Why don’t my dogs rest in their dog crates?

Will your dogs not use their crate? Won’t they settle down when they’re in their crates? Are they just sitting, waiting to be let out again? Let’s take a look at why this might be happening, and how to fix it. Why don’t my dogs rest in their dog crates?

Do they love their crates?

After checking that you’ve not made any of these common crate training mistakes, do your dogs really love their crates?

Dogs should always be taught to have a positive association with their crate. That means that being inside of it, seeing it, or being asked to go into it should make them happy because so many good things have happened to them previously when they’ve used their crates.

Remember, crates can’t be used as punishment or dog ‘storage’, otherwise your dogs won’t love them.

Are they overstimulated?

Is the environment around their crate too stimulating? Is it too busy, too loud, too much going on in a busy family household? Can they see your other dogs in (or out) of their crates?

Check this article to find the ideal place to put your dog crate at home.

Once your crate is in the ideal place, does your dog prefer it to be covered? Do they settle faster when you have a dog crate cover in place?

Lastly, are they being put in the crate in the right frame of mind? Giving your dog a chance to ‘cool down’ after an exciting walk or playtime is key to being able to settle quickly. Expecting a ramped up, excited dog to just stop without a period of calm first is setting them up for failure.

Do all the good things happen after crate time?

Sometimes we mistakenly reward our dogs with our own behaviours. If each time you let your dog out of the crate, it’s to go and do something exciting or rewarding for the dog (walks, feeding, playtime etc.) then we’re setting the dog up to expect something awesome to happen the minute that we let them out.

So it’s understandable that they’ll just sit and wait to be let out, rather than settling down.

To fix this, include a period of time where nothing really happens just after being let out of the crate. Just open the door and go back to what you were doing. Once they’ve had a few minutes and calmed down, then you can go ahead and feed them, walk them or take them wherever you were going.

why don't my dogs rest in their dog crates

Have they been taught to settle?

Some dogs naturally chill out without being encouraged, but other more hyper breeds can need training in how to settle down and relax. This skill is not only useful with crate use, but also if you’re taking them to friends houses or cafes where you can ask for a settle and they know it’s chill time.

Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Your Dog to ‘Settle’

1. Choose a Comfortable Location:

  • Select a quiet and comfortable area where your dog can relax without distractions. This could be a designated spot or a cozy dog bed.

2. Gather Treats:

  • Use high-value treats that your dog loves. Make sure they are small, soft, and easy for your dog to eat quickly.

3. Introduce the Settle Cue:

  • Choose a specific cue such as “settle” or “relax.” Use a calm and gentle tone when saying the cue.

4. Capture the Behavior:

  • Wait for your dog to naturally settle down or lie down on their own. As soon as they do, immediately use the settle cue and reward them with a treat.
  • Note that settle is not the same as ‘down’. Down is where a dog is sat awaiting the next instruction (usually stay or come), whereas settle tells the dog to relax and the dog should be lying down with their hips popped over sideways in a relaxed position.

5. Reinforce and Repeat:

  • Whenever your dog settles on their own, reinforce the behavior by using the settle cue and rewarding with treats. Repeat this process several times to build the association between the cue and the behavior.

6. Add a Duration Element:

  • Once your dog is consistently settling on cue, start to gradually extend the duration before offering a treat. Initially, reward after a few seconds, then gradually increase the time as your dog becomes more comfortable.

7. Use Verbal Praise:

  • Along with treats, offer verbal praise when your dog successfully settles. This helps reinforce the positive behavior.

8. Practice in Different Environments:

  • Gradually introduce distractions and practice the settle command in various environments. Start with mild distractions and gradually progress to more challenging ones.

9. Incorporate Calming Touch:

  • While your dog is settled, gently pet them to reinforce the calming behavior. This can create a positive association with being settled and receiving affection.

10. Proof the Behavior:

  • To ensure your dog understands the settle command in different situations, practice in various locations, with different people, and during different times of the day.

11. Ignore Unwanted Behavior:

  • If your dog exhibits unwanted behavior instead of settling, avoid giving attention or treats. Wait for them to calm down and then reward the settling behavior.

12. Generalize the Cue:

  • Use the settle cue in everyday situations, such as when visitors come over or during family gatherings. This helps your dog generalize the behavior to different contexts.

13. Be Patient and Consistent:

  • Training takes time, so be patient and consistent with your positive reinforcement. Celebrate small successes and gradually work towards longer durations.

14. Gradually Reduce Treats:

  • As your dog becomes proficient in settling, start reducing the frequency of treats while still offering verbal praise and affection. This helps ensure that the behavior is not solely dependent on treats.

By following these steps and regularly practicing positive reinforcement, you can teach your dog to settle in various situations. Remember that each dog is unique, so adapt the training to suit your dog’s personality and preferences.

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All articles on tetradog.com are written by qualified behaviorist and dog trainer, Cheryl Walker.

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