Introducing Your Dog to the Crate

These steps will help your dog to adjust to his crate and associate it with good things such as security, comfort, and a quiet place to ponder the meaning of life, things such as why he or she walks on four legs and humans on two, and how does my food magically appear.

Never force your dog into the crate by using physical means of persuasion. Crate training should be a natural process that takes place on your dog’s time schedule. Curious dogs might immediately begin to explore the inner domain while others take some time, and possibly some coaxing by using lures such as toys and food. Let the process proceed in small steps and gradually your dog will want to spend more time in his new five-star luxury crate. This training can proceed very quickly or take days to complete.


Phase I

1. Set the crate in a common area and check that all of the crates goodies are inside, chew-toys, blanket or towel. Open and secure the door. If your dog does not mosey on over in his or her own accord, then place them near the crate entrance and give him a pep talk using your happy-go-lucky fun voice. Wait a bit and see if his curiosity kicks in and he begins to explore the inner domain.

2. If your pep talk and shining personality are not sparking his curiosity then go to plan B, food lures. To begin, you don’t have to use anything fancy, just use his normal puppy food. Drop some in the back of the crate and a couple closer to the front door, and see if that gets his little tail wagging and paws moving. After you place the food inside step away and give him some room to make his own decisions. Do not force anything. Just observe throughout the day and see if your dog is venturing inside or near the crate. Do this a few times throughout the day.

3. If this does not work, try it again. If he is still disinterested, you can also drop a favorite chew-toy into the crate and ask him to find his toy and see if that lures him into the crate.

4. Continue doing this process until your dog will walk all of the way into the crate to retrieve the food or toy. This step is sometimes accomplished in minutes, but it can take a couple of days. Be sure to praise your dog for successfully entering. Do not shut the door. Observe whether they are calm, timid, or frightened.

5. Once your dog is regularly entering his crate without fear, you can move onto phase II.

Phase II

Phase II will help if your dog is not acting as though his crate is a place that he wants to enter and remain, and might be showing signs of fear or anxiety when inside. This phase will help warm him up to his crate.

By using feeding time, you can reinforce that the crate is a place that your dog should enjoy. During Phase II training, remain in the presence of your dog’s crate or at least in the same room. Later you will begin leaving the room where he is crated.

1. Start by feeding your dog in front of his crate door. Feeding your dog near his crate will create a nice association with the crate. *If your dog already enters his crate freely, set the food bowl inside that he has to enter the crate to eat.

2. Next, place his food bowl far enough into the crate that your dog has to step inside to eat. Then each following time that you feed him place the bowl further inside.

3. When your dog will stand and eat inside his crate, and you know that he is calm and relaxed, then you can close the crate door while he eats his meal.

The first time, immediately open the door when he finishes his meal. Then after each successive meal, leave the door closed for longer durations. For example, after meal completion, two, three, four minutes, and then incrementally increasing until you reach ten to fifteen minutes. Stay diligent and if you notice your dog begins frantically whining or is acting anxious, back up and then slow down on the time increases.

4. If your dog continues whining the next time, then leave him in there until he calms. This is important, because you cannot reinforce that whining is a way out of the crate, or a way always to get your attention or manipulate.

5. Now that he is comfortable entering, eating, and spending some time in his crate, move onto Phase III, which explains about training your dog to enjoy spending more time in the crate with you around and out of the house.

Phase III

This is where you will continue increasing the time duration that your dog is crated. First, be certain that he is not displaying signs of fear or anxiety. Whining and whimpering does not always signify that anxiety is present. It is often a tool used when they want some attention from their mom or humans. It is a sympathy tool honed sharp when they were weaning on mothers milk.

If you choose at this point, you can begin issuing a command that goes with your crating action. For example, say “crate,” “home,” “cage,” “cave,” or whatever is simple and natural. Maybe cage sounds negative to us, but your dog does not know the difference.

1. Stand next to the crate with his favorite toy and then call him over to you and give the command “cave,” while placing the toy inside. A hand signal that you choose can also be used along with this command, but make sure that you do not use the same hand signal for another command. As an option, you can use a favored treat instead of a toy.

When he enters, praise him, shut the door, and let him stay inside for duration of ten to fifteen minutes. You should remain close to the crate. Do this a few times separated by an hour or two. During dog training, gradually proceeding is always a good rule to follow.

