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Crate Training

Crate Training is a process of desensitizing your dog to staying in his crate while you are gone. It can help a dog feel more comfortable at home because it acts like a den and provides safety from the outside world. Most dogs actually love their crate and can’t wait to go in it. Some dogs are terrified of it and don’t want to be confined. However, being in a crate is the foremost training technique in counter-conditioning separation anxiety for dogs. The process can take anywhere from 2 weeks up to 3 months. But it is well worth it and your dog will thank you for it.

The following list describes, in detail, the order of treatment techniques for crate training. Try not to get discouraged if your dog seems too upset while in his crate. He is looking for your direction and if you are firm, yet fair, he will calm down in no time.
  • Leave the crate door open, and let him have access to it at all times. Put his food dish in front of it and let him eat there. Once he becomes comfortable eating in front of it, put the dish inside the crate, directly inside the open door. When he goes in to eat, praise him like crazy in a soft tone. Once he is comfortably eating with the dish in the front of the crate, move the food dish back into the middle of the crate, and then later, to the back of the crate. Eventually, once he becomes completely comfortable eating at the back of the crate, shut the door while he eats (while he’s in it). Praise him the entire time, and throw a few small hot dog or cheese chunks in the crate, too, while he eats.
  • After your dog has no problems eating in the crate, leave him in it for 1-3 minutes at a time while you’re home, and eventually work your way up in time. Cover the crate with a heavy blanket or rug (something he can’t pull through and chew). Play ‘talk radio’ or out a ticking clock next to his crate. If he whines/cries/thrashes, ignore him. DO NOT let him out if he is barking or whining. Once he calms down, open the door, let him out and praise/treat him. Modify this as needed, depending on his behavior. Only let him out if he’s relaxed, and praise him if he’s relaxed while in there. Also, use a command with it like “Kennel”, or “Naptime” so when he hears the word, he will associate going in his crate. Lengthen the period of time that he’s in the crate while you’re home.
  • About a week after you begin leaving him in the crate while you’re home, put him in the crate when you leave for short periods of time (i.e. to go get the mail, to walk down to the end of the street and back, etc.) If you come back inside and he’s relaxed, let him out of the crate and treat/praise him.
  • Gradually lengthen the amount of time he’s in his crate (when you leave for short periods), and adjust as needed. Then, leave him in it when you go to the store or to a movie. Eventually, you’ll be able to leave him in there for more than a few hours, or while you’re gone for the day.
  • Give him a Kong smeared with peanut butter/honey/yogurt and kibble (or bacon bits and Cheerios, etc.) when you leave him in the crate. Some people load the Kong and freeze it the night before. No other food, water, or blankets should be left in the crate.

The most important thing is to be consistent and make the crate fun. Don’t use it for punishment and never yell at your dog while you are putting him in the crate. Always give him a treat when he goes in it. Soon, your dog will enjoy having his own little den.