Training Series: How to Crate Train Your Dog (With Tips from a Trainer)

crate training tips

Crate training can help teach your pup responsibility, it helps with anxiety, and it’s very helpful for training a new puppy. While in a dream world, our dogs would be well-behaved, won’t destroy things, and will let us know when they need to go outside, the truth is that’s not always possible. 

Dog crate training is part of helping your dog become less anxious and more obedient. It also creates an independent and safe environment for your dog that will help them tremendously when you’re not there. 

While crate training is undoubtedly controversial, it’s up to pet owners to choose the training methods that best align with their beliefs. If you’re still unsure about this training method, we reached out to Ayumi from Paw by Paw Dog Training & Behavior to share her thoughts on crate training and some of her recommendations. 

1. Introduce Your Dog to the Crate

To start, place the crate in an area of the house where your family spends a lot of time. The kitchen or the living room are great examples. Put something soft inside the crate and start talking to your dog, calling them into the crate. Ensure the door is securely opened, so it won’t hit your dog and frighten them as they’re trying to go inside. 

If they don’t come, encourage them with food, treats near it, or a toy. Once they get close to the crate, reward this behavior, and continue praising them as they go inside the crate. Don’t force them to enter, though. Keep tossing treats and talking to them until they feel comfortable going inside. For some dogs, this step might take a few minutes, while it may take several days for others. 

dog crate with LAY LO dog bed

2. Put a Dog Bed Inside the Crate

Many trainers recommend making the crate their feeding space. This will create a positive association with the crate. However, this depends on the type of crate you use and how you intend to use the crate. 

Another option is to put their bed inside the crate. So, regardless of how you intend to use the crate, they’ll associate the space with a safe and relaxing environment because they’ll have the scent of their bed inside. Our modern dog beds are designed to fit a variety of crates seamlessly. This will make the training that much easier. 

Most popular crate sizes that fit LAY LO dog beds:

LAY LO Dog Bed Size: Recommended Crate Size:
Small: 18” x 24” x 3.5” Extra-small: 18” L x 12” W x 12” H
Small: 24” L x 18” W x 19.25” H
Medium: 36” x 27” x 4” Large: 36” L x 23” W x 25” H
Large: 46”x 28” x 4” Extra-large: 42” L x 28” W x 30” H
Extra Large: 45”x 35” x 4” Oversized: 48” L x 30” W x 32” H

Because dogs trust their bed to be a safe and comfortable place where they can unwind, relax, and sleep, they won’t doubt going into the crate. At first, you might want to leave the crate’s door open as they get adjusted to going in and out of the crate. Once they feel comfortable enough, you can start closing the crate for short periods of time and work your way up from there. 

This step is even easier if you already know how to acclimate your dog to a new bed

3. Choose How You’ll Use the Crate

Continuing with the previous step, at this point, you have to decide how you’ll use your crate. Crating your dog must serve a purpose. Otherwise, it becomes too confusing for your dog. Ideally, they’ll associate the crate with some command, and they’ll have a positive association with such command. 

Most people use crating when they leave their dogs alone. At first, you want to teach them how to go inside the crate, and you can sit quietly on the side for about 10 minutes. Then, you can start moving away from the crate as they feel comfortable. Initially, you can expect your pup to whine, cry, and bark – ignore this. Keep working your way up until you can spend at least 30 minutes with them in the crate and you out of their sight. 

Others use crating at bedtime. To do this, place the crate in your bedroom or a nearby hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Most puppies will need to go outside to eliminate at night, so you want to be able to hear your pup whine to be let out. Once they start to sleep through the night without disturbing you, you can start moving the crate to your preferred location. 

Even if your dog sleeps in your bed, keeping the crate nearby with their bed inside can help them have a comfortable space to go to if they wake up in the middle of the night. 

tips for crate training

4. Associate the Crate With Positive Rewards

When you start to crate, train your dog, you want to associate crating with positive rewards. Once they can spend at least 30 minutes in the crate without becoming too anxious, you can start playing, leaving them for more extended periods. 

Use your crate command and a treat to help them get familiar with this practice. It’s good practice to leave them with a few crate-safe toys when you’re away. Avoid making your departure too emotional or prolonged. This should be a quick command 5 to 10 minutes before you leave. 

At the same time, when you return home, don’t reward your dog with over-excitement when you open the crate. In fact, if possible, leave them inside the crate for about 5 minutes after your arrival. This will avoid increasing their anxiety over your return and make their crate-time less stressful. 

Be Paw-tient 

Learning how to crate train your dog is a long-term process. Most dogs master crate training in about six months, but it requires a lot of time and patience. There will be many ups and downs throughout this training process, and at times you might feel, well, lost. 

But, don’t give hope. Try different methods and stay consistent with your rewards and commands. Eventually, your dog will become familiar with the crate and no longer associate it with something negative.