Crate training offers a solution for owners who would like to start from the basics. Offering a crate can provide your dog with a safe space to enjoy their treats and prevent any unwanted accidents. However, crate training must be done correctly and should never feel like a punishment to your dog.
Crates are particularly helpful for dogs who are destructive when left alone but it’s essential that your dog makes positive associations with the crate, to prevent it from feeling like punishment. In turn, this makes your absence a positive experience for the dog! Here’s how…
The first step is to introduce the crate into your home – have a good think about where to place the crate as it’s important to strike a balance between not completely isolating your pup but also getting them used to being alone.
- Start by throwing a few treats inside the crate
- Allow the dog to come and go as they please
- Verbally reward them each time they show interest – or even better, when they venture inside of their own accord!
The next step is to encourage positive associations with this new safe space.
- Place their favourite bed inside the crate, providing familiar, comforting smells
- Invite them inside and spend time with them there, offering cuddles and fusses (this shows them that affection is still available, making them much more likely to enjoy their time in the crate)
The next step is to provide enrichment while inside the crate – if your dog is stimulated and content, they’re much more likely to pick up new training!
- Try a Kong stuffed with cream cheese or peanut butter
- Offer them a favourite chew toy or chew stick
- Encourage them inside but never force them – it’s essential that you avoid any negative experiences between your dog and their crate, as this can really set them back in their training
- Once engrossed in their treat, close the door but remain sitting next to them
Repeat this step for several training sessions, closing the door more each time if necessary.
You can find more enrichment ideas here, for keeping your dog happy whilst at home.
From here on, it’s all about gradual steps so take it at your pup’s pace!
- This time, close the door and move away from the crate
- Stay in the same room, but try moving away to sit on the sofa or at the table
Now it’s time to get your pup used to you being out of sight completely. This is a big step for many devoted dogs, so don’t get disheartened!
- Once settled with their toy or treat of choice, try closing the door and leaving the room
- Start with very short intervals, walking into another room and back. Get them used to you coming and going
From here onwards, simply increase the time that you are out of sight. It’s best to start with 5 minute intervals – but make sure you do it gradually so that nothing takes your pup by surprise! If they do make noise or cry at any point during crate training, it means the training is moving too quickly. Try reducing the time you are out of sight or take it back a few steps if you need.
Treating separation anxiety can be a lengthy process, depending on how badly your dog was suffering to start with, but it certainly pays off in the end – after all, a happy dog is a happy owner!
If you’d prefer not to use a crate, these steps can be applied to any safe space – for example, if you’d like your dog to remain in the kitchen while you’re out, follow the same set of steps. Likewise, if you’d like your dog to abide by baby gates (instead of launching themselves over them!) these work much the same as a crate.