Crate Games for Older Dogs
These games are great for dogs that have gotten used to the crate and have a positive association with it. For introductory crate games, check out our blog post, Crate Games.
GAME 1: NO BOLTING, PLEASE!
Once your dog is comfortable in the crate (with the door closed), you can teach them how to exit calmly. It’s important for your dog to exit their crate calmly so they don’t bolt out and run into someone, but also for safety. If you have to transport your dog anywhere in their crate, you have to make sure they won’t bolt out of it and the car when the door opens. The goal of this game is for the dog to stay in the crate until they are given the release cue.
Start by tossing a piece of kibble in to the crate and letting your dog enter the crate. Close the door, then open the door. If your dog stays put, praise them and give them another piece of kibble. If they begin to move forward when you open the door, close it again gently. Wait until your dog has settled, then open the door a few inches. If they move forward, close it again. If they stay put, open it a bit wider, and wider, until you can give your dog a piece of kibble. Once you’re at this step, use the release word “Break”, and encourage the dog to come out of the crate. Repeat this exercise for 5-10 minutes at a time. With time and practice, it won’t take long for your dog to realize that bolting from the crate is a bad idea!
GAME 2: REWARD THE RELAXATION
When your dog is comfortable entering the crate and you can close the door for a few minutes at a time, you can start to reward relaxation! The idea is for the dog to think of the crate as a calm, safe place, like a den, where they can sleep and relax.
Start off by tossing a piece of kibble into the crate and giving your dog the command ‘down’. When they lie down, give them praise and a treat, but don’t release them from the ‘down’ command. Instead, wait for signs that your dog is relaxed, like sighing, stretching, resting their head on their paws, or closing their eyes. Calmly praise them every time they do one of these relaxation behaviours. You can say “good” or “yes” and lightly pet them, but try not to use excitable praise or large treats. Once they have relaxed and you’ve praised them, you can give them their release word, like “Break”. Remember to be patient and calm while going through this process.
A NOTE ON COMMANDS
Command words should only be assigned once the dog feels comfortable with the game or task and can execute the desired behaviour entirely. That’s why it’s important not to introduce the “Break” command until your dog is fully comfortable with all aspects of using the crate. Once your dog is exhibiting the full behaviour for entering their crate, laying down, staying put, and relaxing without showing signs of distress, you can begin using a verbal or hand cue to get them to enter the crate.
Make sure you take your time with each of these games to help your dog adjust to the crate. Some steps may take longer than others, but be patient and watch your dog for signs of distress such as panting, yawning, lip licking or freezing. Remember the long-term goal is for the crate to be a happy, safe place for your dog to hang out!
For more tips and tricks on training your dog, check out our blog.