Crate Training Your Dog
Crate training your dog is one of the more important things you can do for their mental health and ultimately yours. When done properly, your dog shouldn’t be upset to hang out in their crate. Their crate becomes a den, with three sides of security and a mind that can rest. It is sometimes felt that kenneling your dog can be cruel. This is a very human point of view. We can create a situation for our dogs whereby they view their kennel as their personal space. The bottom line is if you can’t be with your dog, the most fair thing you can do for your dog and yourself, is to crate train them.
The easiest way to acclimate your dog, whether a puppy or adult, to have a positive association with their crate is to feed them inside. Start slowly, with the bowl on the outside, then move the bowl just inside, so they can eat from outside the door. Over a few days move the bowl further into the crate. It’s important during this time that they aren’t snuck up on or startled. You can also use treats, a blanket, pillow, or some of your old clothes to encourage them to enter the crate on their own. During this training, don’t close the door on them.
It can also be beneficial to create a visual and audio cue when inviting them to the kennel. For my dog, I used a blanket that she now uses regularly as a comfort item that she often carries with her. The visual cue along with a verbal command to enter the kennel helped greatly when moving on to her time in the kennel.
You should not close the door on them until they will go all the way in and eat. At first, only close the door partway, your dog should be able to leave freely. Work towards closing the door without locking it. As soon as they are ready to leave, let them out. Eventually, you will be able to close the door and lock it for a moment. Again, as soon as they are ready to leave, unlock the door and let them out. Don’t wait for them to whine or scratch at the door. Eventually, your pup will enter to eat and you will be able to close the door and walk away.
Finishing the Training
As you can, invite your dog into their kennel and close the door, and stay in the room with them. Keep them in the kennel for increasing amounts of time. Offer them treats and assurances. Reward them when they come out, so they know they know they are doing a great job. As they become more comfortable, leave the room for short amounts of time. If they cry out, come back into view and assure them that you are nearby. Over time they will be more comfortable. If you can hear them lie down, give them a few moments before coming back with praise and treats.
You never want to make the crate a punishment. Over time you will be able to call your dog to the crate and use your cue (blanket, toy, or otherwise) to let them in, close the door and leave for the day.