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How To Teach Your Dog To Like Crate Training

For those of you who have not had the opportunity to use a crate and think it is a harsh or cruel way to train your puppy or dog, you should know crates are far from being cruel. In fact, when used in a positive manner, crate training can be the answer to many problems faced by dogs and their owners. Dogs have a natural instinct to be in a den, something that they inherited from their wolf ancestors. Wolves find a small cave, or dig themselves one, and this is where they sleep, rest and hang out. It is home for them. Providing your dog with a crate satisfies his desire to be in a den and provides a safe and secure place for your dog. It is one of the most effective ways to train your puppy or dog to become a happy and well-adjusted family member. Crate training makes life easier for you and your dog.

Advantages to Crate Training

Many people crate train their dog for the simple reason that the dog can do no wrong while in the crate. Your dog cannot urinate or defecate on the rug, harass the mailman, chew on the furniture or get into the trash. The dog learns to relax and go to sleep while you are away. This teaches the dog good habits, one of which is to sleep while his family is away. And while your dog sleeps, you can go to work, run errands, or take in a movie without having to worry about what condition your house will be in when you return. You put your dog in the crate, shut the door and leave for a few hours, knowing when you return it will be a happy homecoming and not a one-sided yelling match with your dog cringing in the corner not knowing what he did wrong.

There are also advantages if you travel with your dog. A dog that feels secure in his crate is much easier to take on long trips than a dog left to jump excitedly around inside the car. Your dog is also much safer should an accident occur. Hotels or motels are much more willing to allow dogs to stay if you bring your dog's crate, plus the maid can't accidentally let the dog loose into the street if your dog is crated in the room. Dogs being shipped by plane or train feel much more secure and can handle the stress of traveling much easier if they have their own crate to travel in.

A crate is an indoor doghouse with a door and a variety of crates are available. The type you purchase depends primarily on your dog's future lifestyle and your preference. Some people prefer the open wire or cage style crates, so the dog can see all around him. However, the airline style crates suit some people's preference just as well.

Common excuses not to crate train

Where should I put the crate?

Your dog's crate should be placed in the most often used room (living room, kitchen, family room) in the house, wherever your family spends the most time, and it should stay there. This allows the dog to feel like part of the family even while resting in the crate.

How to "crate train"

At first, most dogs will resent being confined because they will feel as if you have left them and are not coming back. However, given some time to adjust, your dog will soon learn to love his crate and the security and privacy that go along with it.

  1. Step 1 - Wire the door to the crate open. Feed the dog, first at the door opening, then push the food further back into the crate. Continue to push the bowl of food further and further back until the dog is comfortable going all the way into the crate to eat. Offer lots of praise while the dog is inside. The dog can come out at any time. If the dog does not finish the whole meal, after 20 minutes, remove the bowl. As you progress, repeat the procedure above, but each time your dog goes into the crate, say a command such as "Go to bed", "Kennel", "Crate", etc. in a happy tone of voice. It doesn't matter which command you use; the important thing is to say the same word or words every time.
  2. Step 2 - Give the command "Kennel". As soon as the dog goes in, feed him his meal. Quietly close the door while the dog is eating. Wait until the dog is done, then open the door. Do this for 3-5 days. As the dog's security builds, feed the dog and wait 10 minutes before letting the dog out. Do this for another 3-5 days. Add 5 minute increments, up to one hour. Then let the dog out of the crate. Because the dog is satiated and has a fully belly, he will probably lay down and rest until you let him out.

Be ready for a verbal protest from your dog. Stay in the room for a few minutes and when the dog is quiet, open the crate door and let him out. If your dog is being very vocal, give the command "No" and then "Quiet". Wait for the dog to be quiet for a minute or two and then let him out. If the "Quiet" command doesn't work, try a squirt bottle set on stream. Aim it at the dog's nose and squirt several times as you say "No", then the "Quiet" command. Wait for several minutes of silence before you let the dog out. This is where patience and persistence comes in. The more consistent you are in ignoring the dog's complaints, the faster your dog will crate train.

The only exceptions where you would let the dog out when it cries is if you have forgotten to take him out to do his business before putting him in the crate or first thing in the morning when your dog needs to go outside immediately to eliminate. Make sure to let your dog out to exercise and eliminate before putting him in the crate for an extended period of time.

Crate Misuse/Abuse

Never use the crate for as a punishment. Problems in crate training usually arise because owners fail to teach the dog to like the crate and leave untrained dogs confined for too long. If the dog does not feel comfortable in the crate, it will not enjoy the confinement and might run from the owner when called and/or resist and resent being forced into the crate. Once confined, the dog might bark out of frustration and try to destroy the crate in an attempt to escape. Also, if confined for too long, the dog will soil the crate.

No matter how much the dog enjoys its crate, there will be times when the owner wants to confine the dog but the dog does not want to be confined. Therefore, never call the dog with a "Come" command and then put it in the crate, or else the dog will soon become wary of coming when called. Instead, use your regular "Go to bed" or "Crate" command to enforce compliance without ruining your "Come" command.

