Have you watched a movie where a couple brings home an adorable new puppy. They settle that new puppy into his bed that first night, expecting him to fall peacefully to sleep, safe in his own little towel and pillow-lined crate. Do you remember the pitiful scene where the poor puppy cries its heart out until the new owners finally give in and bring the little puppy into the bed with them? Do you remember the scene that often followed that scene, where the dog--now a full grown adult--is still sleeping in the bed with them?
Nothing is more heart wrenching than listening to your lonely or bored puppy or dog cry inside of his crate. Having a dog that is crate trained is very important, but getting there can seem heart-wrenching. What if your dog could learn not only to tolerate his crate but perhaps even to like it?
The crate is an amazing tool. It can be used to teach your puppy not to go to the bathroom inside of your house, it can prevent years of destructive chewing, it can allow your dog to travel with you, it can be used to teach your dog how to handle being alone, and it can give your dog a safe and calm place to go to when it is storming outside, when there are guests in your home, or when he just needs a break from your children.
Crating your dog when you cannot supervise him, while he is still learning proper house manners, can drastically increase the chances of your dog being trustworthy enough to be left alone in your home, outside of the crate, later on.
It is important to remember while training your dog to love his crate that you must go as slowly as your dog needs you to, for him to feel comfortable. While you are training this, it would be helpful to set up another enclosed area that you can place your dog in when you cannot watch him, until he is accustomed to his crate. If you are home often with your dog, you can also attach your dog to yourself with a leash to keep him from getting into trouble.
For all three methods, you will need a hollow chew-toy that you can stuff with kibble or treats. Something such as a Kong will work well for this. There are a couple of different ways to stuff a Kong or similar toy.
First, you can place dry dog food inside the toy, then cover the majority of the toy's opening. Do this by wedging a large treat in the opening, leaving just enough space in the opening for one to two pieces of kibble to fall out at a time.
Second, you can place your dog's food into a bowl and add water, then let the water absorb into the food over time. Once the water has absorbed into the food and the kibble is soft, loosely pack the food into the toy. When the food is packed inside, place the stuffed toy into a zipper bag and freeze the entire thing. Freezing the toy will create a time-released food dispenser that will keep your dog entertained for longer.
To get started, you will need lots of treats and a hollow chew toy that can be stuffed with food. Something like the Kong chew-toy mentioned above will work well for this. If you are using the 'Feeding' method, you will also need your dog's food bowl and his kibble. If you are using the 'Fun and Games' method, You will also need a toy that can be tossed for your dog.