Training your dog to see the crate as a safe and comfortable place is very important. Follow these 5 easy exercises and your dog will learn to love his crate/carrier.
1. Start out on the Right Paw
As with any training, make sure you set up a nurturing and supportive training environment. When you first introduce the crate, or the pet carrier, just allow the dog to explore it on his own terms. To do so, set up the crate/carrier inside your home. Choose an area that you spent time in, not a far away bedroom that is away from all the family activities. You want to set up the crate with the door open, or even better, remove the door for the first few days, so it cannot accidentally close.
Put one of his used dog beds or blankets inside. You don't want to use a newly purchased dog bed, because you want your dog's familiar smell inside the crate/carrier.
With this set-up, allow your dog to explore the new item. If he goes into the crate, do not close the door! The first few times, allow the dog to just go in and out of the crate.
You can toss treats in front off and inside the crate/carrier. Allow the dog to sniff around it for the rest of the day.
2. Let's Have Fun - Make it a Game
The next day, play a fun game with your dog by tossing her favorite toy inside the crate. If the dog is still hesitant to go inside the crate/carrier, place the toy just inside the entrance, so the dog only has to reach in. As she gets more comfortable, you can place the toy (or treat) further toward the inside of the crate until the dog is comfortable placing all four paws in the crate.
Use a command, like "kennel-up" every time you toss the toy or treat inside the carrier/crate. This will teach your dog to go into the crate/carrier on command. Never push or physically drag your dog into the crate. Allow the dog to go in on her own terms.
If your crate is making noises that intimidate your pet, it is helpful to place it on a carpeted area or rug or to place some heavy items on the top.
Continue to work with your dog until she will go in and out of the crate without hesitation.
3. Food Makes the Heart Go Fonder
After your dog is comfortable to walk in and out of the crate, start to feed him inside the crate for several days in a row. Put his food bowl in the far back of the crate. If you feed dry food, you can even put the food into the carrier without a bowl.
Feeding the dog in the crate makes him spend several minutes in the crate and forms a positive association.
We don't recommend to put water inside the crate, it usually just makes a mess.
4. Positive Association
Now that she has eaten her meals inside the crate, you can start putting the door back on. It's time to teach your dog to stay inside the crate for a few minutes at a time.
Say your command, then toss a treat inside the crate. Gently close the door when your dog is inside. Stand or kneel in front of the closed door. Wait just a few moments, praising your dog. Then open the door and call your pet out. Repeat this a few times a day, allowing the time in the crate to become a little longer each time.
You can bring a chair near the crate and sit down next to the crate while the dog is inside.
Many pet owners just put their dogs in the crate when they leave. So the dogs associate being left alone each time. To form a positive association with the crate, use it when you are nearby, so the dog can see or hear you. Have her spend time in the crate while you are nearby watching TV, or during dinner time. The crate needs to be in a common area, so the dog does not feel left out of the family!
5. Consistency Is Key
Once your dog has learned to stay in the crate for 30 minutes while you watch TV or read a book, you can start using the crate when you leave the home for short periods of time. You can go to the mailbox and then come back. Do not make a big deal out of coming back! In fact, don't rush in and let the dog out of the crate right away. Spend a few moments walking around and then calmly open the crate and call your dog out.
If you are training your dog to love the pet carrier, start taking her with you on short trips. Have her spend some time in the carrier while you carry it around. Go to public places and get her used to staying inside the carrier. Remember, your dog will have to stay in the carrier for longer periods if you plan to travel with her. Condition her to stay quiet and calm.
If you have not yet selected a crate for your dog, check out our FREE RESOURCES tap to see different types of crates and carriers.
Hope the information provided is helpful. We'd love to hear your comments!