You have adopted a new cute puppy and part of your house training is to have him crate trained. However, it seems that the moment he sees the crate, he will react very nervously and shows signs of anxiety and hates the crate very much.
He could be having a very bad experience on crating with his previous owner or when he was at the shelter.
You would need to make him calm down and associate crate with a very pleasing, rewarding experience.
You can make your puppy overcome his unpleasant experience with the crate by adding value to the crate so that he feels that it is worthwhile staying in it. You can feed him inside the crate, have his favorite toys and treats ready in the crate and allow him to go in and out of the crate at his own desire.
Make Your Puppy Likes Going Into The Crate
The goal is to make your puppy go into the crate on his own record when you say the command “Go Crate”.
This is what you can do:
Stage 1 (Introduce Crate To Your Pup)
1. Bring your puppy near to the crate. If he is showing signs of anxiety and stress, give him a toy to play around with near the crate. Let him get used to being around the crate. This may take a few sessions for him to feel at ease.
2. Once he remains calm when he is around the crate, you can slowly introduce the crate to him. Make sure that the crate door is widely opened, toss some treats into the crate. To make him willing to go into the crate to get his treat, make sure that you use high quality tempting treats that your puppy simply cannot resist.
3. Observe his reaction as he goes into the crate for his reward. If he takes the reward and immediately exits the crate (without his back legs going into the crate), you might need to use additional technique to make him “fully” go into the crate.
4. You can do this by giving him a light push on the back legs as he is going in for his reward. If your puppy shows signs of discomfort and exits the crate immediately without even getting his treats when you do the “pushing”, this shows his extreme fear to be fully in the crate.
Stage 2 (Message Him To Calm Him Down)
5. You will then have to use another approach which is to put him on a leash and have someone help you to exert a bit of pressure to slowly move him “fully” into the crate as you toss the treats in. This will take at least a few days of training before he feels comfortable being fully inside the crate to take his treats.
6. You can also give him a gentle message if he resists going into the crate despite having the leash on. Messaging helps your puppy to calm down and relieve his stress, making him more willing to cooperate.
7. Once he feels comfortable making a full move into the crate, you can remove the leash and have your puppy go in by tossing the treats into the crate.
Stage 3 (Lure Him Into Crate Using Treat)
8. When he is adequately trained on this, you can increase the difficulty by holding the treats in your hand above the crate and wait for your puppy to get into the crate.
9. The moment he goes in, give him the treats in the crate. This is to help him associate the action of going into the crate with some rewards. He will learn that when he goes into the crate, something good will happen.
10. The next stage will be to close the crate door for 30 seconds when your puppy is in the crate. Keep rewarding him while he is in the crate and open the door after the duration. This is to make your puppy feel comfortable in the crate with the door closed.
Repeat this exercise for a few days to make your puppy learn that nothing bad will happen when the crate door is closed. He will still get his treat and the door will be opened again after a while.
Stage 4 (Train Him On “Go Crate” Command)
11. Lastly, add verbal cue to train him to go into the crate upon hearing “Go Crate” command. You should only train this when your puppy is getting very comfortable with his crate.
Get the treat ready with your hand near the crate. When your puppy is about to move into the crate, say “Go Crate” to mark this clue (with him going in) and reward him inside the crate.
Make Your Puppy Likes Staying In His Crate
The goal is to create a positive experience for your puppy making him feel that staying in the crate is not a bad thing.
This can be done using the following approaches.
Make Crate A “Heaven” Place
Make the crate a safe and cozy personal space for him. To make your puppy love his crate, he must find it comfortable to be in and most important of all, meet his needs (shelter and food).
Have a warm blanket placed on the floor of the crate (this will keep him warm) and stuff the crate with lots of his favorite toys to keep him company.
This will make him grow his love for the crate as it meets what he needs – a shelter place that keeps him from harm and a place where he will get his food (as you will feed him in the crate).
Do not make the crate too spacious. The size should be just good enough for him to sit up, turn around and lay down comfortably. You do not want him to start using one corner for his potty.
Feed Him In The Crate
Foods can be a very compelling “lure” in getting your puppy to do what you want. So make use of this to your advantage. Instead of feeding your puppy at one corner of your home, do the feeding inside the crate.
This will help to make your puppy feel at ease when he is in the crate as he gets to enjoy his food and this certainly helps to create a positive reinforcement of staying in the crate.
Playtime In Crate
Let him have his playtime in the crate. Place some of his favorite toys in the crate and play with him while he is still in the crate.
Be sure to stay around with him as you would want him to associate crate as a great experience to be in and see that you are interacting with him. He is not alone in the crate.
Make Crate A Routine
Make it a routine for him to be in his crate, and not only during nighttime or when you are leaving the home. You would want him to know that crating doesn’t mean its bedtime, or he will be alone.
Crating can happen anytime during the day such as when you are playing with him or you are watching TV, and he is in the crate busy with his toy.
Keep in mind that anxiety separation could be one of the top reasons why your puppy hates to be in his crate as he finds himself lonely in the small enclosed area.
So ensure that you are with him when he is in the crate during the first few days or at the minimum, you are within his line of sight while he is in the crate. This will ease his anxiety.
Reward Him For Quiet In The Crate
If your puppy keeps barking or whining when he is in the crate despite that you are around him, you may want to make use of a dog food dispenser to help you. This device works by tossing a treat out when you press the remote control.
Wait till your puppy stops his barking in the crate, then activate the dispenser to toss a treat to him. This is to make your puppy learn that it is more valuable to be quiet than to bark as he will get a reward.
If dispenser is not your option, you can try this approach. Gently pat on his crate as he is barking and this will catch his attention. Wait for a few seconds of quietness before you reward him with a treat. You would want him to associate being calm with reward.
Make Him Stay In Crate When Crate Door Open
If you find your puppy dashing out of the crate the moment the crate door is opened, you will need to correct his behavior and let him know that opening the crate door isn’t the signal for him to come off the crate. He should wait for your release clue “Out”.
In fact, puppies that dash out of the crate will exhibit signs of frustration and anxiety as they will see the world outside to be more rewarding than being in the crate.
What you need to do is to make your puppy see the “values” of staying in the crate as the door is opened. To do this, you can slowly open a small gap of the door while maintaining full control.
As your puppy attempts to make his way out, throws some treats to the back of the crate. This will attract your puppy to turn around to look for his treats.
Keep repeating this process and gradually open the door wider when your puppy learns that it’s worthwhile staying in his crate than dashing out. He gets treats while in the crate.
Once he is comfortable with this training, you can start introducing him on the release clue “Out” command for him to come out of the crate.
To do this, open the crate door and hold the treat out of the crate facing him. As soon as he makes his way out, say “Out” to mark this clue with his action and give him the treat.
Your puppy might hate going into the crate as a result of his bad experience. It will certainly take a while for you to correct this behavior by making him re-associating the crate as an enjoyable place to be in.
Make full use of the above tips to gradually re-introduce your puppy to the crating experience. Remember this takes time for him to overcome his fear and you will need to have patience on his crate training journey.