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Training Tip of the Week: Crate Training

Written by: Scott H
Scott Haiduc is the Director of Publishing for iHeartDogs, iHeartCats and The Hero Company. When not working, Scott spends his time on the farm, taking care of his animals and crops.Read more
| Published on October 4, 2013

Each week, we’re going to start focusing on a small training tip that you can utilize with your dog. Training provides a happier and safer life for both you and your dog. Our goal is to help teach you how to make progress in training with your pup, regardless of age, in a way that’s easy to understand and follow through with. This week we’re focusing on a very important aspect that may not be for everyone, but can definitely benefit many dogs and their families.

Why it’s important:

Crate training is becoming more and more popular, and it’s a great thing. Many are still concerned about leaving their pets in “cages,” but the reality is that crate training provides safety and comfort for our pets. Aside from the fact that many crate trained dogs often willingly go into their crates to rest on their own accord; they can prevent your pup from getting into trouble. For example, crate training can:

– Serve as an excellent way to housebreak a puppy
– Prevent your dog from ingesting anything that might be dangerous while you’re away or asleep
– Keep them separated from guests during social gatherings – how many times has your pup gotten diarrhea from too many well-meaning friends and family members wanting to share their nachos?
– Help keep them contained and feeling secure during stressful situations like thunderstorms or construction in the home
– Make traveling safer and easier – while only airlines require pets in crates, using a crate in the car is probably one of the safest ways to transport them anywhere, and having a crate for the destination room will prevent any accidents from happening while you’re unable to supervise

There are almost endless benefits to crate training, and it really can be a fun experience for both you and your dog. Below you’ll find some tips on how to successfully crate train your pup at any age.

What You Need:

– A crate sized for your dog – one big enough that he can turn around in but not so spacious that you could fit two of him inside
– Your dog – an essential for all dog training
– Yummy treats – whatever is your pooch’s favorite, although for training, small, chewy treats are best

What to Do:

#1. – The first step would be to get your pet following a lure – this means that when you hold a treat in your hand at the dog’s nose, she’ll follow your hand movements; ie. If you move your hand away, she will walk forward towards it. Remember not to move your hand so fast she loses interest or feels like she can’t keep up. If she needs help learning to follow, just mark her movement, (we use “good,” but you can also use a clicker for this – a marker is essentially a verbal or sound confirmation that your dog has done the correct behavior) and feed her the treat. It shouldn’t take very long for her to start following the lures.

#2. – Lure your dog into the crate, just one step at a time. If he really doesn’t want to go in, he might just lean forward as far as possible without taking a step inside. That’s okay! Just mark the behavior and feed. Eventually, you’ll start reaching back far enough that he has to take a step forward, or you can toss a treat in the very back of the crate. Every time he takes a step inside, mark and feed. Remember, this is going to take time and it won’t happen overnight. You can start adding the command for the crate, (we use “crate,” but you can use whatever word you want) when he starts taking those initial steps inside. Lure, command, mark, feed. Over and over and over. You might be surprised at how easily your dog goes inside after the first few tries.

#3. – Soon enough, you’ll stop luring and start tossing treats into the back of the crate. When the dog gets inside and eats the food in the back, have another treat ready in your hand for when he turns around to come back out. When he goes inside this time (all the way), you can stop giving the command when he gets to the food in the crate and give the command when he turns around and meets your treat filled hand at the entrance. Dog goes in crate, eats food, turns around, command, mark, feed.

#4 . – When you start finally leaving your dog in there (for just a little while at first, while you’re still at home and able to supervise), give a small handful of food when he turns back around, and then close the door. At this point, it helps to start feeding meals in the crate as well. If your dog seems to do fine for the first 10-20 minutes or so while you’re there, he’ll probably be fine when you leave. When you do leave the house for the first time, be gone for only a short period of time. Hopefully you don’t have a crate buster, and your dog will be happily waiting inside his new little home. When you let him out, don’t make a huge fuss over it. You want going into the crate to be equally as pleasant as coming back out. Once these situations are proofed, you’ve got a crate trained dog! Soon you won’t even need to use any treats.

Crate training is fun and easy and leads to great benefits down the road for both you and your dog. Remember, if you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, always take your pup out to potty, make sure he has plenty of water and maybe even a Kong or other safe toy to keep him busy. When you return, make sure to run outside for another potty break, and you should be good to go! A crate trained dog can certainly be a happy dog, with a happy owner as well.

Note: Remember – it’s cruel to leave your dog in a filthy crate, out in extreme weather, in his crate for long periods of time, or in a crate that is too small for him to turn around. A well loved dog will enjoy being in his crate and consider it a safe space. You would not make a child live their whole lives in one room, do not do the same to your dog.

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