2. Repeat the step above, but this time only stay nearby for about five minutes, and then leave the room for an additional ten to fifteen minutes. When you return, do not rush over to the crate, instead remain in the room for a few more minutes and then let your dog out of the crate. It is not necessary to physically remove him, just open the door.

Repeat this five to seven times per day and gradually increase the duration that your dog remains in the crate. Work your way up to 30-40 minutes when you are completely out of sight. Do not forget to use your vocal command and physical cue every time that you want your dog to enter his crate.

3. Continue increasing the time that he is crated while you are home. Work up to one hour.

4. Next, place the crate near your room and let him sleep the night inside the crate near where you are sleeping such as in the doorway or just outside your bedroom. At this time, you can also begin to leave your dog crated when you need to leave the house for short durations of under two hours.

A good way to begin is to leave your dog in his crate while you are outdoors doing yard work. Remember that when your return inside, to act casual and normal. Do what you need upon returning inside, and then open the crate door and then secure the opened door.

*Puppies usually need to eliminate waste during the night, thus you will need to make some late night trips outdoors.

As your dog becomes accustomed to his crate and surroundings, you can begin gradually to move the crate to your preferred location, but not to an isolated place.

Tips & Troubleshooting

In the beginning, especially with puppies, keep the crate close to where you are in the house, and sleeping at night. As mentioned, you want to avoid any negative associations such as isolation that can result in depression or contribute to separation anxiety. This also strengthens your bond, and allows easy access for late night elimination trips.

Due to bladder and bowel control, puppies under six months should be kept crated for periods under four hours.

Ignore whining unless your dog responds to your elimination command or phrase that you have been using when taking him to his elimination spot. If he does respond, then you know that he was whining for that and not simply for attention.

I know it is difficult to ignore whining, but it must be done so that your new dog or puppy understands that you are not at their disposal every time they seek attention. If you are bonding, socializing and practicing the other items suggested, then your puppy or dog should not need the extra attention.

Before crating, take your dog outdoors to eliminate. There should be only 5-15 minutes between elimination and crating. *Best chance for success for your dog not to soil his crate.

Don’t forget to leave plenty of fresh water, chew-toys, and items that require problem solving, such as food stuffed toys.

Don’t place your dog into the crate for long periods before your departure from the house. Try to keep it under fifteen minutes or less.

Fluctuate the time between crating and departure.

When soiling accidents occur inside the crate, thoroughly clean the crate and its contents with a pet odor neutralizer. Warning, do not use ammonia.

A couple of warnings regarding crating – Avoid crating in direct sunlight or excessive heat, if your dog is sick with diarrhea or vomiting, or is having bowel and urine control issues. You can resume training once these are resolved.

Always provide sufficient exercise and socialization.

Never use the crate as a form of punishment.

Quick review of approximate crating times per age, are as follows, 9-10 weeks 30-60 minutes, 11-14 weeks 1-3 hrs. 15-16 weeks 3-4 hrs. 17 + weeks 4-6 hrs.

To thwart separation anxiety issues, never make a big emotional showing when you leave the house. Always act normal, because it is a normal thing for you to come and go. Do the same when you return, do not over dramatize your return, first do what you need to do then casually go over to his crate and open the door without making a big show of it. This aids your dog in understanding that all of this coming and going is a normal part of his life.

After your dog is housetrained, and is no longer destructive, do not forcibly crate your dog, except when you absolutely need them crated. During other times, leave the door securely open and allow them to voluntarily come and go as they choose.

Some reasons that your dog continues to soil his own crate are as follows. The crate is too large; there is a diet issue, health issue, too young to have control, suffering severe separation anxiety, or has drunk too much water prior to crating.

Another contributing factor could be the manner that your dog was housed prior to your acquiring him. If he was confined continuously to a small enclosure with no other outlet for elimination this will cause issues with housetraining and crating. If this is true for your dog, training will require more time and patience.

Separation anxiety is an issue that cannot be solved using a crate. Consult the diagnosing and solving separation anxiety guidelines.

That wraps up crate training. I wish you well in crate and housetraining. I am sure that you will do wonderfully in shaping your dog’s behaviors.