So you’ve decided to crate train your dog. What exactly does that mean? You just shove the dog in and shut the door, right?
Absolutely not! You want every interaction with that crate to be a good one! You want it to be a place they want to go! The following is a near bomb proof method that I think will be beneficial to everyone.
The key to crate training is to teach them the crate is a nice place, its a safe place, good things happen and….. they CAN come out WHENEVER they want.. in fact the very SECOND they want..
That sounds counter intuitive, you want the dog to stay IN the crate so you let him out the second he wants out…
But the truth is that if you teach them this way, they always trust that the crate is fine and by the time you have worked your way up gradually to leaving them for an hour or two, they DON’T want to come out until you let them out anyway.
The hard part is that to teach this you must NOT close him in the crate and leave him for longer than he can cope with, and the length of time he can cope with is the length of time he can go in and stay in before he chooses to come out.
This means you cannot leave him in there and go out, someone will have to be home with him or you will have to take him with you, until he can stay in the crate. This really does work but it is going to take some superfine management from you and some dedication for a few weeks, possibly longer.
Sit by the crate and toss in some really high value treats – hopefully he goes in and eats them and comes out, toss a few more in, he goes in, eats them, comes out.
When he comes out, don’t let him have any treats for that, the treats happen IN the crate. Toss a few more in – this time when he goes in, stick your hand in or toss some more in BEFORE he chooses to come out again.
After a few goes at this, see if he can figure out to go in the crate BEFORE you toss treats in there. If he does, reward him really well with treats.
Do a few sessions like this over the course of a few days – remember NOT to try shutting him in there AT ALL, hes got to figure out its good to go in there and hes got to trust he CAN come out again if he wants to.
Once he goes in without treats, and he will stay in whilst treats arrive at different intervals (so a treat for going in, then a treat after a minute or two, then another after another minute or two)… try pushing the door closed a TINY bit for a REALLY short time, reward him and immediately open the door again, do not wait for him to try push the door open.
Once he can go in and you can close the door fully, practice at that level, again reward heavily for the door being shut, build up the duration of the door being shut, but allow him out BEFORE he tries to get out.
Now see if he can go in the crate and stop in the crate whilst you move around the room – don’t lock him in there, it has to be HIS choice.
The next stage (again all these are done gradually at his pace) is to see if he can stop in the crate whilst you step out of the room.
Build up the duration of the behaviour, start giving him longer lasting treats whilst in the crate so instead of a few easy to eat treats he gets a kong or a big bone in there, giving him more motivation to stay in there.
When he can stay in his crate without trying to get out for a good long while (30 minutes), try adding in you stepping out of the front door for a minute or two, or going upstairs or closing a door behind you – again only for a minute or two, only as long as HE can stay in there – if you find he is trying to get out you have gone too far (and I would not be locking the crate door shut at this stage!)
I would also be working on teaching him to settle on his bed with a high value chew toy for short periods each day whilst you ignore him – by that i mean you are there, he can see you, but you are not available to give him attention, for just a few minutes – this helps him to learn to cope without your attention whilst he still has the security of you actually being there. Again like the crate, build this up in duration and with you starting to leave the room and move around, slowly.
Finally when he can stay in his crate an hour and doesn’t care if you leave the room, go out of the house, go upstairs etc, then you can consider actually going out for a short period. I would suggest if you can leave him for an hour in the crate, with you flitting about the house, going in and out of the front door etc, then you can try going OUT for real for HALF an hour, so you are back before he expects to be allowed out of the crate.
If you choose not to do this then the chances are your dogs separation anxiety will get worse which means likely neighbours will complain, he may start to toilet in his crate (distress tends to cause that, he’s not acting out!) or try to dig his way out or self harm, so I really suggest that although this process seems pretty lengthy, it IS worth doing properly.
This method helps for dogs especially those with separation anxiety but it’s also one of the most bomb proof methods of crate training and not creating anxiety that I’ve found. For further advice or more details on each step please visit the attached link.
Crate Training – Step By Step Guide to A Distress Free, Force Free Crate Trained Dog or Pup