Nancy Kerns: Hi! I am Nancy Kerns, Editor of The Whole Dog Journal. Is your dog crate-trained? In our opinion, all dogs should be trained and habituated to love being in a crate.
To start crate training, you need the right crate. Many dogs accept being in a plastic Airline style crate more readily than being in an airy cage. But, lighter cages offer more flexibility in where you can put them. Most have at least two doors and some have three. Dogs generally accept either type of crate if you introduce them properly and don't abuse or over-use crating.
The crate you buy needs to be large enough to permit your dog to comfortably enter, stand, turnaround, and sleep in his favorite position. If he can't get comfortable, the odds that he will accept the crate are slim.
Make sure the crate is cozy, inviting, and equipped with a thick, comfortable bed or a pad. The only exception to this would be for dogs who chew their beds or when young puppies or the rare adult dog prefers peeing on a soft surface. If this happens, you might have to remove the padding and shorten the time that you leave these individuals in a crate, so they don't feel the need to eliminate in their dens.
Next, buy a good supply of high value treats, safe and attractive chew items, and prepare a number of food stuff toys. Start the crate training program by giving your dog some delicious treats in the crate. If he won't go in, feed them the treats at the crate's entrance. Slowly lure him into the crate with the treats, reinforcing each approach with praise, but don't close the door yet. At first, he should be free to enter and exit at will.
As soon as your dog is enthusiastically entering the crate in anticipation of goodies, ask him for a sit or down before you give him the treat. After a few repetitions of this, ask for a sit or down, swing the door close for a few seconds, and then open it and pop that treat right into his mouth.
Reward him for increasingly longer stays in the crate, but don't increase the length of every visit to the crate. Keep the duration unpredictable, and the rewards variable.
In the next session, prepare a really special foodstuff toy, show this wonderful concoction to your dog, and make a big deal about carrying it to the crate. Place it in the crate far enough inside so that your dog can't snatch it and run out. If your dog enters in a relaxed manner and picks up the toy and starts chewing, go ahead and close the crate door until he is done with it.
Depending on your dog's comfort, have him go in the crate to enjoy a special treat for increasingly longer sessions several times a day. At first, stay close by while he is locked in, gradually increasing the amount of time that he is in the crate alone. Build the sessions to the point where you can leave your home for short, and then longer errands.
If he is reluctant to enter or starts whining or pawing at the gate, keep the sessions shorter, the treats high value, and stay closer by. When you let your dog out of the crate, don't make a big deal. Casually open the door and ignore him for a few minutes when he comes out.
One last point, don't over-crate your dog. Crates are a great tool, but they can be overused. When you walk toward the crate and your dog runs the other way, you need to increase the fun of crating, and decrease the amount of time he spends in it, and that's how to properly crate-train your dog.