Re-Crate Training: Helping Crate-Hating Dogs

Does your dog freak out in the crate? Pant nonstop, filling the crate and himself with drool, howl or bark for hours on end, or does he try to fight his way free – breaking the crate bars/gate and his teeth/nails in the process? No matter what his level of distress, the following protocol can help most dogs learn to accept the crate again:

Start with the Bottom Half

  • Get a plastic crate. We like both the Furrari and Vari-Kennel brands as it is sturdy and doesn’t have openings in the bottom half of the crate. If your dog is housebroken, this crate can be as large as you like and can afford.
  • Take it apart and put the bottom of the crate in his “safe spot”.  Put a rug or towel under it if sits on tile or hardwood flooring to prevent it from slipping or rattling when your dog steps into it.
  • Store toys in the half-crate, leave a trail of treats from the entrance to the way back with several treats against the back wall. (This way he gets the biggest reward for braving going in.)
  • Feed him in it. Start with the bowl just outside the crate, then just inside and then toward the back.
  • Give him most of his attention for being near the crate at first, then standing in it, then sitting in it and then lying down.
  • Anytime you find him in it, calmly praise him. He’s the BEST dog when he is in that crate.
  • Stack the deck! Restrain him (either by tying him or having a helper hold him) and show him that you are putting a favorite toy, food dispensing toy or treat in the half crate. Go to him, get him all revved up and then release him with an “Okay!” What does that do? That gets him thinking, “Wow, the CRATE! I get to go to the crate! Can I please go, can I, can I?”

Add the Top Half

  • When he is loving his half crate, securely fasten on the top half (but no door yet) and repeat as above.
  • He’ll probably progress quickly. If that happens, put on the door.

Add the Door

  • You now have a dog who loves his crate but hasn’t been closed into it yet.
  • Start slowly – close the door while he works on his food dispensing toy.
  • Stay close by – read a magazine or watch TV.
  • If your dog stands up, whines or seems restless in his crate, run a long line (10-15 feet) from his flat collar, under the crate door to you. Apply light pressure to the leash; this will apply light pressure to the back of your dog’s neck, a cue to lie down that he already knows from The Guided Down. (If he doesn’t, start teaching him that today.)
  • When he downs, release the pressure. Repeat as needed until he starts to stay down. When he holds the down for 10 seconds or so instead of instantly popping back up, go over without comment and stick a treat through the gate. Good dog.
  • Quit while you’re ahead with these games. You can always do another session a little later.
  • When you let him out – ignore him. There should be NO excitement coming out of the crate, all is calm. The best things happen when he is IN his crate.
  • From there, start moving around the room while your dog is in the crate– be relaxed and calm. Leave the long line on your dog so you can help him with the Guided Down if he starts to stress.
  • Between practice sessions, prop the door open and continue to put treats and toys in there, continue to give him the best attention when he is in the crate.
  • Remove all other dog beds from the area; we want the crate to be the best spot available.

by Sarah Wilson, MySmartPuppy.com

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