“Well we tried crate training him. We stuck him in there and we waited until he was quiet. But it only lasted a couple of nights and then now he just barks and howls and I’m not sure I can stand it anymore. I don’t know what else to do.”
Does this sound familiar to you? It sure does to me. I have clients ask me all the time: “how do I crate my train my dog?” I have a simple, reliable, positive training method that works every time I try to crate train a dog.
Unfortunately you cannot just stick a dog in a crate and expect him to eventually adjust. He might, but you’re not going to help him understand why he needs to be in there. Sticking him in a crate will not teach him that the crate is the best place to be. That’s really your objective. You want him to learn to like being in the crate. For that to happen you need good things to happen in the crate.
When you’re introducing your dog to the crate for the first time, it is best to start out with very short periods and lots of training treats. Open the crate door and toss in a high-value treat usually small bits of boiled chicken or simple cheese slices will do the trick. When your dog goes in verbally praise him, shut the door for just a second, and immediately open it back up when he turns around to investigate. Repeat that procedure several times in your first training session and then call it quits for a few minutes. When he comes back over for more training (or affection) simply start where you began in exactly the same way. Toss in another high-value treat, verbally praise him when you shut the door, and immediately open it back up. After a couple more repititions of this you’re going to want to very simply keep the door shut for a few extra seconds. Ideally he will stay in the crate for no more than 2 to 3 seconds in these first few training sessions. Every time you work with him, you can expect to increase the duration of his stay for a few more seconds. Don’t push him, be patient.
I recommend that my clients spend no less than five, 5 minute sessions a day working with their dog on any given task. With this kind of a work schedule it is easy for a dog to be entirely crate trained and comfortable in his crate for hours on end by the end of the week.
If you need him comfortable sooner than that I recommend one of several options. You can spend more time training your dog by yourself, you can hire someone to do the training for you, or you can make sure he gets breaks between long stretches by coming home during lunch or asking a friend or dog walker to come home and let him out for a short while.
If you’ve adopted a puppy or very insecure dog you can expect at least a week of sleepless nights until his training is complete. Crate training is an invaluable asset for any dog, and it will make your life together easier in every way. If you spend a little extra time crate training with this positive method you’ll save yourself loads of grief later down the road.
A few tips:
Make crate time interesting with one or two really irresistible toys. A good chew toy or a stuffed Kong help the time pass more quickly.
Don’t try to leave the room until your dog is comfortable in the crate for more than a minute. Then, when you do leave, don’t be gone long! Pop back around the corner only a few seconds after you disappear and reward any quiet behavior with praise as you let him out. You being gone might be scary and he’ll need to adjust to that slowly too.
Don’t let him out unless he’s still and quiet. Make it very clear that your attention is a reward for his good behavior.
If he starts making noise before you let him out, you’ve waited too long! Wait for him to be quiet for just a split second a d reward that. Let him out while he’s eating his treat so he’s too busy to bark. Back up a few seconds the next time you try.
If you run into any road blocks not covered here, feel free to contact us. And forgive the typos, I dictated most of this while I was crate training a dog!