Crate Training for the Older or Anxious Pup For older pups or dogs that have a negative association to their crates great care needs to be taken to acquaint (or re-acquaint) them to their crates so that they WANT to go in for quiet time when you need them to. There are a lot of reasons older pups may become resistant (or down right refuse) to enter their crates including: •
Having never been crated
Being crated with negative connotations (i.e. for punishment, only when family leaves, only when company comes, etc)
Being confined too long without enough physical and mental stimulation outside (and inside) of the crate
Regardless of WHY your dog hates the crate you will follow the same steps to make his crate a preferred place to be! To begin you will need the following supplies: •
A crate (the obvious)
A soft blanket or crate liner (yes doggies want someplace soft to rest too)
A minimum of 2 Kongs (appropriate size for your dog’s breed – fill the Kongs with peanut butter, canned “spray” cheese or other similar consistency treat and FREEZE – you will rotate these frozen Kongs)
Your dog’s favorite toy
Your dog’s favorite treats (I have found making homemade liver brownies is a guaranteed success! I’ve included the recipe below)
Step 1 – Provide Enjoyment During Crate Confinement From day one and forward you are going to start by making sure the crate is comfortable and enjoyable for your dog. To do this, line the crate with a soft blanket. Place a favorite chew or squeaky inside the crate. Take one of your frozen Kongs and allow your dog to begin licking it while you are holding it. Then lure your dog towards the crate and guide them into the crate – physically “pushing” them in ONLY if necessary. Close the door behind them and leave. NOTE: This is a temporary way of putting your dog in the kennel. The blanket, toys and Kong remain constant however you will begin working with your dog to WANT to go in the kennel on cue (either verbal when you tell her or when she notices it’s time for you to leave the house).
Step 2 – Make Your Dog See the Crate As A Desirable Place To Be: Help your dog begin to enjoy being near the crate by guaranteeing the crate equals awesome! For the average working family we don’t have a ton of time to help our older dog love his crate before he has to be locked up in it, but we can change the way we interact with the crate while home and during times of confinement. Here’s how to do this: 1. Days 1-3: While you are home prepare your dog’s favorite treat that they don’t get very often (or liver brownies for a completely new and awesome treat that is used ONLY for the crate). Begin by walking past the crate with your dog following you and drop treats near it while you continue to walk away. That’s it … do this several times throughout the day on days 1 – 3. 2. Days 4-6: While you are home prepare the same treats as above. As you are walking past your dog’s crate toss a couple treats next too and several INSIDE the crate … keep on walking by. Repeat several times each day. 3. Days 7-9: While you are home … approach your dog’s crate and drop treats next to crate and toss several inside. This time pause, wait for your dog to enter the crate for the treats and give a verbal cue like “kennel time” or “bed time” and then walk away. Repeat several times a day. 4. Days 10-13: While you are home … proceed as in step three, toss the treats in and give the cue as your dog enters the crate, then close the door behind her. DO NOT lock it or walk away. As soon as she turns around open the crate and let allow her to exit. Repeat several times a day. 5. Days 14-16: While you are home pick up from step four by closing the door and locking it but DO NOT walk away. Instead when she turns around drop more treats into the crate behind her so she turns around to eat some. Repeat dropping treats 2 times, then pause 5 seconds before opening the door to let her out. Repeat several times a day. 6. Days 17-19: Now it’s time to take an additional step. Repeat all of step 5 EXCEPT – before you lock the door place her frozen Kong just inside the crate door while she’s eating the tossed treats. Then close and lock the door. When she turns around drop treats right next to the Kong to attract her interest. Then allow her to explore the Kong for 10 seconds (or longer if she wants) while you are in the room! Note: If you need to leave the room after several seconds simply unlock the door and jar it SLIGHTLY so she can push her way out … then leave the room. Repeat several times a day. 7. Days 20-23: At this stage you will repeat everything from step six EXCEPT – once you place the Kong and latch the crate closed leave the room BUT STAY CLOSE BY. Wait 30 seconds and enter the room just inside the doorway, if she is standing looking to get out let her out. If she is eating her Kong say “YES” and drop a couple more treats in her kennel before leaving the room. Return in 30 seconds and repeat. If she is still content you can choose to unlock the crate door and leave until she comes out or leave the room and return at longer intervals. You are allowing her to CHOOSE to be relaxed with her Kong in her crate knowing you are still nearby.
8. Days 24-26: Now you will repeat step 7 but with a couple variations. First you will no longer drop treats “next to” her crate. Instead you will approach her crate, say the cue, toss her Kong in and a couple of treats. Then close and lock the door behind her. Second instead of returning in 30 seconds you will wait a full minute (or longer if the previous days she chose to linger with her Kong and not get out even if she could) Do not exceed 3 minutes between returning to the room and marking her good behavior with a yes and a few extra treats during the first day of this trial period. Work your way up to 5 minutes by the end of day 26. 9. Days 27-30: During this trial period you will approach the crate and toss the Kong ONLY into the crate while saying the cue. If she does not enter toss a couple of treats as well. Return to the room at 5-7 minute intervals and mark “yes” for good behavior but NO MORE extra treats. All she gets is her Kong from here forward (unless she needs a little extra to first enter the crate). 10. Days 31-33: You will approach the crate, say the cue, and toss her Kong in then lock the door behind her. During this trial period you will stay out of the room for 10 or more minutes. Peak in to ensure she is still enjoying her Kong or resting quietly but do NOT enter the room for at LEAST 10 minutes. By the end of day 33 you want to be able to leave her crated while you are home for 20 minute intervals with her yummy Kong. Additional Notes: In the mornings when you first get into the shower (or whatever you do to get ready to “leave” the house) place some good smelling treats in her kennel or use her frozen Kong – being sure she sees you put it in there! Then go about your normal morning of getting ready. This will encourage her to occupy herself in her kennel while you shower! You can use frozen soup bones (beef marrow bones) as a rotating extra special chew BUT I HIGHLY recommend first offering them to her in small doses while you are home to gradually introduce her to the bone as the marrow is high in fiber and can cause upset tummy in dogs if they eat too much before they are used to it. The beef bones wear down but do not splinter so are very safe, durable long lasting chews. Do not however leave them lay around in between chewing times as flies enjoy them too!!! Also, make sure they are large enough she won’t swallow whole. Once she wears them down enough that she could swallow it’s time to replace them. And finally, the time frame above is a recommended time frame. I’ve had dogs require anywhere from a single day on each step to 2 or more extra days on particular steps. Pay attention to our dog, if she’s interested in entering the kennel and showing signs that she is okay with the new daily game of kennel training it’s okay to move through the steps faster. If you notice she was willing to go into the kennel to get the treats the first few days and now is hesitant or outright refuses then slow down a little and give more time before pushing to the next step. If done right she will ENJOY her crate. For families whose dog is resisting the crate due to associated confinement strictly to being left alone: from here on forward be sure to crate her at least 20 minutes a day at LEAST 3 different days you are home for every 5 days you are not. – i.e if you are gone 5 days a week crate her for 20 minutes a day 3 days a week while you are home (it can and should be on your days off as well as one day you are at work). This maintains her crate confinement is a part of daily routine, not a cue that you are leaving.
For families whose dog is resisting the crate due to associated confinement strictly to company arriving, place the kennel in a back room and ask ALL company to call at least 5 minutes before their arrival. During those 5 minutes work with your dog on the steps she is at to get her into her kennel with her frozen Kong BEFORE company arrives. Then anticipate them by watching out the window and open the door BEFORE they ring the bell or knock. This helps your dog enjoy her confinement without obviously missing out on the action!