As we all know – bringing home that new dog or puppy is an exciting experience!  We get to play with them, learn their habits, what they do and don’t like, get love and kisses…find out where they like to pee, what shoes taste the best, and what rules we need to establish.

It’s not all rays of sunshine integrating a new dog into the household.  However we can make it easier by following a few simple rules.

Crate training is a simple and effective way to teach your puppy or dog that they have a safe haven within your home. This is a place they can go to at any time to that is theirs and theirs alone.  Above all a dog’s crate should represent a place of peace, quiet, and security.  Not all puppies or dogs in the beginning will like it. In fact – most will fight you on it if you don’t give them positive and proper motivation for them to want to be in there.  After all this means that they’re not with you – and not being with you sucks!

Tips on how to crate train your dog:

  • Feed them in their crate.  Doing so lets them know that not only is this a quiet spot where they can eat undisturbed, it’s also associated with food which is a positive motivator.
  • Give them toys that will entertain them.  Things such as kongs with frozen peanut butter, brain toys with kibble that they have to roll about to get the food from – these will keep them busy so they won’t even notice that you’ve now walked away and are no longer there. Consider using a unique toy that the dog will only get when they are in their crate.
  • Do not give in to them crying.  I know…it’s hard.  It really really is.  But the moment that you give in, a light bulb in that doggie brain will come on and say “Cool! I’ve trained the human to let me out!”  Letting a dog out when they cry gives them the reward they want the most.  You!  Of course, make sure that they don’t need to go potty (especially for younger dogs). Giving the dog some outside potty time before placing them in the crate will help you determine if it’s just them wanting out, or if it’s something more urgent.
  • Leave the crate door open during the day so they can come and go as they please.  Don’t shut the door every time they go inside – let them explore on their own time when you’re home and able to supervise.
  • Toss treats into the crate and say a cue word or phrase.  The cue phrase for my dogs is “Time for bed!” – they know immediately to go into the crate to get a treat and then it’s time for sleep.
  • If your dog isn’t treat focused (and isn’t easily over stimulated by excited praise) praise them like the sun will never shine again.
  • Respect their space – you wouldn’t like someone to intrude on your resting time when you’re laying down.  Give them the same courtesy so that they continue to see their crate as a secure space that’s only for them.
  • Build up their confidence inside the crate by leaving them alone for about 5 minutes and returning with low-key, calm praise and/or treats.  When the dog is fine with this, stretch it out to ten minutes, twenty minutes, an hour…and so on.  Especially if they seem anxious – this is to teach them that they can be alone, and you will be back.
  • Watch out for any routine behaviors before leaving the house such as picking up your keys, your wallet, or your purse. These cues may cause them to become distressed and associate crating with your absence. This is where distraction by using a toy and slowly increasing their time alone in the crate can help make it an enjoyable experience.

Most importantly – remember to make it fun!  If it’s not fun, positive or wonderful to be in the crate, who can honestly blame them for not wanting to be there?

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