How to Train Your Small Dog to Like a Crate

Medium
3-8 Weeks
General

Introduction

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?

Defining Tasks

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.

Getting Started

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.

The Feeding Method

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Step
1
Feed in front of the crate
To begin, open the door to your dog's crate and leave it open. Place your dog's food bowl in front of the crate's entrance and feed him there. If you dog will not eat his food at this location, move the bowl away from the crate until you have reached a location that your dog will eat at. Once you have found that location, gradually move the bowl closer to the crate every time that your dog becomes completely relaxed at the current distance. Do this until the bowl is once again in front of the crate's entrance.
Step
2
Place inside the crate
When your dog is comfortable eating by the crate's entrance, place the bowl of food right inside of the crate, so that your dog has to reach just his head inside to eat.
Step
3
Place the bowl deeper
When your dog is comfortable with reaching into the crate to eat, gradually place the bowl deeper and deeper into the crate. Do this until the bowl is located at the very back of the crate. Go slowly enough for your dog to remain relaxed
Step
4
Close the door
When your dog is comfortable with eating his entire meal in the back of the crate, begin to close the door behind him while he eats. Open the door again when he has finished his meal.
Step
5
Increase closed door time
When your dog is comfortable with the door being closed while he eats, gradually increase the amount of time that you leave the door closed for after he is finished eating. While you do this, drop a piece of kibble into his crate every twenty seconds. Do this until he will remain calm inside of the crate for ten minutes.
Step
6
Space out the treats
When your dog can remain calm in his crate for ten minutes, gradually increase the amount of time between food drops. Do this until you have reached ten minutes between drops.
Step
7
Increase crate time
When you have reached ten minutes between kibble drops, gradually increase the amount of time that your dog remains in his crate for, until you have reached one hour. Continue to drop in kibble every ten minutes while you do this.
Step
8
Replace treats
When you have reached one hour of crate time, replace the kibble drops with a kibble-stuffed toy, such as a stuffed Kong. Place the Kong into the crate at the beginning of the hour.
Step
9
Continue to make it fun!
Keep practicing until your dog can remain in his crate calmly for long periods of time. Continue to place food-stuffed toys and other interesting chew-toys into the crate with him. This will keep him from becoming bored. You can also continue to randomly drop treats into his crate anytime that he is lying down quietly inside. This will help him to continue to love his crate.
Recommend training method?

The Fun and Games Method

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Step
1
Open the door
To begin, open the door of your dog's crate and leave it completely open.
Step
2
Show your dog the toy
Show your dog the toy and get your dog excited about the toy. Toss the toy to your dog, let your dog tug on the toy, and move the toy across the ground in front of your dog.
Step
3
Move in front of the crate
Now that your dog is excited, move to the area right in front of the crate's open door and continue your play. If your dog is nervous there, continue to play with him until he is relaxed in that area. If he is so nervous that he no longer wants to play, back away from the crate until he relaxes again. Gradually move slightly closer to the crate whenever your dog becomes relaxed at the current distance. Do this until you have reached the area in front of the crate's open door again.
Step
4
Toss against crate
Once your dog is comfortable playing in the area right in front of the crate, occasionally toss your dog's toy against the crate's open door frame, so that he has to approach the crate to retrieve the toy.
Step
5
Toss into the crate
If your dog remains relaxed and confident, occasionally toss the toy right inside of the crate's open door. Toss the toy deep enough that your dog has to reach his head inside to retrieve it, but shallow enough that he does not have to step all the way inside.
Step
6
Toss deeper
Once your dog is comfortable putting his head into the crate, toss the toy deeper. First, toss the toy deep enough that your dog must place his front feet inside also, then toss the toy deep enough that your dog must place his entire body into the crate. Continue to increase the depth as your dog is comfortable. Do this until your dog has reached the very back of the crate.
Step
7
Play only in the crate
Once your dog will retrieve the toy from the back of the crate, only play fetch into the crate. Do this until your dog really loves running into his crate.
Step
8
Close the door
Once your dog loves being inside the crate while retrieving his toy, occasionally toss the toy into the crate and close the door, with your dog inside, for two seconds. After two seconds, open the door and praise your dog enthusiastically, then resume your normal fetch game.
Step
9
Increase duration
As your dog becomes accustomed to having the door closed behind him, begin to toss a toy that is stuffed with food, such as a stuffed Kong, into the crate when you will be closing the door. Gradually close the door for longer and longer periods of time. Do this until you have reached thirty minutes. Only use the Kong during the times that you will be closing the door. Use another toy for the open door tosses.
Step
10
Practice
Continue to practice until you can toss a Kong into the crate and your dog will willingly go inside and remain calm for long periods of time.
Recommend training method?

The Surprise Method

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Step
1
Open the door
To begin, open the door of your dog's crate and leave it completely open.
Step
2
Sprinkle treats
Using your dog's kibble or tiny treats, sprinkle lots of treats around the outside of your dog's crate with him watching you. Do this until he begins to sniff the area around the crate even when there are no treats.
Step
3
Hide treats around the crate
Once he knows to expect treats when you approach the crate, begin to sprinkle lots of treats around the crate when your dog is not present. Do this until he begins to go to his crate often, in search of treats.
Step
4
Hide treats in the crate
When your dog to going to his crate frequently to check for treats, begin to sprinkle the treats inside of the crate. Be sure to place treats right inside the door as well.
Step
5
Close the door
When your dog is comfortable with being inside of his crate while he is eating the treats, begin to close the door behind him while he eats the treats. After he finishes eating, open the door again.
Step
6
Increase closed door time
When your dog is comfortable with being inside of the closed crate while he eats his treats, gradually increase the amount of time that the door is left closed for. As you do this, sprinkle treats into the crate every ten seconds, until it is time for the door to be opened again.
Step
7
Spread out the treats
When your dog is comfortable with being left in a closed crate for several minutes, gradually increase the amount of time between treat sprinkles. Do this until you have reached ten minutes between treats.
Step
8
Increase crate time
When you have reached ten minutes between treat sprinkles, gradually increase the amount of time that your dog remains in his crate for, until you have reached one hour. Continue to add treats every ten minutes while you do this.
Step
9
Replace the treats
When you have reached one hour of crate time, replace the treat sprinkles with a food-stuffed toy, such as a stuffed Kong. Place the Kong into the crate at the beginning of the hour.
Step
10
Practice and continue
Keep practicing until your dog can remain in his crate calmly for long periods of time. Continue to place food-stuffed toys and other interesting chew-toys into the crate with him. This is to keep him from becoming bored. You can also continue to randomly drop treats into the crate anytime that he is lying down quietly inside. This will help him to continue to love his crate.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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