Angie Pullano and Louie


How to Teach Your Dog to Go Into the Crate Willingly

by Angie Pullano, Owner of Fusion Dog Training

This game requires patience on the human end at the beginning but the results are worth it! Your dog will think she can make you click and give her a treat for going into the crate and that it’s all her idea! Note that the game does NOT include you giving any commands. Indeed, if your dog has a history of trying to avoiding going into the crate, you saying anything can ruin the game! For a dog with no negative associations of going into the crate the command can start to be added as soon as the 2nd or 3rd session. However, if your dog has shown avoidance previously I recommend that you play the game for at least a week before adding the command. Since you do not walk with the dog to the crate, nor gesture towards it, nor throw cookies into it as a bribe, you will be able to send your dog to her crate from across the room without having to stand up once she learns the word.

It is best to use a clicker for this game, unless your dog is afraid of the sound of the click. If this is the case, substitute the word “Yes” said unemotionally. Every click is followed by a food reward being given to the dog (or at least offered). Being random about how many treats/kibbles are given for each click makes it more interesting for dogs, try to vary how many you give from a single treat to a handful. C/T is shorthand for click & treat. It is ok to praise after the click as well, as long as it doesn’t distract your dog from thinking about how to figure out the game. If your dog is free-fed she may not value kibble enough to put this much mental effort into figuring out how to get it and you will need to use all treats for the game.

Go to your crate game: Set up with about 10 treats mixed in with her meal ration of kibble and your clicker next to her crate. Ignore her and look at the crate pan. If she is suspicious, sit on the floor next to the side of the crate. Click for her approaching you and toss her the treats. Work up to looking at the crate, her head in the crate (try to click as she’s still moving forward), then a paw in the crate, then all 4 paws in the crate before clicking. Once she has a paw in, start tossing the treats into the crate with her. Pause and wait to see if she walks out. If she stands at the doorway and waits, click and toss another treat into the crate. Repeat about 5-10 times or until she walks out of the crate on her own, then click and toss the treat outside the crate and say “get it” to set up for the next rep of going into the crate.

As part of this process change your location. Scoot closer to the entrance instead of sitting on the side. Sit in a chair nearby. Stand next to the side, next to the entrance, towards the pathway where you normally approach the crate. Add distance so you’re standing in the hallway (or as far away as you can get and still attempt to toss treats into the crate). If she gets stuck, she may try barking at you, say “no” gravely and if needed, turn your back or walk out of the room. Rudeness makes the game end that she wants to play. Start again by taking a step closer to the crate and re-focusing on it again.

Add challenges when things are going smoothly. Shut the crate door partway so she has to figure out how to get in to get the click. When she’s in the crate, close the door, C/T while she’s in the crate and then open the door. See if she decides to walk right out. If she doesn’t C/T some more and toss several more treats into the crate before you do a “get it.” While she is chasing after a long “get it” toss, throw a handful into the crate and close the door all the way w/o locking it. Let her get frustrated and when she finally gives up and looks to you for help, open the door. Wait to see if she comes out after all the treats are gone – if she doesn’t and waits instead at the doorway, C/T (tossing into the crate). When your dog has completed these challenges, start to add the word you want to use (like “crate” or “room”) while your dog is already heading towards the crate. This is called “overlaying” of a command but it is basically just telling the dog what it is called that she is doing. Do not repeat the command, and expect that it may cause your dog to pause and forget what she was doing. Just keep looking into the crate and she will resume the game. When saying the command no longer distracts her, start to say it right after she’s swallowed the last treat thrown outside of the crate, so it is actually being said before she starts heading towards it. With a couple more sessions she will now run to the crate on command!

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