How to get a Dog to Go Into their Crate on Their Own

Crate training has had mixed reviews from owners, and some dogs just don’t like being confined.

But a lot comes down to the way you train your dog, and when your dog just goes into the crate by themselves, it’s a sign you trained them well.

  • The crate is their den.  
  • It is a comfortable, positive experience.
  • Keep the crate door open so they can go in anytime.
  • A crate can keep your dog safe from harm.
  • It’s a refuge from the noise, play and an ideal place to sleep.

Crate training takes time, but it is worth the effort to get your dog used to use the crate with the door open (not locked) while they adjust. The door should only be locked for short times or at night if they prowl around a bit.

The reason owners may be wary of having a crate for their dog, stems from bad publicity about pets that are locked into their crate for up to 5-6 hours.

Another reason is that some owners don’t get the right size of crate for their dog  – they are often too small. But when it is used properly, in a humane way, owners agree that a crate is a fantastic tool, and if your dog is happy to go in the crate by themselves, then that seal of approval says a lot.

When the crate is presented to your dog as a positive experience, it becomes a valuable tool, and your dog will get to love it. When a dog just goes into the crate without your persuasion, that is a great moment.

When your dog is going into the crate without coercion, it shows they value it as their special place. They feel secure, and it is a place to take their special toys or rugs. It’s their home within your home.


Training Your Dog to Love Their Crate

Dogs aren’t silly, there has to be a benefit to them to entice them to use a crate. And the best way to introduce them to the crate is to let them find all sorts of delightful benefits inside it.


Part 1. A Word of Caution First

  • Don’t ever try to force your dog into a crate. They may start to fear it, and then it will be an uphill battle to get them to use it.
  • Never use the crate as punishment – you want them to associate the crate as something positive.
  • Never leave them locked in the crate for too long. It can make your dog anxious and depressed. If you will be away a long time, make arrangements with family or a pet sitter to take them out for a walk.
  • A puppy under 6mths old should not be confined in a crate for more than three hours at the most. A young puppy cannot control their bladder or bowels for that long.
  • A crate is not a prison! It should be a positive place of retreat. Many owners I have spoken to agree that a crate has to be big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down again without being constricted by use. They also agree that no dog or puppy should be locked into a crate for a long period, eg 4-5 hours at a time.


Part 2. Using A Crate In a Positive Manner

Keep the crate in an area of the house where you and the family spend a lot of time, so that they can be in their crate if they choose, and still be part of the family.

The Humane Society offers great tips for training your dog to accept the crate as just part of life. You can read about it here, but the important points are as follows.

  • Introduce your dog to the crate. Make sure it has soft blankets on the floor, and some toys inside to play with.
  • Never rush the introduction. Your dog may go right on in then and there, or they may take a few days. DON’T RUSH THEM. If you want them to use the crate, keep calm
  • Use a happy tone of voice.
  • Make sure the crate door is open. Ensure it is secure so it won’t hit your dog and cause them to panic.
  • Draw them into the crate with a trail of treats. Dogs love treats!
  • Feed your dog in the crate. Place the food to the rear, so they go right in.
  • Close the door in the Crate. Try it while they are eating, then for five minutes and later for ten minutes – get them used to being enclosed in it for small amounts of time.
  • Repeat this process several times.  Practice this over the next few days. Praise them when they go into the crate. Once they are comfortable with that, increase the time the door is closed.
  • When your dog will stay quietly in the crate you can begin to leave them. Try it for 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, then begin to leave them crated for short periods when you leave the house.
  • Don’t make a production of leaving. Just crate them and leave without a fuss.
  • And don’t make a fuss when your return. Don’t make a big performance or fuss, let them realise that you always return and take them outside to run around a bit.

If you are patient and calm and taking your time to let your dog accept the crate, you will be able to leave the door open and they will just create themselves when they want some time alone.

Once they go inside because they want to go in, your training has been successful. Remember crates are to protect your dog when you are not there to look after them.

Crate training takes advantage of your dog’s instincts. When the environment becomes too loud, or maybe they become overwhelmed, the crate can be their place to retreat and regroup.


Dogs Love These Types of Crates.

There are many types of crates available for astute dog owners. You can even get double crates if you have two dogs in the household. Some come with dividers so two dogs can have their own space.

The crate should be big enough for your dog to stand in comfort, turn around easily, and stretch out on their side when they want to lay down. If you are in doubt, go up a size, not down. Being squashed in a crate is not much fun!

The crates can come in many colours and designs. But the basic shapes are as follows.

