Weekend Crate Training Plan

Crate training is seen in two lights; it is cruel to confine your dog to a kennel, and it is good for them to have their own safe place for down time. I believe that the crate is a great retreat for your pooch, as well as an amazing training tool.

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A few positive aspects to using a crate:

  • Can be used as a training tool for house training, and preventing him from being destructive.
  • As a safe and effective way to transport your dog.
  • Creates a place of their own, which is especially important for dogs with fear and anxiety issues.

A few tips about crate training:

  • Never use the crate as a punishment, you do not want your dog to be afraid to go in there.
  • Always associate the crate with something good, feed him in there, give him a special bone, chew, or toy that he only gets when going into the crate.
  • Put the crate somewhere permanent, dogs thrive off of consistency. If you keep the crate in the dining room, your dog will get used to that being “his place”. Once you move it for a dinner party, he will get confused and be unsure of what to do.
  • If you’re dog is having a lot of trouble adjusting, try a different type such as wire vs plastic. Sometimes this small fix can make a world of difference.
  • Make sure to make it comfortable with blankets, a dog bed, or even a shirt with your scent inside.
  • Always exercise your dog before he goes into his crate. 30-60 minutes of physical exercise, paired with mental stimulation (obedience training, treat games, etc) is preferred.
  • Leave the door to the crate open so that your dog has access to it whenever he wants. He now feels comfortable here, and it will be his safe place if he ever feels uncomfortable, or just wants to take an uninterrupted snooze.
  • Make sure to let your dog out to the bathroom before he goes in and after he comes out of the crate.

Recommended time lengths to crate your dog:

  • 8–10 weeks 30–60 minutes
  • 11–14 weeks 1–3 hours
  • 15–16 weeks 3–4 hours
  • 17+ weeks 4–5 hours

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, a crate can be detrimental to their issues depending on the severity. If your dog is having a lot of uses in the crate, defecating or urinating, soaked with saliva, damage to the crate, moving the crate, or excessive howling, please contact a professional trainer near you.

I have had great success with the Weekend Crate Training plan as have my clients, so here it is:

Friday

During this phase, the crate door always stays open.

  • When your dog isn’t looking, toss a few tasty treats inside the crate to spark their investigation. Make sure to use something extra tasty that they only get during training time.
  • Leave the crate door open and every time your dog looks towards it, walks towards it, takes a step in, etc, give him a lot of treats and praise.
  • Periodically leave extra special treats inside like a kong, bone, or toy.
  • Feed them their dinner inside the crate. If they are too uncomfortable to go all the way inside at this point, try leaving it just inside by the door or even just outside the door.
  • Over the next couple of days you will be rewarding your dog for going towards and into the crate, make sure to have a bunch of training treats ready because you will be using them!

Saturday Morning

Get your treats, toys, and bones ready!

  • Decide on the verbal cue you will use to send your dog to his crate. You can use “Go to your bed” or whatever you would like. Start using the verbal cue once your dog is going inside every time. If you add it in too early, they will get confused and not understand what you are asking.
  • Start by either sitting on the floor or in a chair beside the crate. Show your dog one of the treats and toss it in. Once he goes in to eat it, give a lot of praise and feed her another treat while inside.
  • Use your release cue, again, “okay” or “break” whatever you would like to use, so they know they can come out again. Don’t reward when they leave the crate so he learns that good things happen when he is inside.
  • REPEAT these steps about 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. After you have finished the two, end the session.

Later on in the morning….Now you are getting your dog to earn the treat. Instead of tossing a treat in for them to follow you will be using your verbal cue and rewarding once he goes inside.

  • First, warm up with a few reps of tossing the treat in and using the verbal cue.
  • Give your cue and point to the crate instead of tossing in the treat. If he is being stubborn, try your “point” in the same motion as tossing in the treat.
  • Once your dog goes in, then give a lot of praise and treats while he is still inside.
  • Use your release command for your dog to come out.
  • REPEAT these steps about 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. After you have finished the two, end the session.

If your dog isn’t catching onto the cue or seems nervous, step back to tossing the treat in first and wait until he understands and feels more comfortable.

Saturday Afternoon

During this phase, you will start getting your dog used to being in the crate with the door closed.

