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A Guide to Crate Training Puppies and Dogs

How to Crate Train Your Puppy, Dog – Tips for Success

Introduce and familiarize your puppy or dog to a crate the right way your dog will not fear or take a disliking to the crate. The crate will not be associated with anxiety and stress…

Introducing, Familiarizing Your Dog with His/Her Crate 

Encourage Your Dog to Explore the Crate On His/Her Own

When first introducing your puppy or dog to a crate, leave the crate door open and  allow your dog to explore the  outside and inside of the crate. Provided you are grounded in your own emotions – i.e. you ‘feel’ that the crate is just another item of furniture in the house, your dog will have no reason to have an adverse reaction to the crate – your dog will be supported in normalizing the existence, presence  and use of the crate.

Your dog should use his/her nose to sniff the crate, explore both the inside and outside of the crate at his/her leisure. You can put a favorite blanket or toy in the crate to further encourage your dog’s curiosity and normalization of the crate. Don’t make a big excited fuss over the crate – high pitched voices, excited energy etc. Remember that you want your dog to associate the crate with ‘normal’, calm, grounded – relaxed. Don’t wind your dog up, instead quietly – from a place of inner warmth just enjoy watching your dog explore.

Closing The Door For The First Time

If you feel uncertain, nervous, guilty, anticipate reactive behaviour etc. your dog can sense how you feel and your dog will not be comfortable with the closing of the crate door. Why should he/she be comfortable if you are not? If you want your dog to be in a certain state-of-being you must be in that state first. Dogs love pure logic because they are insightful communicators. Once your dog has entered the crate you can close the door – provided you think of closing the door as normal. It is up to you to lead – you can create normal  or you can create stress.

If you anticipate that your dog will panic, will be uncomfortable, and will not like the crate – you are directing your dog to panic, be uncomfortable and not trust the crate. Dogs are literal beings – not because they are simple-minded nor stupid but instead because they are very aware communicators.

Once a dog has found a crate to be a normal, comfortable place, leave the crate door open when the crate is not in active use – this way the dog may choose to use the crate as a place of rest even when you have not directed him/her to go to the crate.

Tips for Crate Training Your Dog

Letting Your Dog Out of His/Her Crate

To Let Your Dog Out of The Crate…

The same principles that apply to closing the crate door apply to opening the door – normalize. When you go to let your dog back out of the crate, make sure you are grounded (calm, normal) and that you are not in a hurry. If your dog is excited – just breathe to direct your dog to calm. Don’t speak, don’t obsess about your dog’s state, don’t argue or plead – just breathe and clear your thoughts. Don’t open the door until your dog is calm. Dogs understand how to pressure and dogs are persist – if you want calm you have to work for it –  direct from a place of pure logic.

When your dog is calm, place your hand on the crate door handle – but don’t open the door yet.  If your dog’s excited state is initiate or further heightened when you reach for a touch the door handle, take your hand off of the door handle. Once again help your dog calm. When your dog is calm your hand can go back to the handle.

Open the door a little – if your dog escalates to excitement gently close the door and start again. When your dog calms open the door slightly – don’t ‘guard’ the opening. If you feel the ‘need’ to guard you are inviting your dog to compete with you for the opening. Don’t create a competition.

Just because you open the door does not mean that your dog should push his/her way out through the door. Indicate to your dog to sit. Do not allow him/her to ‘bolt’ out of the crate.

Stand in the space created by the open crate door – occupy the space with a comfortable grounded stance – one leg slightly in front of the other. When your dog is calm, release the space by moving to one side of the open door and then use your hand to draw his eyes up to you and then use a hand gesture to indicate that he/she can now step out of the crate. Then cue him/her to calm once more by taking a deep breath as he/she exists the crate.

Don’t Wind Your Dog Up

When you come home don’t create an environment of high energy, intense excitement – just be normal. Do you want your dog to jump all over you, whine and bark, be anxious when you leave and arrive? Learn how to great your dog with selfless love by greeting in silence.

Dogs With High-Level Anxiety

Determination, presence of mind and patience is required to affect change. Work on your own self-control, and self awareness first. Follow the steps above and do not allow emotion – yours or your dog’s to rule. Staying grounded takes practice – it is not reasonable to expect your dog to be grounded and calm when you are not.

Don’t Allow Your Dog to ‘Own’ His/Her Crate

It is important to teach your dog that that he/she does not own his/her crate. The crate is a ‘common’ space – a space that is not singularly owned – it is a shared space.

I have worked with dogs that were allowed to ‘own’ and guard his/her crate to the point of extreme aggressive-reactivity – should anyone (human, dog, cat) approach the crate. It takes skill and knowledge to reverse this behaviour and while I can do so, it is better to avoid creating the situation in the first place. Save yourself and your dog the distress…

Not For Punishment

Don’t use the crate in anger. Doing so creates many issues including aggressive reactivity.

A crate should NEVER be used as a means to ‘punish’ a dog. In-fact when working with your dog you should never seek to punish. Dogs do not require punishment. Punishment simply serves to destabilize a dog. Punishment creates insecurity, fear, the need to react defensively, to shut down – psychological damage which can also result in physical damage. A dog requires fair, logical, respectful mentoring.

