Updated Aug 30, 2022
Crate Training A Dog — An Owner's Lessons Learned
Many people ask about the easiest way to train their dog. Where does crate training fit in? Perhaps you're wondering the same thing. We've done a lot of research, and had a lot of experience over the years. This is what we found.
Crate training your dog is a great thing for both you and your dog. It starts when your dog is a puppy, carries through to when he is an adult dog, and really helps in creating a solid and well-defined relationship for life.
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We'll go through a step-by-step process to show how it is done. First, let's look at the crate itself...
A dog crate is a really essential tool. A dog's crate can come in many sizes. Be sure to get the correct size, so that your dog is not too cramped. The puppy crate you start with may not continue to be suitable for an older dog.
The crate can also be made from different materials. The main choice is between between a wire crate, and a plastic crate. But you can also get a fabric crate.
We have had a pair of wire crates for over 25 years! They have been home to several of our wonderful dogs, including flying them across the Atlantic to relocate to a different country. The wire crates have withstood an incredibly corrosive environment in our ocean-front home for more than 20 years.
And they are still going strong!
The other good thing about a wire crate is that you can use it in a couple of ways. You can cover it with any attractive material of your choice to provide a sheltered haven, or you can leave it uncovered for a wide open view.
Click on the button below for info on our recommended dog crate
The puppy's crate can also be an indispensable aid in potty training. Your puppy will not want to contaminate his living area, and will be encouraged and trained to wait for the next potty break. To get the maximum benefit for house training, you should always take a young puppy out straight after letting him out of his crate.
Your dog must understand and accept his place in your family. Not only is crate training one of the easiest ways to establish that, it is also very quick to establish. And it's also very easy to maintain, because it becomes an ingrained way of life.
Regardless of the breed and size of your dog, it's essential to establish and maintain your role as leader. We adopted a few quick and easy training techniques early on in our career as dog owners.
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Crate training was always effective, and was the easiest form of training we ever found. And it took effect very quickly. Of course, there will be other training methods and techniques you will also want to implement. But crate training is an excellent way to start training your dog.
A crate trained dog will be much more ready to learn further new commands.
It's pretty easy to get started -- you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Crate Training Process -- How To Start
We'll lay out a step-by-step process, which will make this simple and easy.
After a few days of consistent successful behavior in each phase, you can continue on to the next phase.
Crate Training Step 1
- First, we simply want to get your dog into his crate. It's best to make this as easy as possible for all concerned.
- Have a treat ready in your hand. Take your dog to the crate. He may well follow you naturally, because he will be aware of the treat. If not, lead him by the collar
- You should make all your commands a single word, if possible. In this case, say "Crate"
- Slowly toss the treat towards the back of the crate, so that the dog can follow what you are doing
- Let him go into the crate. It will be his natural instinct to go in for his treat
Praise the dog and shut the door of the crate
- Move away
At this early stage, don't expect the dog to stay in the crate for too long.
Control How Your Dog Leaves The Crate
The treat will keep your dog occupied for a few minutes. Don't be surprised if he then complains about being in the crate. It's a new experience for him.
He may not immediately understand why he's in there. He may let you know he wants to come out, once the distraction of the treat is past.
Regardless of his behavior, you should let him stay in the crate, for a little while, at least. He's only been there a few minutes, and he won't come to any harm.
If he is not complaining, you can let him stay in the crate a while longer. But you shouldn't leave it too long it on this first try. We don't want to traumatize the dog, or cause him to think negatively about the crate.
A quick treat, a few minutes wait, and you're ready to let him out
If he is whining or crying it's important to wait for him to quiet down before letting him out. If you let him out at the time he is complaining, you will be reinforcing the bad behavior.
If he is crying or whining, use the command "Quiet". Then, wait for a moment when he is quiet, before letting him come out of the crate. He will soon learn that it's best to be quiet whilst in his crate, and that he is not allowed out when he is complaining. Being quiet will quickly become his natural behavior.
Crate Training Step 2
When your dog is consistently following your commands in phase 1, you can stop using the treat to entice him into the crate. Now, you can reward him with the treat, AFTER he has gone into the crate.
