A Crate Time
Just like humans, most dogs like a place to call their own. If you’re like me, I love being in my warm bed inside my cozy bedroom. Well, dogs are no different. Giving your dog a designated special area to relax and unwind is a positive aspect in your dog’s life. A crate doesn’t have to be a place your goes in to keep out of mischief; it can be just like a little doggie bedroom. Here are some tips to teaching your dog to love her crate.
One Size Does Not Fit All
First, you want to ensure you have a crate that is the appropriate size for your dog. Ideally, you want a crate that’s big enough for your dog to easily stand up in, turn around and stretch herself out comfortably. Place a comfortable bed in there to entice your dog that this is a relaxing place to be! If your dog or puppy has a bad habit of chewing on her bed, try a chew-resistant bed or some worn t-shirts with your scent on it instead of bedding. In case she gets an urge to chew, I’d also recommend putting some of her favorite chew toys in there so she doesn’t take the urge out on her own bedding. Always be sure that your dog cannot chew anything enough to become a potential choking hazard.
Location, Location, Location
Just like a good real estate agent, a dog owner should be mindful of the importance of the location of your dog’s crate. You don’t want your dog to associate her crate with being isolated from the rest of the household or begin to only know it as the place she has to go inside when everyone leaves the house. Ensure to place the crate in a room that you spend a lot of time in (living room, bedroom, office, etc.) This way your dog will come to enjoy having her own spot to relax in while everyone else is watching a movie, sleeping or filing their taxes. You can change the location from room to room or buy more than one crate, if you have enough room. Keep the crate door open and try keeping it in a location that you know your dog typically enjoys relaxing. Personally, my dog Jade loves her crate and goes in it willingly when bedtime comes (or when she’s had a long day of playing at The Perfect Pooch). I even put a sheet over her crate to make it nice and dark in her “room.” You can consider doing the same, if your dog isn’t prone to pulling it through the holes in the crate.
The Crate Can Be Really Great
The next step is making sure we take all opportunities to let your dog know that we are happy when she willingly goes in her crate. Every time you see your dog go in her crate, say “Yes!” and toss her a treat inside. If she continues to stay in there, wait a few moments and deliver another treat. Make sure to give her something she really likes (cheese, hotdogs, chicken, liver treats, etc.) We want a treat that is high in value so her association with the crate is very positive (and delicious). Try to do anything positive in the crate with her – let her chew her favorite bones or toys in there, feed her dinner or give her a good belly rub. You can also provide her with puzzle toys or food dispensing toys in the crate to occupy her and keep her busy while she is in there. Remember, give yourself time to introduce your dog to the crate. You do not want to rush the process or force her into the crate for the first time on a day that you are leaving town for the afternoon.
Closing the Door
You only want to get to this step when your dog is already completely comfortable going in and out of her crate and is happily resting in there a couple of times. Initially, you want to close the door for just a second or two, then open it and deliver her a treat. Do this step many times and slowly increase the amount of times you keep the door closed. Your dog will communicate with you the right moments to increase the amount of time you leave her in the crate with the door closed. If your dog looks uncomfortable or stressed, do not close the door on her. You only want to push forward with crate training when your dog is at ease and is ready for the next step. Watch your dog’s body language and overall demeanor and it will guide you in making the right decisions. For puppies specifically, you want to make sure you make the crate as comfortable as possible. During bedtime, you can place a ticking clock by the crate (the noise is soothing for most puppies and young dogs). You should also consider taking your puppy for a long walk or play session so that she is tired prior to going to sleep. This will help her sleep through the night. Also, remember not to open the crate for a whining puppy – this will reinforce her whining and she may learn that to get out of the crate, she needs to whine for you. Instead, wait until she stops for a couple of seconds, then release her. Your puppy will most likely need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night so ensure if she does whine, to release her once she is quiet for a few seconds and then bring her right outside.
Bottom line, teach your dog that great things happen to dogs in their crate!
Trainer, Perfect Pooch