Crates are a wonderful training tool. When used correctly, your dog will be happy to spend time in their own private "room."Most dogs will not pee or poo where they sleep, so you can use the crate to encourage your puppy to learn to control their bladder and bowels when you cannot supervise them.Some adult dogs are safest when left alone if they stay in a crate. They may chew on cables, ingest toxic household chemicals or otherwise get into danger if left loose in your home.Crates are essential in multi-dog homes, especially if your dogs are protective of their favorite treats and toys. Dogs tend to feel less stressed when they can eat meals and chew bones in the privacy of their own crate.But you can only truly get these benefits of using a crate if you first crate train your dog.
What "Crate Training" Really Means
To crate train your dog means to condition them to associate it with positive experiences.If your dog is terrified of being in their crate, usually because they are locked inside without a gradual introduction, they will cry, whine and bark through the night and while you are away during the day.It's best to minimize the amount of time the dog spends unhappy in the crate. If your puppy is not accustomed to being confined, or cannot control their bladder and bowels for as long as they are left alone, you can place them in a puppy pen instead.
Puppy pens are ideal if you use potty pads, as leaving a pad inside a crate teaches your puppy to eliminate where they sleep.You can play crate games with puppies and adult dogs, even ones that don't love their crate, to encourage them to enjoy it whether or not you are around.
Crate Game #1 - Go In Your Crate!The simplest crate game is to simply teach your dog to go inside on command. You can use a fun cue like "go to your room!' or just, "crate!"Begin by sitting near the dog and the crate. Praise your dog for going near the crate without being asked. You can use a clicker to mark the moment they walk near the crate, or say "good dog!"Reward your dog for simply choosing to be near their crate. Then, gradually increase your criteria - only click and treat when your dog puts one paw in the crate, then two paws, then their entire body.Â You can tempt your dog to investigate the crate by furnishing it with blankets, treats and toys.Only have you have rewarded your dog for going into the crate can you begin to add the command. Saying "crate" over and over again while your dog is still figuring out what you want them to do makes the word lose its meaning. Only pair the action with the command once your dog is voluntarily stepping inside the crate.
Crate Game #2 - Stay In Your Crate!
Crate Game #3 - Find A Toy In Your Crate!"Find it" is a great game for teaching your dog to search for objects by exploring with their nose. You can start teaching "find it" by getting your dog excited over a toy, then allowing them to watch you place it in their crate.Allow your dog to go into their crate to get the toy. They may decide to hang out in their crate and play with it, or they may grab the toy and bring it out of the crate. If they stay in their crate with the toy, praise them and let them be. If they bring the toy out, exchange the toy for a treat, and toss it back into the crate. This is also a fun way to start teaching a retrieve.
Crate Game #4 - Crate And Go Seek!Dogs love to play hide and seek. Teach your dog to stay in their crate while you hide. At first, you may need someone to keep the dog from looking for you too soon. Start with very short intervals, hiding in very visible spots near the crate. Only reward your dog if they have found you after you called them. If they get out of their crate too soon, simply have them go back into the crate and try again at a shorter interval.Hide and seek is a good way to practice recall. Coming to you should always feel like a party. Celebrate whenever your dog finds you with a few treats and lots of praise.As your dog gets to know your usual hiding places, it's fun to peek at them while they wander around searching for you. Every dog loves this game, and it's perfect for playing with other family members.
Crate Game #5 - Super Fast Crate Dash!Once your dog has gotten the hang of going into their crate, have them go into it, then quickly encourage them to come out while saying a release word like "Free!"Call your dog from across the room, then run towards the crate and have them go in. Try having your dog sit in the crate for a few seconds, at other times, let them dash right out. This is a good way to teach your dog a release word, and to get them tired before bed so they can settle down into their crate at night.
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