Of all the crate training steps, the simplest turns out to be the hardest: getting your dog inside of the crate.
Some puppies can be especially reluctant to go in their crate, so something proactive must be done about it. Worry not; there are ways to get your puppy in the crate of their own free will!
Puppies may not go into the crate because they had a bad experience, the crate is unfamiliar, or they are overwhelmed by everything being new. Never force your dog inside of a crate. Instead, you can lure your dog into the crate with treats, play, and lots of praise.
In this article, I will enlighten you on why your puppy may not want to go in the crate and how to encourage them that the crate is the best place in the world!
Ready? Let’s begin.
You have to remember that from a puppy’s perspective, the world is a very large and possibly scary place. They are just babies that haven’t figured all of life out yet, after all!
As such, most of the reasons for your puppy’s unwillingness to go into the crate stems from fear or uncertainty.
The crate, which may be covered to look like a den, is an unfamiliar and unusual place for a puppy that has never seen one before. Your puppy can be quite scary and nervous because this is something your puppy does not know!
Puppies with milder temperaments and who are not very confident will not want to walk up to something unfamiliar.
It may take time before they become brave enough to check out this strange new place.
This is the big catalyst to dogs refusing to go into their crate; something they perceived as ‘bad’ happened to them relating to the crate.
This could be anything from accidentally getting their collar stuck in the bars, which caused pain to being yelled at to get inside of the crate.
If your puppy is a rescue, shelter kennels and cages are ripe with bad experiences. Whatever it was, that negative association will make your puppy extremely hesitant at ever setting foot in a crate again.
You can still crate train a dog that has had bad experiences with a crate, so all hope is not lost there!
If you’ve just brought your puppy home, you have to understand that everything is so new and overwhelming for them.
Your puppy has just been plucked from the first home they’ve ever known, from their mother and sibling, and from everything that represents safety and comfort. Now they’re in a brand new environment with strangers!
As the puppy is overwhelmed by this experience (and it’s a rather big experience for a little one), they may not be inclined to listen to you.
The crate is yet another thing that is rather unfamiliar (especially if your breeder didn’t introduce the puppy to the crate) in this already unusual environment.
The fastest way to undo all of your crate training efforts is to force your puppy to go inside!
This immediately creates a negative pressure around the crate, counter to what you should be doing, which is showing that the crate is a positive place to be.
The key to crate training success is for your dog to see the crate as something they love. This means creating a pleasant, happy, exciting, relaxing, and comfortable environment. The crate should symbolically mean warmth, love, treats, and all things good.
If you are aggressively forcing your dog into the crate, scaring them into going inside, or otherwise forcing them to go in against their will, you’re effectively creating a scenario in which your puppy becomes terrified of the thing you need them to enjoy.
Although it will take patience and time, never force your dog into their kennel.
If your dog won’t go in their crate, the first thing you must do is not panic.
Your puppy will go in there, I promise! It just might take a bit of time to get there, but it will happen. The main thing to remember is that you want the crate to be something positive, which means your attitude about it needs to adapt to be more positive.
Here are a few things you can do to help your pup walk into that crate!
If your puppy is new to the crate, putting the crate in a scary dark corner may not be the right move. For starters, place the crate somewhere the puppy can see you so that they don’t feel so isolated and alone!
This can, in some cases, be the only thing stopping your puppy from entering the crate of their own volition.
Placing the crate correctly also grants you access to what the puppy is doing, so you can praise and reward for good behavior in the crate.
You wouldn’t be interested in sleeping on a bed of rocks, would you? Making the crate cozy, warm, and soft can be a key way to encourage your four-legged little one to come inside. The crate mimics a den, so it should be inviting!
If you have a puppy that chews bedding, start with a towel or something you don’t mind potentially being destroyed. You can redirect the biting and chewing by offering stimulating chew toys.
For the food-motivated puppies out there, enjoying something or not enjoying something can be as simple as whether or not a reward was offered. For crate training, look at using high-value treats.
High-value treats refer to a food item that is irresistible to your pup. Having them becomes a much more significant reward than anything else! This gives your dog a very significant prize for entering the crate.
A common dog training term, “throwing a party” means making the praise very exciting!
Heighten your voice and emote a lot of excitement and happiness, as animals are amazing at picking up these feelings. Offer treats lots of petting and praise, and be overall stoked that your puppy did what you wanted them to. Act like you just won the million-dollar jackpot lottery!
The goal is for your dog to build a very positive association with their crate. The crate should symbolize all of the best things! Toys, treats, sleeping, relaxation, a dog owner being happy - everything that matters to your dog.
As such, you want to encourage your pup to enter the crate by allowing the best things to happen in there. Throw in an awesome toy! Yummy food! All the praise in the world! Once that association is built, your puppy will be dashing to their crate.