Crate Training Can AND Should Be Positive!
A dog’s crate can be a safe place for the dog, and an excellent management tool for the owner. Some people might balk at the idea of crating their dog, but if done correctly, it can save a lot of stress and behavioral issues from developing in the first place.
One of the first rules when it comes to crating your dog is to NOT use it as a punishment. A crate should not be seen or used as a prison. Instead the dog should see it as a place to relax and feel calm. Many dogs that are properly crated end up LOVING their crates, seeing it as a safe haven, a place to soothe any anxiety, whether they chew on a bone inside, or use it as a place to just sleep peacefully. Not all dogs will LOVE the crate, but it shouldn’t be something the dog fears or panics about.
If your dog seems apprehensive about their crate, then you must introduce it slowly and with as much positivity as possible. Below are a few tips to help acclimate your dog to the crate:
1. Feed your dog in the crate. If your dog eats their meals in their crate, it can create a positive association pretty quickly. Also, if your dog is a focused eater, then they will concentrate on eating, rather than being in the crate.
2. Reward when they go in, either on command or on their own. It can be helpful to establish a crate command (i.e.: “Go home!”, “Crate!”, “Kennel up!”, etc.) for your dog so you can eventually send them to crate if you ever need to. If your dog still seems unsure about entering, try luring them in with a treat or something enticing. When they go inside, give them that treat and praise them.
3. Make it comfortable. Unless your dog is known for being destructive, it can help you make the crate comfortable with a bed, blankets, cushions, toys, or even an old shirt you’ve worn, so that your dog can detect your comforting scent in the crate.
4. Starting crating when you are home with the dog. If your dog’s first experience with the crate is when you leave the home for hours, this can cause or exacerbate crate anxiety, especially if your dog has existing separation anxiety. When you’re home, this can make things a little easier to handle for your dog, plus this gives you control in your dog starts getting anxious or upset.
5. Create more distance in increments. If your dog has separation and/or crate anxiety, trying crating them with you still in the same room as them. Reward if they remain quiet and calm. Then slowly create more distance. Try stepping out of the hallway, or go to the next closest room. Reward the good behavior, stop any inappropriate behavior. Show your dog that you have control and that being calm can be more fulfilling for them.
These are just some of the few ways you can create a positive association with the crate, and properly crate train your dog, whether they are nervous or indifferent to their crates. With the crate, you can give your dog a place to relieve any anxiety, while also preventing any issues–destruction, separation anxiety, pestering of quests, potty accidents, etc.– from occurring. If you’re struggling with crate training or crate anxiety, we can help with our in-home dog training! Call us at 800-649-7297 to inquire more about how we can help your dog’s crate issues!