How to Train Your Dog to Use A Crate

Easy
2-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

Crate training dogs can become an important part of everyday life for your family. Puppies take comfort in their crates while their owners are away. If your puppy is going to be left alone for extended periods of time while you are working or out of the house, think of your dog's crate as her personal bedroom. As you begin to crate train her, give the crate a special name that she will recognize as her special place to go and be safe while you are away. Keeping your dog crated while you are out of the house will keep your belongings safe from puppy attacks. Many owners find their couches saved from chewing, doors, and baseboards saved from marking, and the dog left feeling safe, comfortable, and self-contained within a confined space when using a crate. Puppies, especially, can become overwhelmed when left alone in your home while you are gone. If left to the entire house alone, your puppy could get into garbage or household cleaners, which could cause harm. Children's toys could also be destroyed, or other household items such as your furniture. For a puppy or an adult dog, an entire house with free reign is a lot of space to wreak havoc while you are away.

Defining Tasks

A crate big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around is big enough for your dog to rest, sleep, and quietly play while you are away from her. While you will want a crate that is big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in, you want to make sure that it's not too big. Too much space could make your dog feel uncertain and unsafe. If left with too much space, your house training dog may use part of the crate to urinate, separating a sleeping area from a potty space. This could mean if you have a dog who is going to grow a lot over the first two years of her lifetime you may need to partition a large crate off or use different crates as your puppy grows into a larger dog.

Depending on the age of your dog, it may take about two weeks and possibly up to four weeks to get your dog not only used to the crate but also feeling as if the crate is her home away from home when you are not around. It is important to use the same word each time you command your dog to go inside her crate.

Getting Started

You will need:

  • An appropriate crate for the size of your dog.
  • Treats for rewarding your dog and enticing her to get into the crate.
  • Bedding and toys for comfort and entertainment while your dog is in the crate.

Some owners provide a small dish of water for their dog while in the crate. However, if you plan to be gone for an extended period, your dog may have an accident in the crate, leaving her feeling discouraged

Remember, do not use the crate as punishment. It should be a safe place for your dog. If she associates the crate with punishments, she is not going to want to be in her crate when you are away for extended periods of time.

The General Crate Training Method

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General Crate Training method for Use A Crate
Step
1
Introduce the crate to your dog
Place the crate in a busy area within your home such as your family room or near your kitchen to introduce the crate to your dog.
Step
2
Encourage her to enter
Bring your dog over to the crate with the door open for her to sniff and explore. Set a small treat inside and encourage her to go inside and walk around. Do this several times over the course of the first day you have the crate.
Step
3
Feed inside the crate
If possible, you can give your dog a meal inside the crate to create a level of comfort for her.
Step
4
Increase duration
Once your dog can spend approximately 30 minutes inside the crate with you at home without fear or anxiety, place her in the crate with a treat, your verbal command, bedding, and toys.
Step
5
Leave the house for a short period
If possible, the first few times you leave the house should be short trips. Take a walk around the block, make a trip to the grocery store, or run an errand or two. When possible, try not to make her first time in the crate without you home a full day for you at work, for instance.
Step
6
Repeat
As much and as often as you can, repeat this process to get your dog used to the crate for longer times. Note that a house training puppy may only be able to make it for a few hours without the need to go outside.
Recommend training method?

The Night Sleeping Method

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Night Sleeping method for Use A Crate
Step
1
Location
If you are training a puppy to sleep in a crate at night, you may want to start with the crate in your bedroom or any hallway near your room, so your dog feels close to you and safe.
Step
2
Introduce and encourage use of the crate
Using the method above, introduce the crate to your dog with verbal commands and treats.
Step
3
Leave her in the crate
Using a keyword and treats, leave her alone for small periods of time.
Step
4
Tucking in
Begin your nighttime routine with your dog in the crate and the door open.
Step
5
Close the door
Once your dog settles down, you can close the door while still talking to her and letting her know you are nearby.
Step
6
Head to bed yourself
If you do not like the crate in your bedroom or a hallway near your bedroom you can move it once your dog is comfortable understands the verbal commands such as “let's go night-night” and begins to enter the crate on her own when she is ready for bed.
Recommend training method?