  • First, warm up and do a few repetitions of the last step, remembering to release him every time.
  • Do the same thing, reward him for going in, and then gently close the door, give him a few treats and praise with the door closed
  • Give your release cue, open the door, and let your dog out
  • If your dog seems to be too nervous with the door closed all the way, break this down into two parts, start with the door halfway closed and then transition to fully closed.
  • REPEAT these steps 10 times, take a short break, and then do another 10 reps. As you go through your repetitions, increase the time the door is closed. Do 1 second, then 5 seconds, then 8 seconds, then back to 5, then 10, then 8, and so on. Make sure to mix up the times.

Saturday Evening

Once your dog is comfortable sitting the crate with the door closed you are going to start getting them ready for alone time.

  • First, warm up with a few repetitions from the last step, but each time start to slowly move away and then back to the crate.
  • Release your dog, go through the same steps, once the crate door is closed, treat.
  • Now, with the door still closed, stand up, treat, take a few steps away, then go back and treat again.
  • Open the door and release your dog.
  • REPEAT these steps 10 times, each time walking in a different direction. After a short break, start again increasing the time your dog is left alone in the crate. Do 5 seconds, then 10, then 8, 15, and so on. Be generous, give a lot of treats for now, and as your dog gets more comfortable being in the crate, you can gradually start giving less.
  • After these repetitions, take about a half hour to an hour break, and repeat the steps again. Start leaving the room, only for a second, and then releasing your dog. Gradually build up the time as we did before, try to get to him being in the crate for 1 minute while you walk around the room, briefly leave, and come back. REMEMBER if you go through the steps too quickly, you will have to step back or even start over.

Sunday Morning

Now you will be working on getting your dog comfortable with longer periods in the crate. Grab your treats, and a kong stuffed with something delicious, or a favorite bone or toy as well as something to occupy yourself.

  • Ask your dog to go in the crate and close him in with the kong, bone, or toy and get yourself comfortable watching TV, reading a book, or whatever you choose to do in that room. Leave him in there for about 30 minutes.
  • If your dog finishes the kong or bone, you can continue to give him a few treats here and there as long as he is staying quiet.
  • After the half hour is up, release your dog and take away the bone, kong, or toy. DO NOT give him any treats when he comes out or make a big deal out of it. You want him to learn that good things happen while he is inside the crate, not when he is released.

At this time, your dog may start to wine, or bark while being left alone inside. My suggestion here is to ignore him completely. If you release him, or treat him for this behavior he is learning that if he makes noise he will get your attention. Once he has stopped, then reward him with a few treats.  This step can be frustrating in some cases, but if you are consistent, your dog will learn that it is in his best interest to be quiet and relax.

Sunday Afternoon

Now it is time to give your dog some alone time in the crate. Make sure to exercise your dog before this step, take him to the park, for a walk or run, play fetch, and also do some basic obedience training and maybe even some mind games. .

  • Ask your dog to go into his crate. Give him his kong, bone, or toy, and leave the room.
  • Stay out of the room for 10 minutes, then return and release him. If he hasn’t finished his kong or bone, take it away (he only gets these treats while in the crate). If your dog is making noise, don’t return until he has stopped for 5-10 seconds.
  • REPEAT the exercise, after a short break.

Sunday Evening

If your dog can calmly stay in his crate for an hour while you work around the house, it is time to try leaving completely.

  • Ask your dog to go in his crate and give him his special treat.
  • Without saying any goodbyes. leave the room and house for 10 minutes.
  • When you return, calmly let your dog out of the crate and take away his treat.
  • REMEMBER your dog will feel more comfortable going in and out of his crate if it seems like no big deal. Don’t give him any indication that you are leaving, or be overly excited when you return home.
  • REPEAT this exercise as often as possible before going to bed with bathroom breaks and exercise between. Gradually increase each time you are out of the house until you get to about an hour or even longer.

THAT’S IT! You have (hopefully successfully) completed the Weekend Crate Training plan. Now you are ready to start crating your dog every time you leave the house, and overnight (if you wish).

REMEMBER if you are having any issues at all, don’t hesitate to consult a professional in your area. For a more in depth look at crate training check out the ASPCA website.

Is your dog crate trained? How was the process for you? What worked and what didn’t? Let me know in the comments below!