Quite frequently, stories are heard about dogs who hate their crates. They bite, scratch, whine, resist, and sometimes run away before you can even get the gate shut. But why do dogs hate it so much? Everything about the crate is boring and tedious. Usually our furry friends only associate bad things with their crates. Screaming “go to your crate” and “bad dog” at the top of our lungs can sometimes be our go-to reaction out of frustration, but does this make the dog want to go to his crate? Not at all. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t change our ways.
How? Treats, love, encouragement — and make it exciting!
Start with a crate, a pouch of your dogs favorite treats, and a hungry pooch. Here’s what you’ll do:
1. Set the crate in front of you and the dog. Get your pups attention and throw the treats into the crate while giving your queue (crate, go to bed, sleep, relax, or whatever you see fit). If he is really excited about going into the crate, hold him back while you throw the food in, give the command, and then let him go and watch him dive into the crate. Don’t be worried if he doesn’t stay inside. Build anticipation for rewards in the crate before you expect duration of staying in it. Repeat this multiple times until your dog is readily anticipating the treats inside. (Tip: Any time you leave the crate for a while and take your puppy with, leave treats behind in his kennel and when he comes back, they will magically be there! This will reinforce the behavior of getting in the crate exponentially more.)
2. Now start to say your command and watch him dive into the crate. Is he there? Great! Now throw your treats in and watch the magic happen. He will start to go in and wait for your treats. Now he’s relying on your command and knowing that the food is bound to follow. Tell him to go in, throw in a treat or two, call him out repeat. Once he gets the new version of the game, start to put distance into it. Take a couple of steps away from your crate and then tell him to go in. This way he’ll learn to go to his crate from different places in your house, and not just when you’re standing directly in front of it.
3. Add in duration. By this point, your pup should be very solid in going into his crate and staying there for some treats. Now spend a few seconds without a treat. If he stays, reward him for it. Start to space more time in between rewards. Build up to a minute, two minutes, and so on so forth. Before you know it, he’ll be a champ at going to his crate and staying — even with the door open! Spend some time leaving him in there while you eat if you don’t want him pestering you at the table. Feel free to set a frozen kong or other treat filled toys into his crate while you do other activities. This is only going to reinforce the behavior even more because he will be able to associate all sorts of good things back to it.
Voila! Your friend should now be more interested in his crate, and he may even enjoy it! This will make your time away from home less stressful, and he will be much easier to control in house on those rambunctious days. Teaching your dog to love his crate is going to be one of the best things you can do. It will greatly increase his quality of life, as well as you and your families. Crate games are worth the time! Invest in it and you will be pleasantly surprised.