Here are a few ways to make crate training as easy as possible:
1. Pick Out the Right Type of Crate
There are a variety of different dog crates on the market, with several of the most popular being plastic flight kennels, fabric crates, and collapsible metal pens. Plastic flight kennels are great for smaller dogs and traveling, fabric crates can provide a comfortable space for dogs and are also easy to break down for travel, and collapsible metal pens are some of the more popular crates—they’re great for any sized dog and are more sturdy than other types of crates.
2. Introduce Your Dog to the Crate
One of the best ways to start crate training your dog is to actually introduce your dog to the crate. Lay some treats inside the crate, let them sniff around, have them walk in and out on their own, and allow them to explore. If the constructed crate scares them, try breaking down the crate and have your pup watch you reassemble it. Talk to them in a positive tone while doing this and make sure you leave the crate door open as an inviting sign.
3. Leave food and Water by the Crate
After introducing your dog to the crate, try to feed them regularly scheduled meals near it. If your dog goes into the crate as you try to feed them, place the bowls at the back of the crate. As they’re standing comfortable in the crate to eat, close the door behind them. After they’re done feeding, leave the door closed for a few minutes before letting them out. This slowly builds the idea that the crate is more than just a place where they eat.
4. Make the Crate Comfortable
You’ll want your dog to love being in its crate, so try to make the space as comfortable as possible. Include a soft bed, or if it’s a smaller crate, you can put a soft towel or blanket inside. Add some of your pup’s favorite toys and leave some treats hidden around. If you have a puppy, you can drape a blanket around the crate to create a den-like feel.
5. Practice Leaving Your Dog in the Crate for Long Periods
You never want to leave your dog in the crate for long periods at a time, especially when you’re first starting to crate them. If you have a puppy, the golden rule is to only leave them in the crate for however old they are plus one month. For example, if your puppy is two months old, you shouldn’t leave them in the crate for longer than three hours. This is also especially important when potty training as you don’t want them to soil where they sleep.
6. Have them Sleep in the Crate at Night
Start by putting the crate in your bedroom or right outside your bedroom door. This is helpful if you have a puppy since puppies need to go out at night. It could also be beneficial to do this if you have an older dog to help with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can gradually move it to the location you prefer.
Note: These steps may not help your dog if it has extreme separation anxiety. In fact, a crate could be more dangerous if your dog has a tendency to claw or dig at the crate. Dogs with separation anxiety should be trained with counterconditioning or desensitization procedures. In extreme cases, you may need to speak to an animal-behavior specialist or vet for other options.