One of the secrets to training success is giving your pup plenty of time to feel comfortable inside the crate before closing the door and leaving them alone for the first time. The goal is for your pup to have a positive association with being inside, so that the crate feels like a safe and comfortable resting spot—and you can’t rush that feeling.
Remember the steps below aren’t meant to be done all in one day. Spend as much time as you need on each step to ensure that your puppy feels content and stress-free. That’s how you lay the foundation for a lifetime of looking forward to their crate. Ready to dive into crate training? Here’s how it’s done...
1. Introduce the Crate
Start off the crate training process by keeping the crate door open and letting your pup explore it at their own pace. Toss a treat or toy inside and praise your puppy when they go inside, then give them a treat while they’re in the crate. You can also entice your puppy with a busy toy stuffed with treats—anything to make that crate as appealing as possible! Stay happy and upbeat as your puppy explores the crate, making sure to give lots of praise when they go inside. At this stage, keep the door open.
Practice this step as many times as necessary for your puppy to get comfortable in the crate. The choice to go into the crate is up to your pup - don’t force them if they seem reluctant. If your puppy is hesitant to go inside, you can give treats to reward baby steps in the right direction, like if they glance at it or take a step towards it. These small successes will encourage your pup to keep it up! If they don’t get close to it, simply leave the treats or toy inside for them to collect when they’re ready.
2. Practice Closing the Door
Once your pup has made a positive association with going into the crate, they’ll be ready for slightly longer sessions inside. First, have a play session with your puppy and take them outside for a potty break—that’ll help them settle down when it’s crate time. Then, provide a lightly stuffed busy toy for them to enjoy inside the crate. Stay nearby as they enjoy the goodies, and experiment with closing the door while your pup is enjoying the toys and treats inside. Let your dog out right after they finish the treats, or at any barking, whimpering or pawing at the crate that might indicate they want to come out. Again, keep at this step until your puppy seems relaxed and shows no signs of stress inside the crate.
3. Step Away Briefly
When your puppy seems comfortable during closed-door sessions, try leaving the room once your puppy is focused on the toy. Listen at the door for whines or barks that tell you your puppy is ready to come out. But at this stage, your pup may surprise you by settling into the crate easily. In fact, if you time your play session, potty break and crate time properly, you might just return to discover a napping puppy in the crate!
4. Work Up to Longer Stays
If your puppy is OK with you stepping away briefly, try increasing the amount of time you step away: one minute, then five minutes, then 10. If your pup remains content inside, try leaving the house for a short period of time. You can set up a camera or baby monitor to check in on them while you’re away.