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  • Writer's pictureKari Bastyr, MS, CDBC, CPCN

Puppy Training: How Can I Crate Train My Puppy

The following list describes, in detail, the order of treatment techniques for crate training.  Try not to get discouraged if your dog seems too upset while in his crate.

  1. Leave the crate door open, and let him have access to it at all times. Put his food dish in front of it and let him eat there.  Once he becomes comfortable eating in front of it, put the dish inside the crate, directly inside the open door.  When he goes in to eat, praise him like crazy in a soft tone.  Once he is comfortably eating with the dish in the front of the crate, move the food dish back into the middle of the crate, and then later, to the back of the crate.  Eventually, once he becomes completely comfortable eating at the back of the crate, shut the door while he eats (while he’s in it).  Praise him the entire time, and throw a few small hot dog or cheese chunks in the crate, too, while he eats.

  2. Use peanut butter, squeeze cheese, or baby food to smear at the front of the crate on the floor. Let your puppy lick it off and walk away. Try this a couple times a day with the smear just inside the front of the crate. Then move it an inch farther back for a day or so, then another inch. Then smear a bit more on the floor at the back so it takes a bit longer to lick off. The goal is for your puppy to learn that the crate has good things in it, but then she can come right back out once it’s gone.  You can also use a lickmat.

  3. After your dog has no problems eating in the crate, leave him in it for 1-3 minutes at a time while you’re home, and eventually work your way up in time. Cover the crate with a blanket or rug (something he can’t pull through and chew).  Play ‘talk radio’ or put a ticking clock next to his crate.  If he whines or cries, gently reassure him while you are sitting next to the crate. Once he starts to calms down, or is quieting down, open the door, let him out and praise/treat him. Modify this as needed, depending on his behavior.  If your puppy is having a full-blown melt down and/or panic attack, let her out and hold her until she calms down. There is a difference between not liking the crate and being truly terrified. You need to make the determination between temper tantrum/uncomfortableness and fear/panic.  Puppies 10 weeks and younger who have never been in a crate, and are all of a sudden alone and without littermates, will need some intense desensitization for confinement.  DO NOT worry that you are rewarding your puppy’s screaming. You can’t reward fear- It’s an emotion, and you have to support your puppy through this slowly while finding small enough increments that will allow your puppy to learn.

  4. Also, use a command with it like “In your Crate”, or “Naptime” so when he hears the word, he will associate going in his crate. Lengthen the period of time that he’s in the crate while you’re home.

  5. A few days after you begin leaving him in the crate while you’re home, put him in the crate when you leave for short periods of time (i.e. to go get the mail, to walk down to the end of the street and back, etc.) If you come back inside, let him out of the crate and treat/praise him.  This time frame could be from 5-15 minutes.

  6. Gradually lengthen the amount of time he’s in his crate (when you leave for short periods), and adjust as needed. Then, leave him in it when you go to the store or to a movie.  Eventually, you’ll be able to leave him in there for more than a few hours, or while you’re gone for the day.

  7. Give him a Toppl-smeared with peanut butter/honey/yogurt and kibble (or chunks of meat roll and Cheerios, etc.) when you leave him in the crate. Some people load the Toppl and freeze it the night before.

  8. You may have to Kong train your puppy outside of using the crate first. Get her used to eating treats or meals out of it first, then start using it in the crate.

The most important thing is to be consistent and make the crate fun.  Don’t use it for punishment and never yell at your dog while you are putting him in the crate.  Always give him a treat when he goes in it.  Soon, your dog will enjoy having his own little den, and look forward to a really good puzzle toy!

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