Some Thoughts on Crate Training

 


I think of a crate as a dog's relaxation centre. All dogs need their own 'space' and quiet-time, a place where the world can't disturb them and conversely, they can't disrupt your household.

A properly sized crate does just this. You don't need a penthouse, just get a crate tall enough for your dog to comfortably walk into and this will automatically mean it's wide enough & long enough for him to easily turn around. The more compact the space the better.

A crate that is correctly set-up in your house provides a safe 'den' for your dog which helps him to relax and settle.

 

The top and sides of the crate should be covered with a rug or towel so your dog can only see out the front of the crate.

It's now a snug, enclosed place where the dog only has to watch the front of his 'den' to observe the world.

 

The crate should be positioned in a location where your dog can see all the movements in the main rooms of the house - kitchen, diningroom, lounge room - without having to constantly re-position himself. Also, it's best to place the crate away from people-traffic, so place it in a corner to prevent the constant movements within the house from disturbing your dog. 

Utilizing a crate is also a great way for your dog to learn that there are 'rules' associated with him having access to the inside of your home. 

 

Your house is not a play-ground. We want to train your dog to understand that getting access into the house is a privilege he gains through you, not a rite of passage just because you open the back door.

 

Initially, I place a lead on the dog and use a voice command to 'invite' the dog into the house. With the dog controlled by the lead, I can walk him over to visitors and start training the "meet & greet" or simply take him to his crate and give him the command "on your bed".

 

It's my choice (not his) what happens to him within my house.
 

 *** Crates are also extremely useful when you have to separate 2 dogs when they are inside you're home. The dogs maybe too excitable together or they may be fighting each other. Instead of leaving one outside and one inside, both dogs are now under your control and you can easily regulate their movements within your home.

 

 *** A crate is also a valuable tool to help dogs suffering from separation anxiety. It provides the dog with the "next best option" if you're not in the room to provide the support/security the dog craves. The dog just wants to know there is a safe place where he can retreat and the world can't 'get me'. A dog that has been correctly introduced to a crate will come to see it as a wonderfully comforting 'den', a place where there is security and (hopefully) relaxation.

 

There are some basic procedures to follow to introduce your dog to the crate and this will ensure he loves his new 'den' and happily goes into the crate and stays there without a fuss.



Setting-up for Success
Once you have selected the best location for your crate, use an existing mat, towel or blanket the dog has already slept on as the initial bedding material in the base of the crate. This provides familiar odours for your dog. If the dog is new to your household, see if the breeder or previous owner can supply you with some of his bedding material. If nothing is available, use an old towel and lightly rub it over the dog's coat to transfer his odour onto the towel.

 

Place the towel over the new bedding material you are intending to use for the dog in his crate. Never allow the dog access into the crate until this bedding material is in place. The dog's first inspection of the crate must provide a known odour that he instantly recognises. 

I always feed my dog in the crate for the first few days. I leave the door open, I place the dog's bowl in the back corner of the crate and then bring the dog into the house on a lead. I say "on your bed" and allow the dog to move into the crate to eat. I never close the door of the crate while he is eating. He can come and go as he pleases during this initial introductory period. 

 

Inbetween meals I make a game of tossing food treats or a ball/toy into the back of the crate and letting the dog run into the crate to retrieve it. This game is played regularly throughout the day to develop a really great association between the dog and moving inside the crate.


Lastly, I never undertake the more formal crate-training work unless I have a dog who is both mentally and physically exhausted. A tired dog is a very easy candidate to convince that a closed crate is a great place to relax. Use ball retrieving with voice commands, tug-of-war with voice commands, a walk in the street with regular obedience training sessions or tricks training - any activity where the dog has to mentally concentrate on you and also engage in a reasonable amount of physical activity. 

 

 

In Summary

  •      Make sure the dog's first exposure to the open crate is made familiar by using existing bedding material.

  •      Feed your dog in the crate for the first few days

  •      Play retrieving games using the crate 

  •      Make sure the dog is really exhausted and toilet-ed before each crate-training session. 



A crate-training tip - if the weather is very hot when you start your crate-training work, instead of expecting your dog to settle on his regular bedding, saturate one of his towels, ring-out the surplus water and place the wet towel on the floor of the crate. It's a cool surface he will appreciate on a hot day. This ensures he gets a positive crate experience not matter what the weather !! 



The Very First Training Session
So you've completed your crate-introduction work. Your dog loves going in and out of his new home. Now we have to help him understand that the crate door will be closed and he needs to settle-down and relax. 

It's essential that this first training session is done with a REALLY tired and well-fed dog.

I place the dog in his crate with the "on your bed" command and calmly close the door behind him as he moves inside. I leave it closed for 30 to 60 seconds and then open it. If the dog comes out, no problem, I just start a low-key game with him for a few minutes then pick up the lead and walk him back to the crate and command "on your bed" and close the door behind him for another 30 to 60 seconds.

 

I stay near the crate (I actually sit in an armchair with my favourite liquid refreshment) and ignore any 'complaints' the dog may offer. After about 90 seconds, I stand up and open the crate door, if the dog comes out, I don't reprimand the dog, I just pat him and congratulate him for great work, maybe take him outside for a toilet break, then repeat the process of encouraging him back into the crate, but this time for about 2 minutes. 

You get the picture......lots of short (but progressively longer) sessions with the door closed until the tired dog just flops and chills-out. First training session completed..!!!

Every dog will differ in their reactions to the crate door being closed. The essential aspect is this....don't acknowledge any 'complaints' the dog makes while the door is closed. If you reprimand or try to calm the dog during this period of confinement you will make the complaining worse! (The dog is learning how to get your attention). 

We are training the exhausted dog to flop down and just accept the closed door situation without fighting us over his lack of freedom. He learns that you determine how long he stays in the crate and in the meantime.....all he has to do is just relax and enjoy the security of his 'den'. 



Moving On
I make sure that the next 3 or 4 crate training sessions are very similar to the first session. The dog is tired, the door is closed for short, but progressively longer periods of time until the dog just flops and chills out. When the dog finally settles without complaint, I make sure no-one in the household disturbs him. After a while, I will go to the crate to let him out for a toilet break, then put him back in his den. 

Make sure the crate is correctly positioned so you can move away from the crate and the dog can still see your movements around the room without having to lift his head off the mat. 



Summary
This training format ensures the dog never sees the crate as a prison. It's his secure 'den' where he can relax and have his own 'space' without the world interfering with his time-out. All dogs are different, some happily move into the crate, flop-down and are very happy to stay there with or without the door being closed. Some take a lot of convincing to move into the crate and need the format described above to get them to accept the new crate environment.

 

  • Be patient

  • Make sure your dog is well-fed

  • Make sure your dog is very tired

  • Make sure you have toilet-ed the dog before placing him in the crate.

  • Close the crate door for short, but progressively longer periods of time.

  • Don't acknowledge any of his 'complaining' while the crate door is closed.

 

 

 

Crates
There are several types of crates, but I prefer collapsible crates. They are a great invention. They can be easily taken on holidays or training outings and provide your dog with instant 'familiarity of location'. It means that in this new location, your dog can be safely secured while you attend to other activities.



I've successfully ordered wire crates from:-
crazysales.com.au and realsmart.com.au - both had 'specials' running at the time of ordering, so the prices were really good. Delivery was quick and without problems.

There are lots of other outlets just Google "wire dog crates"  for a full listing.


Mark Murray

 

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