You can also encourage your dog to stay in the crate longer by giving him something to occupy his attention longer, such as a chew toy, or a stuffed kong, containing peanut butter.
Here's the step-by-step process.
- Lead your dog to the crate
- Say "Crate", as usual
- Wait until he goes into the crate
- Reward him with the treat
- Close the crate door, praise the dog
- Move away
Crate Training Step 3
In this next step, you stop giving your dog the treat. Take him to the crate, say 'Crate' and allow him to go in, as before. Praise him and shut the door. Here's the step-by-step process.
- Take your dog to the crate
- Say the command "Crate"
- Let the dog go into the crate of his own accord
- Praise him and shut the door
- Move away
We are now teaching the dog that he does not automatically get a treat for going into the crate. It has now become normal for him to go into the crate and stay there for a little while. The reason he goes in is now a habit. The treat being used as a reward reinforces that.
He may still be expecting the treat to follow, after going into his crate but it is actually your command that he is now learning to follow.
During this phase, you can reduce the frequency of the treat. Instead of giving him the treat every time, give it to him him once in a while. So he still sometimes gets the reward, after he has gone in the crate, but he is getting more and more used to acting on your "Crate" command
Crate Training Step 4
This next process is the same as the previous one, but we just lead him to a point near to the crate, and start the routine from there. It is another step forward. He is doing a bit more of the work on his own. He is now walking to his crate on your command and going in of his own accord.
- Lead your dog toward the crate, but stop short before you get there
- Say the command "˜Crate"
- Let the dog walk to the crate and go in
- Praise the dog and close the door
- Move away
You can reward him with the treat the first few times, for his new good behavior. Then just give him the treat occasionally as a reinforcement.
Crate Training Final Step
Eventually, you will be able to give the command 'Crate' from anywhere in the house. And your well-trained dog will go to his crate as you ask. This time, you can give yourself a treat!
Maintaining Your Dog's Crate Training
On most days, there will probably be a time where it would be natural for your dog to go in his crate for a bit. But, even if there is no obvious reason, you should make a point of continuing the routine anyway. It's necessary to continue your dog's training -- you don't want him to forget, and get out of the habit.
So, every day, for a short time at least, send your dog to his crate, just to maintain his training. Eventually, the routine will become second nature to him. There will come a point where he goes into his crate regularly, all on his own.
At this point, his crate has become his safe haven. His own special place, where he can relax on his own and feel safe. You can now send him to his crate whenever you like, whenever it is helpful. He is now fully crate trained.
Further Training For Your Dog
If your dog is naturally keen to please, it should now be easy to teach him a few more commands. He has learnt to take a command. You can train him to whatever extent you like. It really just depends on the amount of time you decide to put in.
You should continue with at least a few basic commands. Common commands such as 'Sit', 'Down', Stay', 'Heel', and 'Come'. Even with just these few commands, you can keep control over your dog.
In our previous location, we always used to take our dogs to obedience class. This was a real help. The fact that 15 other dogs were all following the same command at the same time, reinforced the commands and further ingrained good behavior. A new dog learns much more quickly, with all this example.
At our current location, there are no training or obedience classes available. But crate training got our dogs off to a good start. It's been easy to continue with other commands, and they have become very well-behaved.
But, if there are classes near you, consider taking your dog. It can make be very helpful, as well as a lot of fun. And your dog will be happy, too.
Obedience classes bring many benefits for both you and your dog. It is easy-going, usually inexpensive to join a group, and you usually get quick results. Your relationship with your dog is enhanced, and the good habits learned can last forever.
There is no disadvantage in crate training your dog, and many rewards for successful crate training.
Dogs are pack animals by nature. And all dogs need to understand their place. Your dog will actually be happier and more secure when he knows that you're the leader of the pack.
So by training your dog well, you are actually doing him a big favor, and being a responsible dog owner. And you're doing yourself a huge favor, too.
If you build a few seconds obedience into regular daily routines, such as feeding times, training your dog really doesn't take much time.
And crate training is the ideal way to start.