The Luring Your Dog into the Crate Method

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Luring Your Dog into the Crate method for Use A Crate
Step
1
Strategy
If your dog is uncomfortable with the crate training process, you can lure her into the crate.
Step
2
Use a food lure
Place her food inside the crate as a lure.
Step
3
Encourage her to enter
With a soft voice, encourage her to get inside.
Step
4
Keep her in while eating
Sit with the door open, blocking the doorway as she eats.
Step
5
Encourage her to stay inside
Provide a comforting voice and tone while she is inside the crate.
Step
6
Reward on release
When it is time for her to come out of the crate, make a big deal of releasing her. Tell her she is a good pup, and offer her a special treat reserved just for crate release time.
Step
7
Repeat
Each time you need to place her in the crate, try this method until she understands she is safe and secure as well as loved.
Step
8
Understanding
This method works for dogs who may have been abused or locked in small cages or crates for extended periods of time without love and encouragement. An abused dog may associate a crate with a past life and will be fearful of it. Showing her she is safe, and you will return while providing her love and attention will teach her to trust you and her safe space more over time.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Guaro
French Bulldog
1 Year
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Question
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Guaro
French Bulldog
1 Year

We rescued Guaro about 2 months ago, at the shelter they said he is about a year old, he is not house broken yet, we are crate trainning him, also it seems like he was abused and he is really shy and nervous, he loves his crate even when we are at home and we keep it open. We have Cutie a 2 year old maltese mix, she is really well behaved and house broken completely. Can we leave Guaro in his crate and Cutie loose while we are not at home? Cutie doesn't enjoy the crate and we leave her unsettled and barking.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
235 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tatiana, If Cutie was left out of a crate in your home while you were gone before you got Guaro, Guaro does not seem aggravated by Cutie when he is in the crate, and Cutie is not pestering him through the crate walls, then Cutie is fine to be left out while Guaro is crated. If you have never left Cutie out while you are gone, then leave the house for five minutes and see how she does. If she does okay, then leave her out for ten minutes another day. If that goes well, then leave her for thirty minutes. Gradually increase how long you leave her out for while you are gone. A long trip to the mailbox, a walk around your neighborhood, or a short trip to a nearby store are good times to do this. Keep adding more time until you have reached two hours. If she does alright for two hours for a week to two-weeks straight, then try leaving her for a normal work day or day where you are gone. Just be sure that you are not gone for longer than she can hold her bladder for. If she handles the full amount of time consistently, then she is ready to be given freedom in your home while you are gone. If she destroys something or begins having accidents, then you need to wait another three months and then try again using the same gradual process. If Cutie is fine being left out but seems to aggravate Guaro when she is free and he is confined, then confine Guaro in a part of the house that Cutie cannot get to. For example, put Guaro's crate in a bedroom and close the door so that Cutie cannot come in, or use a baby gate on your stairs if you have multiple levels in your home, and place Cutie downstairs and put Guaro's crate upstairs, so that she cannot get to him to bother him. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lucky
Labrador Retriever
7 Months
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Question
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Lucky
Labrador Retriever
7 Months

My dog would usually go to his crate and go to sleep as usual. A couple weeks ago, he started whining in his crate for a couple minutes after we put him in there. Up until a couple of days ago, he started barking nonstop as though he was not crate trained.

What's wrong with him, and why is he doing this? Is he trying to test the limits? I suspect so. If he is, what do I do? Reward him when he's quiet?

P.s. the crate is his bedroom.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
235 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kien, If he is not having accidents in the crate during a normal day, then he is likely just testing limits because of his adolescent age. He probably thinks that being out of the crate is more fun and so he is protesting being crated. Stay firm and if that is the case the phase should pass. You can reward him by going to him when he is quiet and quietly dropping a couple of treats inside. You can also give him a hollow chew toy such as a Kong, stuffed with kibble dog food and a little peanut butter when you put him in there during the day. Check out the video that I have linked below and add some structure to going in and out of the crate to establish a calmness and respect related to you and the crate. Generally spending some time every day or so doing a bit of training in general should help to build his respect for you at this age. Be sure to be consistent with your rules and enforcing them at this age also. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7lyzbgTXjU Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Skye
Lab Pei
7 Years
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Question
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Skye
Lab Pei
7 Years

I rescued Skye six years ago from a very abusive family where she was locked in a crate 24/7 and attacked by other dogs I would like to be able to crate train her but she gets very overwhelmed when there is a crate on our property and won’t enter the house or yard when there is one as she is so scared we have tried food toys but she will go hungry instead of go in the same room as a crate are there any alternatives?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
235 Dog owners recommended

