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The average Cairn Terrier absolutely dotes on his owner, but you may find that once you start working with your pup to teach him even the most basic of commands. Cairns are notorious for having a very strong stubborn streak. Fortunately, as long as you work hard to make crate training a fun and positive experience, you should find he takes to it quite well. Cairn Terriers make great family pets and endear themselves to just about anyone they meet.
Keep in mind that crate training is not only used as a form of housebreaking your pup. More often than not, crate training is used to give your pup a safe place to stay when you need to go to work or are sleeping at night. You can also place your pup in his crate when you have company coming or simply during the day if you need to run a few errands.
Cairn Terriers were originally bred as a form of pest control in the Scottish Highlands where they spent their days hunting rodents among the rock cairns (rock piles). Like most dogs, they prefer to have a den to rest in, sleep in, get away from danger in, or in the right circumstance, raise their family in. Your job is to take this natural affinity for having a den and turn it into a useful behavior. The goal of crate training is not all about potty training, in reality, this is a side benefit.
The main goal of crate training is to teach your pup to go into his crate and to remain there in a calm and relaxed manner until you let him come back out. This type of behavior can come in handy when you need to go to work, have errands to run, need to get a good night's sleep or any one of many other reasons.
A properly sized crate should be big enough for your pup to be able to stand up, turn around, and stretch out in. The crate should also have a little extra room for your pup to move around. The trick is to avoid buying a crate that is too small, as he will be cramped, or one that is too big, as the cavernous space can make him feel so overwhelmed he won't use his crate.
Training supplies you'll need:
- Crate – the right size crate is so important
- Carpet – for the floor of the crate
- Bed – for your pup to sleep on
- Toys – for him to play with and chew on
- Blanket – to cover the crate
Beyond this, you need a ton of patience, plenty of time to work with your pup on a regular basis, and the perfect spot for your pup's crate in your home.
The No Force Method
Set up the crate
Start by setting your pup's crate up in a busy place in your house, one where he can still be part of what's going on, even when he is in his crate. Use the carpet, bed, and toys to create a more "den-like" environment. Toss in a few treats at the same time and close the door.
Let your pup sniff around the crate until he smells the treats and starts scratching and fussing at the crate begging you to let him go inside and get the treats. Open the door and let him go in. Leave the door open, but do NOT praise him for coming back out. The idea is to teach your pup he gets good things inside his crate, not outside.
Take more treats and toss them towards the back of the crate while telling your pup to "Go crate" or "Kennel." When he goes in the crate and starts eating the treats, praise him.
Behind closed doors
After working with your pup on going into the crate for several days, go ahead and close the door gently. In the event he starts to fuss and whine, ignore him until he settles down.
Keep repeating the training
Keep working with your pup until he is willing to stay in his comfy crate over extended periods of time. Be sure to take him out to go potty every time you take him out of his crate. Mission successful!
The Create a Den Method
Choose the location
Find a nice spot in your home for your pup's crate, one that is in a busy part of the house where he can keep tabs on what everyone is doing. Using the carpet, bed, and toys, create a nice inviting "den" for your pup.
In the middle
Gently pick up your pup and place him in the middle of his crate with his toys using your choice of cue word such as "Kennel" or "Crate." While he is examining the toys, gently close the door.
Your pup is likely to start yelling at you the moment he notices he is now locked in. This is quite normal, so let him fuss and whine until he runs out of steam. When he finally quiets down, be sure you praise him and give him a treat or two.
After he finishes his treat, go ahead and let him outside to go potty and stretch his little legs. Give him plenty of time to burn off a little of that endless energy.
And ever on
The rest is all about repeating the training and extending the amount of time your pup spends in the crate until he will stay in it contently for as long as you need him to.
The In and Out Method
Starting positions, please
Start by placing your pup's crate in a place where the family tends to gather and spend most of their time, such as the living room. Set it up and make it into a den by covering the crate with a blanket if you prefer.
The next step is to create an inviting atmosphere with the carpet, bed, and toys. A space your pup won't mind spending time in.
Bring on the food
Bring his food and water bowls over and place them outside his crate by the door. Leave the door open and walk away. Let your pup wander in and out at his own pace. Each time you see him enter the crate, praise him and give him a treat.
Now that he has become used to being in his crate, go ahead and close the gate the next time he goes in. Let him bark and fuss until he gets tired of hearing his own voice. When he stops fussing, praise him and give him a treat.
Life on the outside
Give him a little time to enjoy his treat and then open the gate and take him outside to go potty.
More time, please
The rest lies in continuing to work with your Cairn Terrier until he will not only go into his crate willingly, but will stay there as long as you need him to, within reason. Slowly build up time, so your pup doesn’t become resentful of his crate. With a little bit of time and luck, you should reach the point at which you pup treats his crate as his "den" and he willingly spends time in it.
By PB Getz
Published: 02/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021