Introducing the Crate

The puppy should feel like the crate is a comfortable, safe place to relax. The crate should be an aide to keep your home and the puppy safe, teach polite house manners, and confine the pup when you cannot supervise them. The crate should not be used for more than six hours during the day with an adult dog. Younger pups cannot stay in the crate for that long. While you are puppy raising, the pup should be comfortable in the crate without vocalizing, relieving, or being destructive.

Setting up for Success

  • Feed all meals in the crate until the pup is eagerly going into the crate. This can take several months, but the more positive association, like food the dog gets with the crate the faster they will acclimate and be comfortable in it.
  • Do not leave the puppy unsupervised in the crate with cloth or bedding. The crate should be clear of items the pup can destroy or ingest.
  • Give the pup a toy to play with in the crate. They can have a Nylabone or other approved toys to keep their interest if you need a break.
  • If the pup has to be left in the crate for a period more than 15 minutes at a time during the day before they have a foundation with the crate game, give the pup a food stuffed toy.
  • Soak the food for at least 10 minutes in warm water and then stuff the food in the Kong or sterilized bone.
  • You can freeze the toy with food ahead of time to keep the pup occupied for extended periods.
    • Make the crate fun! Play the crate game described below.
  • Practice the game before bedtime or crate time during the day. s

If your puppy starts vocalizing or barking and you don’t feel like they need to busy, please do not reward the vocalizing by letting them out. Simply ignore it until they are quiet and then let them out once they have relaxed and settled down. Being letting out for vocalizing is a demanding behavior that can cause problems in the future. Soon enough after the crate is introduced properly you will see your pup seek out their crate during meal times or when they need to rest.

Crate Game

Introducing the crate to the pup with food creates a positive association. Play this game several times a day when the pup is hungry, but not right before mealtimes so they don't become frustrated or frantic.

  • Have the crate set up in a quiet room with minimal distractions.
  • Lure the pup into the crate with food so they go all the way to the back of the crate.
  • Once the pup is in the back of crate, drop the food and allow them to eat the food.
    • After you have done this portion of the game several times only reward the pup for being in the back of the crate.
    • All food reward should be given in the crate during this game.
  • The pup should be facing the back of the crate as they eat the food you dropped. Put another piece of kibble in your hand and extend it into the crate so the pup is met with food when they turn around.
  • Let the pup leave the crate if they want to do so.
  • Lure the pup back into the crate several times with food until they make the connection that food is delivered in the crate. Continue to meet the pup with food when they turn around to walk out.
  • After luring the pup into the crate 5-10 times, start letting the pup walk into the crate on their own.
    • Once the pup walks in drop food into the crate from the top. Do not drop the food in until the pup steps into the crate.
  • Meet the pup with a piece of kibble when they turn around.
  • If the pup becomes hesitant to leave the crate, lure them out with kibble. Then, allow the pup to walk back in and be reinforced with food by walking into the crate.
  • As the pup turns around in the crate after the first food reward you dropped in, quietly close the door. Feed the pup several times through the door.
  • Then, delay the feeding 5-6 seconds. Continue increasing the duration of time between feeding through the closed door.
  • After feeding 10-15 pieces of kibble, open the door. Feed the pup several pieces of kibble in the crate with the door open.
  • When the pup walks back into the crate close the door and increase the time between feeding 10-20 seconds.
  • Open the crate and feed the pup at the entrance before they exit.
  • Allow the pup to walk back into the crate. Close the crate and walk away. Return to the crate after several seconds and feed the puppy.
  • Continue increasing and varying the duration of your time away from the crate to 20 seconds.
  • Walk out of the room and pup's sight for several seconds and increase and vary the time with your absence.
  • Increase the distractions and sounds when away from the crate by moving the crate into a different room, allowing your pets to enter the room, turning on the radio or tv.
    • Place a toy in the crate for the pup to chew on during this step of the exercise.
    • Return and reward after shorter periods away when increasing stimulation in the environment.
  • Continue this exercise by placing the pup in the crate while you're home. Leave the room, but return to reinforce the pup's quiet and calm behavior with food reward.