Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Crucial Crate Training Facts | How to Effectively Crate Train Your Dog or Puppy using Positive Reinforcement

It is very crucial to crate train your puppy/dog if you have to leave it un-attended - for certain duration esp. when your house is not doggy proof. Dogs are instinctively den animals, so training a dog to accept the crate as a secure resting place is not that difficult provided you never use the crate as means to punish your dog.

Different Type of crates

There mainly two types of crates available in stores – the wired crates and enclosed plastic crates the most common ones. Though crates come in different sizes and materials the most important thing that you must take care while buying a crate is that your dog can comfortably stand, lie down and turn around in it. A crate must neither be too big, nor too small for your dog. If it’s too big then the dog will start using one portion of it as its toilet.

If you are going to use the crate exclusively for potty training your dog, then aluminum wire crates are the best, as they are designed to collect the excrements of the dog and are easy to clean up. But if you want the crate to be just a resting place for your dog then the den like plastic crates are the best.

Major benefits of crate training your dog

  1. A crate is a great tool for house or potty training your dog or pup.
  2. Crate gives the dog a cozy and safe place to sleep and relax which it can call it as it’s “den”, a place that gives him security and comfort.
  3. You can leave your new dog or pup unattended in the crate while you are away, esp. when your dog has the habit of destructive chewing or if you don’t know your dog or puppy well or how destructive he or she is when you are away.
  4. It is the best and safest way to transport your dog.

Introducing your dog to the crate

The first step towards crate training your pup is to associate all positive things like feeding him inside it, giving a treat, giving his favorite toy to play inside it and so on to the crate, so that the dog will learn that a crate = something good and rewarding and nothing to be frightened of. Initially you must leave the crate with it’s door open for the dog to check it out – to sniff or to get inside.

Some dogs might be a little scared to go inside the crate or even go near the crate. Never force him in. You can drop the treats near and around the crate and see if your dog goes near and eats it. Once it is comfortable eating the treat near the crate, go one step forward and see if your puppy or dog is comfortable eating his food just inside the crate entrance with the door open with his body outside the crate. If you pass this step then you can keep the food at the back of the crate – fully inside. But never force the dog in if he’s not comfortable with it. This process should progress very gradually. 

Once the dog is OK to eat inside the crate – with his full body in, you can try closing the crate door and see if the dog wishes to stay inside for a while. Initially he might not be comfortable inside not more than few minutes. You can gradually increase the duration of your dog staying inside the crate with the door closed.

Associating all positive things to the crate and reinforcing it

Treat him for even looking at it, keeping his paw inside it, head inside it, for lying down, staying in for even a single minute etc. If possible use an event marker like clicker to mark each behavior.

Note: It is highly important to reward at each step of this training to teach the dog that crate is something good and positive and not abusive.

Socializing your dog/puppy

It is highly recommended to keep the crate in your living room so that your dog can see the family members and gets a chance to socialize. Remember, dogs are highly social creatures and socializing it is very crucial for molding itself into a well behaved family pet.

Teaching your dog to get in the crate on command using clicker training

Once your dog is comfortable getting in and eating it’s food inside the crate you are ready to teach your dog to get inside the crate using a command or a cue using an event marker training or clicker training by applying the methods of positive reinforcement.

  1. Throw a treat way inside the crate – to the back of the crate
  2. When the dog enters the crate, click it by marking the behavior and say a verbal command like “crate” or “in” – one word commands are better than 2 words. You are reinforcing this behavior when you are sounding the clicker. Normally in positive reinforcement training you would require to give a reward in the form of toy or a high value treat to the dog for offering the desired behavior. But here you need not give a reward as you have already provided that in the form of a treat inside the crate before clicking. (Note: you can use a whistle or a verbal command instead of a clicker to mark a behavior, but clicker is more effective)
  3. You will require practicing this exercise over multiple sessions. Each session should have note more than 10 – 15 repetitions and make sure that you get at least 13 or 14 correct from your dog.
  4. Once the dog is consistent you can start holding back the treats randomly during some repetitions and only use your verbal command to get your dog inside the crate. Once the dog gets inside, immediately mark the behavior by clicking. You shouldn’t suddenly wean your dog off the treat, but instead you should try holding back the treat intermittently in some repetitions in a session, which will keep the dog motivated until he is fully trained. You can then gradually wean him off the treat when he starts entering the crate consistently on cue or the verbal command - without any rewards. (Note: it’s also not necessary that you have to offer your dog only food treats, it can be anything that your dog enjoys, a toy that he enjoys, a Kong or anything that keeps him motivated during the training) 


  1. Great informative post!

    Nubbin wiggles,

  2. Very interesting topic here in your site. Keep on posting this kind of topics. Very useful indeed.

    Kind regards,

    Elayne Taylor
    Dog Training Pros

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