Building Desire for a Crate in a Puppy

Below are four suggestions to build a desire for a crate in your puppy while he is young. Hold off on using the crate for containment until after your puppy has been conditioned to feel good about the crate. Instead, make heavy use temporarily of a pen for containment and use your crate in the following four ways for a few weeks to build a love for it before you begin using it to confine your puppy.

First of all, feed all meals in the crate and give your puppy high value bones in (and only in) his crate. Leave him in his crate for an increasingly long period of time with his bone after a meal. Always keep an eye on your puppy, letting him out when he quits chewing the bone and looks like he's ready to come out. Occasionally put him in his crate with the bone when it's not meal time and he's tired. Leave him in there as long as he's happy. Always let him out as soon as he's ready in these early weeks (but never when he's crying).

Secondly, regularly put food in your puppy's crate and close him OUT of the crate. Let him pine for the food for a few minutes before opening the crate to let him have it.

Thirdly, regularly open your puppy's crate, stand beside the crate, and reward your puppy with treats when he goes into his crate. For this, don't encourage or lure or place him in the crate. You want your puppy to go in on his own so that he gets rewarded for making the decision to go in there himself. Simply open the door and wait. Make sure the crate is in a small pen so that he doesn't wander off. If he gets distracted, call him back and maybe tap inside the crate the first few times. The eventual goal is a puppy that will go in his crate without being commanded, coaxed, or asked. The first few times you do this exercise, reward him for just one foot in the crate and gradually increase the criteria before he gets his reward until he is going completely into the crate and then looking to you for the treat. When rewarding your puppy, always stick your hand with the treat in it way to the back of the crate so that he understands that he needs to be all the way in the crate and that the reward comes inside the crate, not at the edge of it.

Finally, use a lot of healthy treats (or I use just plain dog food) to reward your puppy when he is being good in the crate. Drop 3 or 4 pieces in every 5 or 10 minutes or so just for being quiet.