How to crate train your dog

This is similar to teaching your dog to go to their bed - there is a lot of crossover in behaviours and training - so putting the work into either will help the other.

Preparation

  • Get a crate that your dog can stand up in, turn around and comfortably lay flat in. Metal is the most durable, but you can also get them in fabric and even plastic
  • Place the crate in a calm, quiet area, away from people passing by, away from direct heat or draughts, and get some treats ready. Cover it with a blanket or crate cover to make it feel like your dog’s own little bedroom
  • Prepare the crate with comfortable bedding suitable for your dog and the temperature of the room
  • Add a favourite toy or two – you can even attach one to the bars so that it can only be played with in the crate – young dogs love dangling toys
  • Take your dog out for some exercise and constructive training and games to get rid of any excess energy or toilet needs!

Training

  • Go back in doors and sit near the crate, but don’t make a big deal about it. Call your dog over to you and reward with some treats
  • Place a trail of high value treats leading to and into your dog’s crate – make sure the ones in the crate are even better than those out of the crate
  • Throw a treat near to the crate and allow your dog to go to eat it
  • Keep repeating, getting increasingly closer to the crate. At some point your dog might start following the trail that you set up earlier, especially if the treats in the crate are better than the ones you have. Let them follow and investigate in their own time

Repeat and progress

  • Repeat this a few times during the day with the same sort of treats as well as others
  • Place a chew toy at the back of the crate so that if your dog ventures in, they will get a nice surprise
  • At feeding time, place your dog’s food in the crate and allow them in to eat it there
  • Try a bit of reverse psychology too – let your dog see you place some high value treats in the crate and close the door with your dog on the outside so your dog wants to get to the treats but can’t. After a few moments, open the door and allow your dog in to eat their treats
  • Once your dog is going into the crate readily, add a cue such as ‘crate’ each time they go in. Use a marker word (i.e. ‘yes’) or use a clicker and click just before or as your dog gets the reward Once your dog is starting to settle, close the door then open it again, dropping more treats in the crate
  • Close the door and post treats through the roof. It’s raining treats - Hallelujah!

Maintain

Keep doing this after exercise and at meal times. With repetition and patience, your dog will learn that this is a great place, a fun place, a place of calm and a chill-out zone. If you stop making it a rewarding place, their desire to go there will reduce. Having a chew that is longer lasting will increase your dog’s desire to stay there, as will comfortable bedding. However, not all dogs like lots of bedding so go with what your dog seems to want – if they are pushing it out of the way they probably don’t want it!

Generalisation

Repeat as above, but move the crate to different destinations – though keeping the same ethos as before i.e. quiet areas, etc. So maybe your bedroom in preparation for training to stay in hotel rooms or the car in preparation for vehicle travel. Repeating the steps will ensure your dog does not become fearful or over-excited.

Background music or TV noise can help prevent your dog hearing external noises and feeling the need to react to them, and this in turn will help keep them calm.

Reality

When you want to use your crate outside of areas your dog has got used to, prepare well. Take the crate to where you want your dog to be, before you take your dog. For example, take the crate into your hotel room before taking your dog in. This way you can concentrate on your dog in the new environment instead of concentrating on erecting the crate. You can show your dog around, show them the ‘leave’ items, and practice your ‘off’ training to prevent them from getting onto the bed or the seating. Take your dog for a walk or have a little game with them. When they are calm and relaxed, settle them into their crate with a chew.

Summary

A crate should be a calm, safe and pleasant haven for your dog to relax, chill out and call their little home from home. It should never be a place of punishment.

Please note: there are many different ways to train your dog. This is just one method of teaching. If you are ever in doubt, please seek professional advice. 

For more information and advice, you can find training classes with The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme, browse our full list of The Kennel Club Accredited Instructors or find a dog training club near you.