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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

Crate Training 101

Crate training is an essential skill for dogs, providing them with a safe and comfortable space while helping with housebreaking and creating a sense of security. To successfully crate train your dog, it's important to follow a systematic approach that includes four steps.

In this blog post, we'll guide you through each step of the process, ensuring a positive and successful crate training experience for both you and your furry friend.

Crate training
crate training puppy

Introducing the Crate with Capturing: Capturing: "capturing" means rewarding your dog for a behavior that they offer naturally without any cues or prompts from you

  1. Set up the crate in a quiet and non-distracting environment.

  2. Stand next to the crate with the door open and wait for your dog to interact with it naturally. This can be looking at the crate, walking towards it, putting a paw inside or walking all the way inside of the crate.

  3. Click and toss high-value treats inside the crate as soon as your dog shows interest.

  4. Use a treat to lure them out of the crate to reset, then wait for them to interact with it again.

  5. Gradually raise the criteria for interaction, such as putting their head in or walking inside.

  6. Practice two times per day for 3-minute sessions until your dog reliably walks all the way inside the crate.

Pairing the Cue "Crate": We start by saying the cue as the dog is performing the behavior, this helps your dog associate the cue with the action and reinforces the connection between the two. By timing the cue with the behavior, you are providing a clear and consistent signal that helps the dog understand what is expected of them.

  1. Say the cue "crate" as your dog is walking inside the crate to associate the cue with the behavior.

  2. Click and place 2-3 high-value treats on the floor of the crate when your dog is all the way inside.

  3. Allow your dog to finish the treats, then use one more treat to lure them out, and wait for them to walk back into the crate.

  4. Repeat the process until your dog reliably responds to the cue "crate" by walking all the way inside.

  5. Practice two times per day for 3 minutes until reliable.

Adding Duration: Adding duration in dog training refers to gradually increasing the length of time that a dog can perform a specific behavior or remain in a particular position. It involves teaching the dog to sustain the behavior or position for an extended period.

  1. Begin by cueing your dog to go into the crate. When they enter the crate, immediately click and toss a treat inside as a reward you are going to continue to click and treat your dog inside of the crate every couple of seconds.

  2. With the crate door open, aim to keep your dog inside for short durations. Start with one minute and gradually increase the time as long as your dog remains calm and doesn't try to come out. This helps them understand that being in the crate for a little while is rewarding.

  3. Once your dog is comfortable staying inside the crate with the door open, it's time to introduce closing the door. Close the door, click, and immediately open it while tossing a treat inside the crate for your dog to enjoy.

  4. Repeat this process, closing the door, clicking, opening, and treating, to reinforce positive associations with the closed door.

  5. As your dog becomes more at ease with the door closing, you can begin to add duration. Close the door for one second, click, open the door, and reward with a treat.

  6. Repeat this pattern, gradually increasing the time your dog spends with the door closed. Start with seconds, then build up to minutes, making sure your dog remains calm and relaxed.

  7. Progressively increase the duration your dog spends inside the crate, always following the routine of closing the door, waiting, clicking, opening, and treating. This gradual approach helps your dog develop a positive and patient attitude towards being in the crate for longer periods.

Adding Distance & Leaving the Room: Adding distance to a behavior in dog training refers to gradually increasing the physical distance between the dog and the handler while the dog performs the desired behavior.

  1. Once your dog is relaxed and calm in the crate with the door closed, start by taking small steps away from the crate. Move a few feet away, if your dog remains calm click then immediately return and reward your dog with treats inside of the crate

  2. Gradually increase the distance until you can walk all the way out of the room with your dog remaining calm.

  3. Once you are out of the room you will begin to add duration again but this time of your absence from the room. Start with just a seconds, walk out of the room count to one second, click then return and reward your dog with treats inside of the crate.

  4. Once your dog is okay with seconds, then build up to a minute, then a few minutes, and so on, as long as your dog remains calm and comfortable.

  5. Remember to reward your dog each time you return to the room. This positive reinforcement helps them associate your departures and returns with positive experiences.

  6. If your dog becomes anxious or shows signs of distress when you leave the room, take a step back and reduce the duration of your absences. Go at a pace that allows your dog to feel secure and gradually build up their tolerance.

  7. It can also be helpful to provide your dog with interactive toys or treats, such as puzzle toys, stuffed Kongs, a bone to chew on or a lick mat to keep them mentally engaged and distracted while you're out of the room.

  8. As your dog becomes more accustomed to your brief absences, gradually increase the time you spend away, always rewarding them for their calm behavior when you return.

Remember to be patient, consistent, and attentive to your dog's needs throughout the crate training process. Each step builds upon the previous one, creating a positive association and a comfortable environment for your dog in the crate.

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