I got a call about crate training while back from a lady named Anita that had bought a dog from me a several years ago.
"We're having a problem you may be able to help me with", she said. "We want to take Maxwell with us on vacation."
"Great!" I said. "What's the problem?"
"You know that Maxwell was crate trained when he left you, right?"
"Well he's been sleeping on our bed for the last three years and we've never crated him. When we tried to put him in a couple days ago to see how he would do on the trip he screamed bloody murder. Do you think we'll have to leave him in a kennel after all?"
"Hmmm," I said. "I just read a great article on this from the AKC Gazette. Let me get it because I think it'll help."
I pulled up the article and went over the main points on crate training -- with some of my own added twists.
1. Put the crate in a quiet part of your house, but also an area where Maxwell normally goes. You don't want him distracted. Find out how close he is willing to get to the crate.
2. Feed him at that spot but put a treat right beyond that. Ignore him. Let him figure on this on his own.
3. If the treat isn't eaten by the next day, leave his food bowl where it is; if he eats the treat, move the food bowl towards the crate to where the treat was.
4. Keep doing this until Maxwell's bowl is in the crate at far wall with the DOOR OPEN. This can take a while. This is not a quick process; it could be as much as a couple of weeks. (Luckily Anita had time. The vacation wasn't for a month.)
5. Then put a steak bone or kong with peanut butter inside in the crate and close the door. Leave Maxwell in the crate for at least an hour. Drape the crate -- that is, put a large towel or pillow case over the front of it. This is a symbol to Maxwell that this is a quiet time.
6. When you open the door, DO NOT LET HIM CHARGE OUT OF THE CRATE. Make him leave quietly.
7. Put the bone or kong in the crate and have Maxwell stay in there for at least an hour every day until he is really comfortable.
Anita called me back in about 2 weeks.
"Worked like a charm!" she said. "We're off to Cabo!"
"Lucky dogs!" I said. "And I mean all of you!"
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