If you are going to fly your adult dog in an airplane for the first time or would like to crate train him for some other reason here are some suggestions about how to start. Next time I will discuss crate training young pups, which is slightly different than adults. Teaching an adult dog to relax when in a crate can be taught in many different ways. Like all behaviour work with dogs you will trainers have their own flavour of teaching and methods that they like to work with. I’m going to give you my suggestions below, but if you find a different technique that “clicks” with you go for it!
Each steps listed below could take you a couple of days or a couple of hours, every dog is different. Rather go slow so your dog doesn’t get stressed. However, many dogs like their crates very quickly, so feel free to go to the next step as soon as you can.
Firstly, make sure your crate is big enough that your dog can stand up straight, turn around and stretch out fully while lying down. Anything less is too small and not fair to keep your dog in.
Start by putting the crate in the same area of the house where your dog likes to sleep and spend time with you. Next to the tv or computer is a good choice! If possible remove the door from the crate or else secure it in the open position.
1. For a day or two just leave the crate in the house so your dog can get used to it.
2. Put your dog’s bed right in front of the opening to the crate.
3. Start putting treats inside the crate several times a day so your dog can go inside and get something yummy. Do not close the door or force your dog in, let the smell of the treats attract him!
4. Feed your dog his meals inside the crate.
5. After a few days of eating inside the crate put your dogs bed inside, but do not close the door.
6. Hopefully your dog will start crawling into the crate to sleep, most dogs love having a cozy den to nest into.
7. Next, get a nice chewy of some sort, a toy stuffed with food, or some other exciting treat that your dog can chew on for a long time. Place the favourite chewing thing inside the crate and when your dog goes inside close the door. Stay near your dog while he is busy chewing, with the door closed. Give your dog perhaps 10 or 15 minutes with the door closed and while busy gnawing happily. Then let him out of the crate and take the chew toy away.
8. For the next phase, only give your dog the REALLY good chews while he is in the crate with the door closed. We want to teach your dog that being in the crate is a wonderful place to be, not a punishment and that good things happen there when the door is closed. Still let you dog sleep there with the door open, but help get him accustomed to the door being closed with the good association of the delicious thing to keep his mouth busy.
If your dog gets upset when you first close the door, try yawning and taking a deep breath. If owners show their dog they are relaxed dogs settle down too.
Should you have to fly your dog somewhere I suggest getting him gradually used to sleeping in the crate with the door closed. This way he will learn to relax in a confined space and associate it with resting comfortably. Many people I know who are lucky enough to take their dogs to work teach them to be crate trained so the dog stays settled during meetings, etc. Also, traveling with a dog who is crate trained makes car trips easier (and safer). It also makes going to the groomer, kennels or vet less stressful as dogs are not upset about being in a crate in strange circumstances.
“If you want a good dog you need to be a great owner.”
Karis – aka Rogz Wrangler
(c) Karis Nafte 2015