Hello Audrey, If you are home during the day you can use the "Tethering" method for potty training, and use an exercise pen with chew toys in it to keep her safe when you cannot watch her. If she does not tolerate an exercise pen, you can also screw an eye-hook into your baseboard in a central area, where there is hard-floors and not carpeting. Attach a chew proof leash to the eye-hook and hook her to it. Vir-Chew-Ly makes such chew proof leashes. The leash and eye hook are best for when you are home but in a different part of the house and can't have her attached to you. When you are going to be gone for longer, I suggest trying an exercise pen, and if that is not tolerated, dog proof a room with hard-floors as a last resort. Tethering method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside If you have to be gone for more than 2.5-3 hours before she is potty training, I suggest setting up an exercise pen somewhere that you can block her from getting to later, such as a heated garage, guest bathroom, laundry room, securely fenced deck (if it's warm outside), or basement room. Purchase or create a disposable grass toilet and place that in one end of the exercise pen for her to use as a toilet. Spray the grass with a potty encouraging spray (Hurry Spray, Go Here, or something similar). If you can't use an exercise pen, you will have to place the grass pad in the room she is confined in - but this will lead to more accidents in the process so it's not ideal. The goal is to keep her close to the grass which smells like somewhere she should go potty and resembles the grass you will be taking her to outside when you are home. The exercise pen will keep her from getting into mischief also. Give her food-stuffed chew toys in the exercise pen to make it a pleasant place. You will probably need to choose a more sturdy exercise pen or anchor it to the walls in a corner because of her size. Check out the article that I have linked below. Pay attention to the "Exercise Pen" method. The article mentions litter box training, but the training works for grass pads also. Since you are primarily potty training outside, not all of the steps will apply but there are some tips for helping her learn to go potty on the grass pad, if needed. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy Make sure you choose a grass pad with real grass and not fake turf. Here is one grass pad: https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Patch-Disposable-Potty-Grass/dp/B005G7S6UI/ref=asc_df_B005G7S6UI/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=309763115430&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=18051296575568864591&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1015431&hvtargid=pla-568582223506&psc=1 You can also build your own grass pad and control the size more easily. To build a grass pad: purchase a wide, shallow plastic storage bin, and cut a piece of grass sod so that it fits inside. Place the grass sod into the box, scoop the poop to keep it clean and replace the sod as needed. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lucky
Labrador Retriever
10 Months
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Question
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Lucky
Labrador Retriever
10 Months

Is it okay to put my dog in his crate when we are eating? It's new year's and we put him in there to separate him from us. As expected, he would bark from the food we're eating, but I'm working on the "quiet" command.

I tried getting him to stay on the couch now that my parents don't want him on the blanket anymore. I let my chihuahua in to the kitchen and let her roam free since she doesn't misbehave, but as like the basement, should I train my chihuahua to stay there as well to make training easier for Lucky? Or should I just train just Lucky to stay on the couch? It may seem unfair to him, and that's why it seems like it's harder. If it does make it harder to just train him only, should I make it easier for him by keeping my chihuahua locked in a room away from us and then train him?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
235 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kien, You can definitely crate him while you are eating. Just give him an interesting chew toy in the crate and continue to work on the "Quiet" command with him. It will be easier for Lucky to stay if both dogs are laying down but letting your Chihuahua roam while he stays is also fine. It will just take longer to teach because it requires a bit more self-control from Lucky. That level of self-control is your goal in the end though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Lucky
Labrador Retriever
10 Months
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Question
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Lucky
Labrador Retriever
10 Months

My dog is used to the crate, but it's not like he will go in there by himself whenever he wants to. He still prefers to not go into the crate, so we have to walk down with him to get him to go into the crate.

Is he fully trained? I heard from others that their dog would go into their crate whenever they'd like, so how can I train Lucky to do this?

When we first got him the crate, we would just throw him in there every night and he would whine for 45 minutes, and then it slowly decreased within 3 months of him used to sleeping in there. Is that the proper way to train him? Even if it is not, should I start from scratch and re train him even though he is quiet at night?

Aside from teaching him the quiet command, what else can I do to curb his anxiety when we crate him in the daytime?

