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10 Crate Training Procedures that Build Positive Associations to the Crate

1) Play the In and Out Game
Practice tossing a treat inside the crate as you say “Kennel”. Let the puppy run into the crate to eat the food and then let them come out of the crate. Repeat 10 repetitions and end the game. Practice this game a few days a week for the first several weeks of crate training.

2) Feed the puppy’s meals inside the crate
For the first two to three months, you should feed all or at least the majority of meals inside the crate. Leave the food in the crate for 10 minutes and then take it away. If the puppy does not eat the food, give them another opportunity a couple hours later. Do not leave the food in the crate throughout the day.

3) Hide treats in the crate
Place your puppy in another room and hide a few small treats inside the crate. Now bring the puppy into the room and let them pick up the scent of the treats. They will soon find out where the scent is coming from and begin investigating inside the crate to find the treats.

4) Reward with a treat every time your dog goes into the crate
For the first several weeks, you should always toss a treat inside the crate before you lock them up in the crate for any length of time.

5) Place high value chew items in crate
Early on in the crate training, you should give most of the high value chew items inside the crate only. As the puppy becomes more and more comfortable with crating, you can allow the best chew items to be enjoyed out of the crate as well.

6) Practice "Stay" training exercises with puppy in the crate
Practicing stay exercises with your dog or puppy in the crate helps resolve a lot of problematic behavior in the crate. To begin a stay exercise, place your puppy or dog into the crate and say "Stay". The crate door should be open. Now, stand in front of the door and reward your puppy while they are inside the crate. Next, begin slowly moving away from the crate and then return to the crate and reward the puppy with treats for staying inside. Anytime, your puppy comes out of the crate, you should return them back inside the crate until the stay exercise is over. Practice short stay exercises from 10 seconds up until 3 minutes depending on your dog's age and ability. 

7) Place exciting food treats inside the crate with door closed
This is a fantastic exercise that actually creates a desire for the dog to want to be inside the crate. Toss a few pieces of cheese or high value dog treats inside the crate while the door is closed and your dog is outside of the crate. Let the dog walk around the crate while they try to figure out how to obtain the food item that is inaccessible to them. After approximately 30 seconds, open the crate door and let your dog run in to retrieve their reward.

8) Play fetch using the crate
Toss toys inside the crate and let puppy run inside the crate to pick them up and bring them back out of the crate. This continues to build positive associations of going inside the crate.

9) Crate the puppy while you are home
If you only crate your puppy before you leave the home, the puppy will begin associating being crated with you leaving. This action creates a negative association to the crate. Think of your crate as if you would use a crib or play pen for an infant child. The crate is used for temporary management in the home when you cannot supervise the puppy. Crating is not a life long ordeal and as your puppy matures you will have to crate them less and less.

10) Cover the crate
Some puppies feel more comfortable with a blanket covering three sides of the crate or completely covering the crate. Experiment to see if you have one of these types of puppies. If your puppy has the tendency to pull the blanket through the crate, you can use cardboard instead of a blanket.

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Published on July 23, 2017

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