Teaching Your Dog to Love Their Crate
I was over in Coral Springs replacing a competitor’s broken dog containment system with a new Dog Guard Out of Sight Fencing® Perimeter. The equipment was still functioning and my job was to replace the wire and make sure that the dog was safely contained again. We upgraded the wire and connections so that it would last for a very long time and keep his Coonhound, Quinn, contained and safe. After everything was back together and we made sure that Quinn understood that he couldn’t leave the property, I began to pack up. John, the client, thanked me for getting everything done so quickly and then had a dog training question for me. It seemed that Quinn had never liked his crate and if they just left him alone in the house, he always found something “to get into”. He was wondering if there was any way to make Quinn like his crate and calmly stay there when they were gone.
I was happy to see that John was interested in the possibility of re-introducing the crate to his Coonhound, Quinn. Many people look at crates and think of them as jails. All they see are the bars. What they don’t understand is that our dogs need a reliable location they can go to and feel completely safe and secure. The one things that all dogs (we humans too!) want to feel is safe and secure. The crate can be a natural environment to provide that security. It is a place that is normally exclusively used by only the dog and provides a physical enclosure while not eliminating the ability to see and smell what is going on around them.
Before I started to explain the proper crate training for my client, I needed just a little background. I asked John if Quinn had ever been comfortable in the crate. I also wanted to know if there were any times where Quinn was placed in the crate under fear or duress. John said that Quinn had been with them since he was a puppy and they just never used the crate when he was young. They then started using it when he was about one year old and would put him in there when they went to work. They had to force him into the crate and he always wined when he was in it.
Just like people, dogs need to be introduced to new things in a slow and secure manner. When John suddenly introduced the crate by forcing Quinn inside and then leaving, there was no reassurance that “everything was fine” with this new experience. Quinn didn’t understand what this new space was all about and naturally wanted to retreat to the outside where he knew everything was fine.
We need to reintroduce the crate in a slow and inclusive manner at Quinn’s pace. We need to let him come to the conclusion that the crate is a great place all the time under all circumstances. I now had enough information to help John make the crate a great place for Quinn. Here is what we did.
- Bring the crate back into the environment and place it in a location that is often frequented by the rest of the family. Always leave the door open.
- Put some of Quinn’s “happy things” inside the crate such as a favorite bed or toy.
- Play with Quinn around the crate. Every once in a while, throw one of his favorite toys right in front of the crate door. Let Quinn get the toy and then praise him for a great job. After another day, throw the toy just inside the crate entrance and encourage Quinn to get it. Never force him. When he gets the toy, praise him. Continue to throw the toy farther and farther inside the crate for Quinn to calmly retrieve.
- Begin feeding that great Coonhound in the crate. You might have to initially put the food bowl just in front of the crate. After a feeding or two, put the bowl just inside so that Quinn can still stand outside but his head will be inside with the bowl. Slowly move the bowl farther back until Quinn naturally enters the crate to eat.
- Have the crate near you when you are watching TV. Throw some goodies in the crate so that Quinn will go inside to get them. If he comes right out, that is ok. If he stays inside, that is even better. The important accomplishment is that Quinn is beginning to see that the crate is just another place where good things happen.
- After about ten days of Quinn comfortably going in and out of the crate, you will start to ramp up to the next level. When he is in the crate and lying down, sit next to the front of the crate and very slowly and calmly close the crate door. Do not lock the bolts. Do not make a big deal of it. You are now simply introducing a new view for Quinn from inside the crate with no additional ramifications.
- If Quinn comes to the door and pushes it with his nose, let him come out.
- After a few more days, close the bolts when you shut the door. Still stay seated by the crate or right next to the crate. Wait a few minutes and then unlock the door and let him out when he wants.
- Now, with the crate door closed, calmly walk to the door and step out of sight for a minute. Step back into the room and calmly sit down, ignoring Quinn. After a minute or two, unlock the crate door. Repeat this process until you can leave the room for an extended period of time.
- Whenever you have Quinn in the crate, always make sure that he has passive distractions within the crate to allow you to be in charge of his focus. His favorite chew toys, deer antlers, or some doggie treats are always great.
- Never, never, never be physical when putting Quinn in the crate. If needed, put him on a leash and walk him around the room for a bit and then just “calmly drive him right into the crate”.
- Put Quinn in the crate at different times during the day so that there is not “one instance” when he always goes inside. Dogs learn through association and you don’t want him to learn “I see you getting your keys so we are going in the crate”. This could create a “play time” that could get things way too adrenalized for proper crate placement.
- Always perform your training when things are calm around the house. Heightened adrenalin caused by a crazy family will now allow you to maintain Quinn’s needed focus in teaching your “The Crate is Good” lesson.
Making sure that our dog feels safe and secure is one of our top priorities as a dog owner. If you remember that, when properly socialized, the crate is a universal island of safety and not a “jail”, you can provide your dog with the constant level of safety he requires. Please get hold of us if you have any dog fence or dog training questions by clicking on Dog Fence Training Help. You can get additional tips on Dog Problems, Dog Training, and Dog Fences at Best Out of Sight Fence Trainers Coral Springs South Florida. We have been dog trainers in South Florida for the last eleven years. We recently estimated that we have trained over 3,500 dogs and their owners during this time. Dog Training is a key component of the Dog Fence System. If you want to learn about our dog training experience, please click on Home Dog Training Coral Springs South Florida.