P.s. I remember when I first started being a puppy owner, I was used to my chihuahua who would always go bathroom outside right away. I didn't know puppy training, so I would often get frustrated at Lucky and kind of "take it out" on him. Did I traumatize him??? He was only 3 or 4 months when we first got him, and if he is, how can we bond back together?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
235 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kien, Whenever you put him into the crate give him a command which means he should go in, like "Crate", then toss a couple of treats in there and shut the door behind him. Also, you can toss a food stuffed Kong chew toy in the crate with him, which should help him not be so bored and learn to like the crate more. Continue to walk down with him if he needs it, because he still needs to go in whether he wants to or not, but giving him the treats can help him want to go in on his own eventually. Most dogs also do not start going in the crate just to relax until they are a bit older. I used treats and stuffed Kongs with my own youngest dog, and she didn't mind going it, but it wasn't until she was about three and had less energy that she started going into the crate to simply take a nap when the door was open. Make going into the crate more pleasant with treats and food-stuffed Kongs, then give him time to mature and calm down also. Being rough with him probably did damage your relationship some, if he does not seem always anxious and worried about you, I wouldn't say he it traumatized though. The best thing you can do is what you are already attempting to do, practice training him and try to be more patient and kind to him to re-build his respect for you. That doesn't mean that you cannot correct him, tell him no, or be firm when needed, but when you do so try to be calm, patient and firm. Think about the calm people whom you respect. They say what they mean and back it up, but they are patient, calm, and you still know that they love you when they do it. The discipline and the fairness and patience often help you respect and appreciate them even more - even though you might like not getting in trouble and having a consequence. When you teach him new commands like "come" try to make those fun and rewarding. Behavior issues sometimes require corrections to address (often in combination with positive reinforcement for doing the correct behavior after too), but when teaching new commands like obedience and tricks, you can use more positive reinforcement and make it fun. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Lucky
Labrador Retriever
11 Months
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Question
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Lucky
Labrador Retriever
11 Months

Recently, there was a wind chill vortex in Chicago, where I'm from. Usually if I want him to go bathroom, I would just attach multiple leashes to one another, making a 10 to 20 foot long leash so I can let him walk out the back door and potty on my lawn. (I do pick up the poop later on during the day). I do this everyday, without having to even step foot out the door, and just watch him go potty and open the door and let him back inside.

Since it was around -20 f outside during the vortex, he did walk down to his crate and stayed there a couple times after going potty, but that's the only rare time he's ever done that. I did my best to reward him for what he did, and we would close the door and lock it. He would then start whining in a little bit. He usually goes next to the heater and stays there, which i'm fine with. I also do want to teach him stay at the heater, as his "bed" for when we eat. He does that around a third of the time, though, since he's cold enough.

Also, he is still going through the "teen" phase, but we kind of went through it successfully, with my dad telling him to "quiet", or "good night", almost as if Lucky was a child. He occasionally wakes up when we go and do things at night, so that is no big deal. What can I do to further improve what I'm doing for this scenario?

And since I am so skeptical of my training, and because I think I may have went too fast with him, I went back to the pure basics, strolling around my house with Lucky on a leash, telling him to sit at random times, rewarding him when he does. He knows what sit is, he just does it reluctantly, even when I have a tasty treat in my hand, right next to him (he usually jumps up to snatch the treat, but I just yank the treat back before he gets it.) Should I do that? My thinking is, if he fully masters the basics (sit, down, I didn't teach him come yet) (I estimate right now he obeys 40 percent of the time) in even the most distracting environment, it will make it easier to teach him the things you have told me. Is that true?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
235 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kien, Working on the basics is always good. It helps him understand you better, develop better self-control, learn how to learn, and it's great for your relationship with him. I highly suggest continuing with the basics and gradually building on those with him. For the crate, check out the article that I have linked below. I suggest following tips from all of the methods to make the crate as fun as possible, but especially work on the "Surprise" method, dropping treats into the crate when he is quiet. The more pleasant you can make the crate, the more you give him something interesting to do in the crate, like chewing on a food-stuff chew toy, and the more you practice being in there with pleasant things, like treats being dropped in while he is being quiet and food-stuffed chew toys, for shorter periods of time - such as thirty-minutes to an hour during the day, the more he should get used to going in there and learn to relax in there. He may not go in there just for fun until he is older though because at this age he is busier and wants to be in the middle of everything. When he is older and likes to take naps more, the crate will probably become more pleasant if you have done things to help him get used to being in there while younger. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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