When you buy a new dog crate, if your dog isn’t used to spending time in a cage while travelling or even if just at home, there is obviously some training involved to allow your dog to feel comfortable and secure while it’s inside the dog crate.
This is particularly important when your dog is using the cage while travelling, as speaking first hand it can be REALLY distracting having your dog crying when trying to drive. It’s dangerous, and it’s not nice for your dog. So here is a (somewhat) brief guide on how to get your pet used to the dog crate, so once it’s finally time to put it to use all goes nice and smoothly.
Developing a positive relationship between your dog and its crate
This is the most crucial part of dog crate training, and I used the words ‘its crate’ purposefully. This cage will be your dogs own space, where they can go to relax or get away from stimulus and feel safe.
- Place your dogs’ favourite toys/blankets inside the cage. This will encourage them to go inside of their own volition and explore. Obviously they can be further encouraged with plenty of treats.
- It’s important that once they go in, praise them. Praise them each and every time they go in their cage, regardless of whether they only stay in a matter of seconds. This helps build up positive reinforcement and can be rewarded with treats.
- Allowing them to eat their meals in their dog cage is a good idea, but only if they want to. Don’t force it, instead just move their food bowl closer to the cage over time until they are happy to eat in there.
- As your dog becomes more comfortable with the cage, start closing the door as they are eating, opening it again once they are finished. If your dog is having a hard time, regress the steps until they are comfortable again and try again at a later date. Letting them “cry it out” can lead to destructive behaviour.
After a positive relationship is formed, duration should be the next step
The goal for this step is to try and get your dog to be comfortable inside its’ cage for 15 minutes, without crying or getting stressed. Remember this isn’t an overnight process, and patience is a must.
- Ask your dog to enter the cage, or entice them with something. Try to close the door the whole way, but if your dog looks uncomfortable with this, start with leaving it slightly ajar and keep your hand in for comfort.
- After 30 seconds, open the door and give your dog 5 seconds of praise. Reward them with a treat, or whatever it is you have been doing to reward them so far.
- One they achieve 30 seconds with the door closed, increase the time in stages and repeat the process.
- If they get stressed or are having a hard time, try doing it in smaller steps and/or increase their reward for achieving the next level.
Next step? Distance
Once you and your dog have achieved 15 minutes, stress-free time in the dog cage, then distance in your next step. You want to be able to leave the dog in the cage while you do other things (presumably drive) without it making a fuss.
- This step is obviously pretty similar to the last one, place your dog inside the cage and close the door. Take a few steps back from the cage and remain there for a moment, and then return.
- Treat your dog each time you return to the cage, and then close the door and move away again, increasing your distance each time.
- As always, take it slow and if your dog seems stressed regress until they feel comfortable again, or stop for a small time.
- Repeat the distance until you are able to leave the room without stressing your dog.
Finally, the last step is to combine the time and distance
This should be the easiest step, as your dog is already used to the methods of positive reinforcement and each of the previous steps. Take it slow, and remember to use plenty of treats.
- Place them inside the cage, closing the door. Leave the room for 30 seconds, and then return and as always treat them.
- Repeat this process, increasing the time you are away by 30 seconds until your dog finds it comfortable to be in the cage alone for 5 minutes.
- Once at this point, you can begin increasing the time in which you are away.
Do’s and Don’t’s
- Don’t use the cage for punishment, this will undo all the work you have done in creating positivity around the cage.
- Don’t leave your dog in the cage for an extended period of time. Leaving the dog in the cage while you’re at work, or gone for a significant period of time can lead to destructive behaviour and separation anxiety.
- Work in short training sessions, making sure to never stress or push your dog as it will only hinder any progress made.
- Have lots of treats ready, and be patient.
- Your dogs have had a walk before you begin the training session.