Crate Training Stepby Step

Dogs learn by association. If something is positive, they will accept it easily and will look forward to it. On the other hand, if something is negative, they will want to avoid it. What we want here is to teach your puppy that a crate is something positive. Here's how to achieve this:

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Step 1: Block the door open, sit beside your puppy's crate, have your puppy sniff the treat in your hand and throw the treat in the crate. When your puppy goes in the crate to get the treat, praise her. Do this three or four times, and stop. Repeat the process as often as you can (every 15 minutes to halfhour, for example) until your puppy goes in and out of the crate willingly. At the beginning, throw the treat in the front part of the crate and gradually throw it further and further in.

It is very important to praise your dog when she goes in and not when she's coming out of the crate. In fact, you shouldn't say a word when your puppy comes out ofher crate. You don't want her to think that getting out of the crate is more fun than staying in it.

Step 2: Still sitting beside the crate, throw the treat in the crate, close the door of the crate for 15-30 seconds and continue tossing small treats to your puppy during that time. Let your puppy out of the crate without saying a word.

Repeat this step many times until your puppy stays quietly in her crate about 4-5 minutes. Of course, you won't toss treats in the crate for 5 minutes so make sure when you throw the first treat in to also put a chew toy in the crate so your puppy has something to keep her occupied.

It is also a good time to introduce a cue word when your puppy goes in her crate easily. I simply use "in your crate". Choose a word that comes naturally to you and that you'll only use for that purpose.

Crate training is not about beating world records! Don't try to push things to see how long your puppy will tolerate her crate. If you do that, you may end up with a puppy that will start whining to get out. It takes a lot more time to retrain a dog than to teach her correctly the first time.

Step 3: Now, you will start to go about your business around the house while leaving your puppy in her crate. Remember to give her a chew toy when you put her in her crate. Since she will see or hear you close by, she will know that you haven't abandoned her!

Again, don't push things. After five minutes, release her from her crate but don't make a fuss about it. Continue practising this step and gradually increase the time you let her in her crate.

Step 4: Finally, you will train your puppy to stay alone in her crate while you're not in the house. At the beginning, just leave for 10 to 15 minutes. Go get the mail, go run an errand, water your flowers, etc. Use your imagination. Don't leave home for more than half an hour the first few times. Again, don't forget to let your puppy her favorite chew toy when you put her in her crate.

If you follow these steps, you should have a puppy going in her crate happily in no time. The main idea is to go slowly and gradually and make crate training a positive experience for your puppy.

One last thing: why is the chew toy so important? Because 1) puppies sleep a lot during the day and 2) they usually fall asleep after chewing on their toy for 10-15 minutes. Crate training your puppy following this method allows you to teach your puppy two very valuable things: a) sleeping in her crate is the most natural and pleasant activity in the world, and b) she can chew on her chew toy only and nothing else; not your shoes, your chair legs, etc.

To make sure your puppy sees her crate very positively, feed her in the crate. When she's finished eating, take her on leash to her elimination zone or her toilet stop.

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