Make Sure the Crate is the Right Size for your Dog

Your dog should be able to comfortably stand up and turn around in his /her crate.

Location Matters

Never place a crate in a location that:

  • Gets overly warm
  • Where there is a cold draft
  • Where the air quality is poor
  • Where lighting is harsh

Should You Cover the Crate?

Covering the crate can lead to expectations that are not met and the end result can be increased anxiety for you and your dog. Some people, trainers and behaviorists included believe that by covering the crate they will moderate or even solve a dog’s crate-anxiety. Covering the crate may simply serve to reduce air circulation and therefore reduce air quality. When I work with a client whose dog is suffering from crate-anxiety and the crate is covered, one of the first things I do is remove the cover. Then I teach the client how to resolve the root cause of the anxiety.

A Comfortable Place

The dogs in my own pack lie in their crates when they feel like it. They are allowed to lie down wherever they like in my house – including on couches. Sometimes they prefer a crate. No one dog in my pack owns a crate – they all share the spaces in the house including crates. Why do they choose the crate? The crate is a space of comfort and calm and all of the crates in my house are comfy – they are lined with dog beds and some have pillows too.

Even dogs who are capable of escaping any crate – like my dog Sarah (German Shepherd X Husky) will accept being in a crate when coached and mentored the right way. Sarah is a wily, intelligent and resourceful canine who spent the better part of her first year as a stray – wiliness meant survival. Sarah can open any type of crate door handle/lock and escape at will – however if I put her in a crate she will stay in it. My control over Sarah is not based on physical force – no amount of physical restraint can stop a determined dog from attempting to and escaping from a crate, room etc. My control over Sarah and my client’s dogs is based on self-restraint, self-awareness, self-discipline, respectful and logical communication – true leadership.

I work with dogs that have extreme separation anxiety – including cases where a dog has suffered severe injury while chewing through and escaping from for his/her crate.

Hate The Crate?

Many people think that their dog’s reason for extreme behaviour is that he/she ‘hates’ his/her crate.

Not so.

In the majority of cases it is the human that:

  • Accidentally enables an existing condition of insecurity (i.e. in the case of an adopted dog), or;
  • Creates the insecurity in the first place. Returning the situation back to normal requires that all aspects of the situation be addressed – human and canine.

Is Crating Cruel?

A crate can be a place of great cruelty…

  • A dog should not live his/her life in a crate
  • A crate, as noted further above should not be used to punish a dog, dogs should not be punished – dogs need coaching and mentoring – not punishment.

A crate can be a place of comfort, support…

  • A crate can be an amazing tool to help a dog learn to transition from a state of insecurity to a state of normal, grounded, confidence.
  • A crate can be a place to help the healing process – after physical trauma or surgery

A place of positive support or negativity – it all depends on the human.

Need Additional Assistance?

If you require additional support and guidance I would be pleased to assist you via my In-Person or On-Line Services…

Dog Obedience Training and Behavior Modification Services:

Diet, Nutrition Wellness Services:

  • Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice is available via this service
  • Holistic Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans are available via this service

 

 

About Karen

Dogs are my life, my work, my passion… I am a Dog Whisperer, Dog Behaviorist and Holistic Canine Wellness Adviser with a wealth of real-time, real-life experience living and working with dogs. For two and a half decades I have worked with and shared my life with dogs. My own dog pack is comprised of eleven dogs, various breeds and ages. I provide a full range of services including Obedience Training for puppies and dogs; canine Behavior Modification; canine Psychological Rehabilitation, specializing in assisting dogs that are experiencing extreme states of insecurity, anxiety and aggressive-reactive behavior; Diet, Nutrition and Wellness Advice and Plans for canines and felines…natural wisdom for you and your companion animal.

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One comment

  1. We adopted our 5 yr old boxer 1 yr ago. The previous owner gave us his crate and told us that the dog was terrified of it. He still had separation anxiety issues but we were able to leave him loose in the house for a few hours without any problems..until a few months ago. He was being dog-sat for the day and the people went out for dinner, leaving him alone in their house. They found a big poop mess when they got back. Ever since then, he’s done the same thing in our house. We take him with us everywhere we go now. I read your blog about crate training so about a month ago we brought it out of the shed and upstairs into a room where we sit often. He smells it every now and but won’t go in, even with his bed in it. I fed him in the crate a few times, and moved the bowl in a little further every now and then. He eventually went in with all four paws to eat, but when he went to back up, he touched the side of the crate and jumped. I stopped feeding him in the crate as he would not go back in. Our intention is to have a happy place for our boxer to rest and sleep and to close the door when we go out (which is seldom) but I’m not convinced that the crate will work for him. It’s very possible we enabled his insecurity but we don’t want to force him in it either. Next plan is to leave him alone in the house for minutes at a time and work him up to a few hours. Thank you so much for your website and advice. I appreciate your blog very much and make your dog food (raw) recipe. He loves it.

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