Crate Safety/Cleaning

For safety purposes, never leave any type of collar or harness on a puppy or dog that is confined to a crate. Even though it may seem impossible, there have been many tragic strangulations-hangings that have occurred. Also, make it clear to children that a crate is not a playhouse for them, but a "special room" for your puppy or dog whose rights should be recognized and respected. However, you should get the dog accustomed to letting you reach into the crate at any time, lessening the chance of him becoming overprotective of it.

Clean out the crate regularly. It is recommended that you use a non-ammonia cleaner, because ammonia is similar to a dog's urine and the smell might attract him to soil the crate. You may want to purchase a commercial dog soiling cleaner from your local pet store.

Even if your dog has perfect manners

Even if you don't have a destructive dog or one that has behavioral problems that you are trying to correct, a dog crate is a great place to send the dog when things in the house get busy or when you just want a little peace and quiet. If you familiarize the dog with the crate, you can have controlled, quiet periods that teach the dog to turn off and relax. Dogs love their crates. Give it a try. You have nothing to loose and everything to gain.


This email was written in response to our last newsletter's article on crate training. Many dog owners feel this way about crate training...until they try it and realize what a wonderful training tool it is and how much their dog enjoys having his own special place to go to when he needs a little privacy.

I still cringe at the thought of crates. When I talk to some people, I get the feeling they use crates because they want a dog, but don't want to have to live with a dog. They don't want a single plant ruined in the yard, a single hole ever to be dug, the cat to never be chased, the ice cream to be licked off the kids' faces (yuck germs!), etc. They really just want a dog to be like a piece of furniture in the house. They don't want to have to take any time away from their jobs and busy lives to get a puppy acquainted with its new home and to housebreak it etc.

I've always had a dog door from the house and sectioned off place for the dog beds. That way they have access to the yard (and yes they dig holes sometimes and ruin some plants - so big deal) and their beds inside the house, but they can't go anywhere else in the house. In my last house, we had the pantry closed off with the dog beds there. Then there was a dog door from the pantry out to the yard.

I guess crates are like anything else, they can be used in a good way or they can be abused by careless owners.

- Ann -

Thanks for writing.

As with any tool, proper understanding of how to use them and not abuse them is very important to achieving the desired results. Any tool can be misused if the operator fails to follow sound practices. Just because a tool can be misused doesn't mean it's a bad tool.

Dogs do required constant supervision; this is proven daily based on the constant calls I get for various dog related issues. Behaviors can be influenced based on the consequences after a behavior. Dogs don't know if a behavior is appropriate or inappropriate unless they get consistent feedback. Dogs only understand always or never; they do not understand sometimes.

Training requires us to be in control of all outcomes so we can give the proper feedback. Leaving a dog unsupervised puts us in the "sometimes" category, unless we can leave them in an area so that they cannot get into any trouble. Dog runs are a great way to leave the unsupervised dog, as long as everything in the dog's reach is ok to have fun with and is safe for the dog to get into. Dog runs do not address housebreaking issues or issues inside the house.

A crate or a tie down puts the dog in a secure spot preventing inappropriate behaviors during moments when you can't supervise their every movement. Not many of us can supervise our dog's every movement, hence a safe spot like a crate is the proper tool. Sure you can put the dog into a run during unsupervised times, but because behaviors are also time triggered, meaning certain activities are triggered at certain times, we are not in control of the activities during that time interval. If we allow a behavior to occur at a certain time every day then the dog will need to engage in that behavior during that time interval. Leaving a dog in a run allows the dog to choose the activity during that time interval; not a good situation for behavior training.

Training is also related to the environment; where a lesson is learned is where it will be best remembered.

A crate is a tool that helps us stay in control of our dogs behavior not only in the environment we want but also at the time interval we require. Since most house issues occur in the house, we must be able to leave the dog in the house safely so we can give the proper feedback when behaviors occur. Also, the best behavior we want while we are not with the dog is to rest and relax safely in the environment where we leave them.

A crate should never be used as a permanent confinement area, but as a tool to establish good and appropriate habits. Remember it takes 21 days to instill a habit and 3 days to break that habit. So on the minimum side of behavior training we are looking at 24 days to establish a good routine. Some behaviors are self-rewarding like chewing, digging, barking, and going potty. These behaviors tend to train themselves if we allow it. So it may take a little more time to re-establish good habits.

The sad part is that most dog training tools do not come with instructions. The only way is to learn from others who have used the tools successfully and safely. I have seen the damage inappropriate use of tools has caused and I have seen the success that proper use of the tools have accomplished.

Learning the proper use of the tools available can make our lives much easier than the frustration without the tools.

I don't cringe at the thought of crates but I do cringe at the thought of the poor dogs left in the hands of people who don't take the time to learn the proper use of the tools available.

Richard Mason
Training Director
AC Dog School