Ask the Trainer | Crate training your puppy |

Ask the Trainer | Crate training your puppy

Dear Carla,

We recently adopted a dog who we think is about 10-months old. We would like to crate train him to help with house-training and to keep him from chewing everything in the house while we are at work during the day. I have a friend who will loan me a crate, but I donand#8217;t know where to start.


A frazzled puppy owner

Dear Frazzled,

I am a big fan of crate training. A crate is a sturdy plastic, fiberglass, wood, metal or wire box just big enough for a dog to stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortably. It can be used with the door open, at the dogand#8217;s convenience, or with the door closed, when mandatory confinement is necessary. When properly introduced, most dogs love them. Dogs are den animals and a crate is a modern den. They can make house-training a breeze and prevent damage to the house. They are not, however, appropriate for long-term confinement. A dog should not be left inside the crate for more than 3-4 hours at a time. Some general guidelines for crating based on age are:

8-10 weeks, up to 1 hour

11-12 weeks, up to 2 hours

13-16 weeks, up to 3 hours

More than 4 months, up to 4 hours

Throughout the process Iand#8217;ve outlined below, I use a clicker or verbal and#8220;Yesand#8221; as a reward marker. These indicate to the dog they have done the right thing.

Step 1: Start with the crate door open and toss in some irresistible treat. If he hesitates to go in, drop the treat close enough to the opening so he can stand outside and get it. Each time he takes the treat, click or say and#8220;yesand#8221;.

Step 2: Gradually toss the treat farther into the crate, still clicking or saying and#8220;yesand#8221; when he takes it.

Step 3: When he is routinely entering and exiting the crate without hesitation, start using a verbal cue such as and#8220;go homeand#8221; as he goes in.

Step 4: When he happily goes into the crate and stays in anticipation of the click or and#8220;yesand#8221;, gently swing the door closed. Donand#8217;t latch it! Click or say and#8220;yesand#8221; and give him a treat. Repeat this step, gradually increasing the amount of time the door stays closed before the reward.

Step 5: When the dog will stay in the crate for at least 10 seconds without anxiety, latch the door, take one step away, click or say and#8220;yesand#8221; and return to the crate, reward and open the door. Repeat this, varying the time and distance.

Helpful hints:

and#8226; If at any time during the training, the dog starts to whine or bark, donand#8217;t let him out until he stops. If you let him out while heand#8217;s fussing, you are rewarding and strengthening that behavior! However, if the dog starts fussing, you have probably progressed too quickly. Go back a few steps.

and#8226; Give your dog a specially stuffed Kong or chew toy inside the crate. This will keep him busy for awhile and will help to create a positive association with the crate.

and#8226; Try feeding all of your dog’s meals inside the crate with the door open.

A crate should not be a place for punishment. Never force your dog into the crate in anger. Even if he has earned a time-out, quietly remove him from the scene and invite him into his crate. Alternatively, use another area for time-outs with a baby gate across the door so he canand#8217;t get out.

My dog sleeps in her crate every night and will actually put herself to bed. Once you teach your dog this skill I think you will both be happier and more relaxed.

and#8212; Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at

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