  • Plastic portable dog crates: These are generally used for smaller dogs. The plastic is thick and the crate has a front-facing swinging door. The handle on the top makes moving the crated dog easy.
  • The folding wire dog cage:  Otherwise known as the wire crate – it can be folded so you can move the crate easily. They come in all sizes and give a clear view from within. These are easily cleaned.
  • Soft-Sided Dog Grates: These are made of canvas or nylon and don’t suit every dog. They are more destructible than wire or plastic. They are not recommended for initial crate training but for a calm, trained dog they are a lightweight, comfortable option when you travel.
  • Heavy-duty dog crates: The only time you may need one of these types of crates, is for a giant breed dog, a dog who destroys their crates, or a master escape pooch. It is important to remember that a crate is not a prison, it is a haven for your dog.
  • Furniture Dog Crates: As the name implies, this is a dog kennel/crate that doubles as home furniture. Such as a decorative wooden crate. While they look good, they are hard to clean, and they are not portable. And if your dog decides to chew the wood, it won’t look so good in the home.


Circumstances Where A Crate Can Help Your Dog.

When you have to travel either to the vets or perhaps on holiday, a crate can keep your dog safe in the car. The crate can be tied into the seat belts to prevent it from moving, and inside your dog will have a soft blanket, a toy or two to play with, and they won’t slip and slide around. Plus they can still see everything and hear you so they are part of the trip.

Because they are secure in the crate, they are safely contained and less likely to be injured. Many people that I have spoken to agree that they use a crate for traveling with their dog in a vehicle as it protects their pet.

Many dogs instinctively seek small spaces which seem like a protective shelter for themselves. They are a haven for senior dogs, useful when training a puppy and they can be lifesavers in an emergency.

During an emergency, it can be the difference between life and uncertainty. If you need to evacuate your dog efficiently, having your dog used to going into their crate quickly can make a huge difference. A crate ensures your dog won’t panic and run away during all the confusion. 

Another positive for the crates is that taking your injured dog to the vet in the crate provides a solid base for transporting them without hurting them further. They are used to the smell of their crate and it is familiar which is a great comfort to a dog in pain.

During times of loud noises such as thunder and lightning, fireworks, construction noises and so on,  your dog may need a safe place to go to and hide. The crate is the ideal place where they can hide and feel safe.

When you have to travel either to the vets or perhaps on holiday, a crate can keep your dog safe in the car. The crate can be tied into the seat belts to prevent it from moving, and inside your dog will have a soft blanket, a toy or two to play with, and they won’t slip and slide around. Plus they can still see everything and hear you so they are part of the trip.

And of course, housetraining a puppy becomes a whole lot easier with a crate.

The one thing I discovered when researching dog crates was that owners were very conscious of checking their dog crates for breakages, wear and tear. Used and cared for correctly, a crate is an ideal home for your dog whether traveling in your car or secure in your home.


Your Dog Will Love its Crate if You Do This.

  • Take your dog to the toilet and exercise them before crating for any amount of time.
  • Use it to keep a puppy safe for short periods when you can’t supervise them. Leave plenty of toys for them to play with.
  • Place the crate away from being in a draft.
  • Although the sun is nice, it can get too hot so make sure the crate is out of the direct sunlight.
  • Remember to remove their collars or any leads as these could be caught on the crate and lead to choking.
  • Have water available and perhaps some treats. A toy that dispenses treats makes your dog work for their treats and keeps them engaged for longer.
  • A blanket or plush bed will let your dog snooze in comfort.
  • If they are going to be alone in the house, leave the radio on a music channel so the house is full of soft relaxing music for your dog.


Useful for Time Out and Protection.

When a puppy or young dog gets overexcited, the crate acts as a safe place where they can be contained while they calm down. A chewable toy dispenser will give them something to do so that their attention is diverted from boisterous behaviour.

Being in the crate gives your young dog time to get their emotions under control. It only has to be confined for ten or so minutes, just enough to break the cycle of spiralling emotions.

A Crate will also protect a new puppy when they are introduced to an older dog. It allows both parties to see each other and get used to each other’s scent. The crate is a bridge between the new and the more mature dog and allows time for each to get used to each other.

And the crate can reinforce training. Teaching them to get used to a crate and to enjoy the time spent there is important and will make life easier if you have visitors, there is a baby in the house, or if you have to travel with your dog.


A Crate is Not Forever

It is awesome if your dog goes into their crate when they feel like it. This means they are confident and happy, and that they use the crate when they want time on their own.

With maturity and training, the crate will not be used so often. As a dog matures, they have more control over their emotions and they have learned alternative ways to calm themselves down.

The result of training provides them with the knowledge of what is acceptable behaviour.  

Any dog within a pack soon learns what behaviour the lead dog will accept. This is true for your dog who is part of your family pack. Remember, you are the pack leader, not your dog.

A dog who knows where they stand and the rules of their pack is happier by nature. And to this end, the crate is a useful tool.

Writer: Jean Brewer

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