug, and then gradually move that rug inside the crate. One way to do this is to follow the steps above for clicker training your dog to enter the crate, but use it for the rug. Here’s another way to teach your dog to sit on a rug on command:
- Toss the rug (or crate pad) onto the floor in front of your puppy with a flourish.
- Most dogs will go over to sniff it. If your puppy ends up on the rug, continue to the next step. If not, lure him onto the rug with treats.
- Once your dog is on the rug, click and treat him several times and tell him that he is a great puppy.
- Say ‘okay’ and take the rug out from under your dog. The stolen rug is now worth the equivalent of a Million Dog Dollars.
- Wait a few seconds and repeat.
Whichever method you choose, just be sure to never rush crate training. If you progress at a pace that makes your dog comfortable, and make it a fun and exciting exercise, you’ll be far more likely to succeed and keep both of you happy.
Read more here:
What are some of the difficulties you’ve faced with crate training your dog? Have you discovered any special tricks to make your dog enjoy their crate more?