Crate Training Dogs: Here’s How We Did It

Somehow, we were fortunate to be able to convince our 3-year-old dog to start using a crate — out of the blue.

For 2-1/2 years, he had slept on our bed.

Six months ago, we broke him of that.

This week, we decided to try crate training our adult dog.

Here’s how we did it…

 

Time For Destin To Move On UpĀ …To The Penthouse Suite

Our big dog inside a big dog crate.

Amazingly, our 3-year-old Black Lab-Golden Retriever mix barely balked at the fact that he had to stay in a crate for 6 hours on that very first day we introduced it to him.

Why?

We’re not exactly sure. But it could have something to do with the fact that:

 

A) His younger brother has been in a crate through his entire 6 months of life. Maybe he was jealous and happy to finally have his own space too.

 

-OR-

B) He’s been bearing a lot of responsibility dog-pack wise — going from the “baby” (in a household of 2 dogs), to the middle dog (in a household of 3 dogs when we brought home a new puppy), to then the Alpha dog (in a household of 2 dogs when our eldest dog passed on) — all within a couple short months’ time. Maybe, he’s just happy to NOT have to be in charge for a change and he enjoys sitting back and relaxing in his comfy “crib” for Big Dawgs.

-OR-

C) He’s part Black Lab, part Golden Retriever (probably more the personality of the Golden Retriever — very laid back and regal in his demeanor) and those dogs tend to be more accepting than most breeds to changes such as this.

True, he’s very easy-going in general, but we were certain that we’d have to spend a few days persuading him to just go inside the crate on his own, let alone stay in there for hours at a time!

 

How To Crate Train An Adult Dog

Here’s what we did:

1. The morning we brought the crate home, we set it up in our bedroom (next to his younger brother’s crate, but not touching it).

Our dog inside his crate, along with his stuffed Kong toy. 2. We filled a Kong toy with cooked chicken strips (grilled, from leftover Chicken Quesadillas) and put him in the crate with that. While we didn’t close the door, we didn’t let him leave the crate with that Kong (which he very badly wanted… especially since he doesn’t get “people food” very often).

3. After he finished the Kong, we let him leave the crate on his own free will.

4. We left the door open, but he never went back in it on his own the rest of that day. (His younger brother did, however… Which poses a whole ‘nother set of issues — whether or not to allow a sibling dog to enter another dog’s crate — more on that later.)

5. Later in the afternoon, we offered Destin another of his most favorite things: a pressed rawhide dog bone. But he could only have it if he went in his crate. He followed inside after we tossed the bone in there, and we locked the door behind him for the first time. He was curious, but agreeable. He actually didn’t touch the bone, he was more interested in when he might be getting out of the crate. After about 15 minutes of sitting in the room with him, he whined to get out once — but we did not let him out. After another 5 minutes or so, we let him out without incident. (Of course, he wanted to take the rawhide bone too, but we didn’t allow that. Special treats like this are now reserved for time inside the crate.)

Our black lab in his new dog crate. 6. That night, come bedtime, he was used to Tenor getting locked in his crate (quite contentedly, I might add), so Destin seemed to almost know that I was going to encourage him to enter his own crate at this time. He was definitely reluctant to enter on his own at first. But after some coaxing — no toys, no bones, no Kongs, just a good-smelling BilJac Liver Treat held over the top of the crate which he could only reach from being inside it — he gave in. (We are also lucky that our dogs are treat-motivated.)

7. We didn’t walk on eggshells around him in that crate. Jim came in the room a couple hours after I’d gone to sleep and we were talking, and Destin watched our every move, but he never whined to be let out of the crate.

8. It wasn’t until our normal morning wake-up time that he whimpered that he needed to go outside. This released him from crate-duty for the rest of the day.

We continued to go through a couple of short-term crate stays — with a favorite food or toy in the crate with him and with us in the house in case he started putting up a fuss.

 

For The Record…

We figured we were in for one heck of an uphill battle, since our 3-year-old dog hadn’t been in a dog crate since he was just a few weeks old. (We needed a way to confine him in hotels when we were traveling, but we ditched the crate idea right after that.)

For his first 2-1/2 years of life, he was allowed to sleep on our bed with us. That was, until we learned how badly this confuses dogs with regard to who’s “in control”. So, we stopped that about 6 months ago. For some reason, that too was a breeze. Destin never “tested” us with getting up on the bed after that first day that we disallowed it. We never dreamed it would be such a breeze to get him used to being locked inside a dog crate though.

It’s a fact, dogs want (and need!) their own personal territory in order to feel safe and secure …and to fulfill their innate need to “den”. Dogs also need a place to just “chill out” on occasion.

 

MAJOR UPDATE:

After one week of smooth sailing with Destin in the crate, all heck broke loose the first time we left him for 4 hours straight. From there, we faced an uphill battle in crate training Destin. But, we stuck with it and now both of our dogs have successfully been crate trained!

Here’s how we eventually achieved success.

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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