The Great Crate Debate

Like all tools, there is a right and wrong way to use a dog crate. Here is an easy-to-follow list of do’s and don’ts to make your dog love their crate.

A crate is a lovely and secure place for dogs to spend time when you can’t be watching them or when you are not home.

It should be a safe place where they are not disturbed and where they can have fun with wonderful safe things in there with them – toys, food, etc.

However, like all tools there is a right way and a wrong way to use a crate:

[box type=”tick” style=”rounded” border=”full”]We always want the dog to go happily into the crate on their own.

To acheive this we are going to spend some time tossing in toys, treats, etc., so that they learn that the crate is a Disneyland for them. Always start out slowly.[/box]

[box type=”alert” style=”rounded” border=”full”]We never want to “put” or force them into the crate.[/box]

[box type=”alert” style=”rounded” border=”full”]We never allow kids (or adults) to go up to a dog in a crate and hover or poke fingers at the dog.[/box]

Here’s how to get your dog to love their crate:

[unordered_list style=”tick”]

  • Toss some treats into the crate as you offer up a cue word, “crate,” “bed,” “house,” “kennel-up,” etc.  Pick one and stick to that command – don’t change it up.  Consistency is absolutely key, here.
  • Offer tons of praise when your dog first enters and toss more treats even further back into the crate.
  • Keep praising and tossing as your dog sniffs around, eats, and begins to think that maybe there will be more.
  • Don’t close the door until your dog is happily entering the crate on their own to see if there are more goodies inside.
  • Once your dog happily enters the crate, ask them to sit before you ask them to come out. Then begin to close the door and again ask for the sit to let them out. We are still keeping this very short.
  • Begin dropping a handful of kibble into the crate after your dog is inside with door closed.  Say nothing as you drop the kibble and walk away after you drop the kibble. Count to 10 and return if your dog is not fussing – if your dog is fussing, wait and only return when the dog is quiet. Repeat this often throughout the day increasing the count by one or two each time you leave the room.
  • On an ongoing basis – three or four times a week – please feed your dog in their crate so they also associate the huge jackpot of their meal with just being in the crate.[/unordered_list]

Here are a couple of items to note:

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]If you have to leave your dog in a closed crate before they are completely happy with the crate, make sure you leave a Kong with the best stuffing in the world! (See below.)[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]If your dog won’t go into the crate for treats or kibble, you will need to experiment with cheese, cold-cuts, hot dogs, etc.

Don’t worry that your dog will develop a taste for human food – they already have it.  Just watch them when you bring pizza home.

We need to make the crate a great place and if you have to use super high-value rewards then so be it. After your dog is happily going into the crate for the super high-value treats you can begin to substitute regular treats and occasionally toss in the super high-value ones to keep them interested.

Practice this when your dog does not need to go into the crate and when they will not be left in there so that when the time comes to crate them it will all be good and fun.[/box]

[box type=”note” style=”rounded” border=”full”]If your dog destroys stuffed toys and blankets in the crate don’t put them in there with your dog unless your dog is elderly and needs a foam cushion to lay on (at which point they probably won’t be eating their cushions anymore).

An empty crate with a couple of stuffed Kongs is just fine while they are learning good manners around stuffed and plush items.  Hands down, the best toy for a crate is a stuffed Kong. (See below.)[/box]

How to Stuff a Kong

Kong stuffing has become something of an art form.

A Kong can hold sloppy things like peanut butter, cream cheese, other soft cheeses, liverwurst, etc.  Some harder, broken-up treats or kibble can then be put in the bottom with the sloppy stuff at the top to make it more difficult to get the harder treats out. (Remember no gooey stuff at the bottom or you will be the one digging that out)

When stuffing for the new-to-the-crate dog it should have the greatest things in there.

Remember that, when stuffing a Kong, it’s not like stuffing a pepper:  it’s like a smear on a bagel and more than just a smear for the dogs new to the crate.

Be creative and always put something in that Kong when leaving doggie in the crate!

Once they are happily going to the crate, you can cut the amount and value of the treats you put into the Kong.


One thought on “The Great Crate Debate”

  1. AND freezing the Kong with stuff smeared in it (like peanut butter) takes longer to finish 🙂
    (same is true with shank bones)

Leave a Reply