Forcing a dog into the crate is at top of the don’ts list of every crate training guide on the internet, and there are good reasons for that.
Crate training is basically creating a good and healthy relationship with the crate, the crate will represent a safe personal space for your dog in other words it will be his den.
We will not argue if dogs should or should not be crate trained, I believe we’re all on the same page if you’re reading this.
You should never force a dog into the crate or use it to punish the dog, the crate is supposed to be a safe place where your dog can go when feeling stress.
Why do pet parents force their dogs into the crate?
Many new dog owners get confused about the purpose of the crate, some will only use it at night and others will use it for time out as a punishment.
Dogs are denning animals by nature and even if you don’t provide a crate which in this case represents a den your dog will eventually mark a spot as his den, it could be anywhere, under some table or behind a couch…
The den is supposed to be a personal and safe space where the dog feels safe to relax and goes when stressed.
A crate should not be used for punishment and in fact punishing the dog in the first place is useless, unless you catch your dog in the act or else it’s just confusing for them.
Another reason why dog owners force their dog into the crate is when they see some progress while crate training and get excited and try to rush it.
Crate training is a behavioral training that takes time, it is basically creating an association between the crate and good feelings like safety reward and praise so the dog feels safe in it and accepts to be in it alone.
Some inexperienced dog owners also make the mistake to introduce their dog to his crate at night when it’s time to sleep in it so they force the dog into the crate, close it and leave.
As a rule of thumb when training dogs in general, never introduce your dog to something when it’s time to do it, that includes crates, there should be always an introduction and exploration phase before it’s time to use it.
So why is forcing a dog into the crate is considered the ultimate mistake when crate training a dog?!
The first reason why you should never force a dog into the crate is that your dog will lose his trust in you and in the crate.
Fool me once, the next time you’ll try to get your dog into the crate you’ll have a very hard time doing it especially if it’s a large dog.
No one wants to be trapped in a cage, of course, it will be a cage when used to lock down the dog against its will.
Make no mistake when crate trained properly a dog’s crate is the ultimate den, it’s his refuge and safe spot.
If you make this mistake while crate training it will make it very hard, difficult and longer to get your dog to trust you again and get inside the crate and the next reason will explain why.
2. Bad association
Dogs evaluate places based on experience and memories, a good first impression is always a great idea.
We all remember Pavlov’s classical conditioning experiment with dogs, for those who don’t, they used a whistle every time they served food to dogs, and the dogs associated the whistle sound with food so every time they hear the sound they salivate even if there is no food.
This experiment shows that dogs associate feelings with sounds places and other memories, it’s the same thing when you associate the crate with happy things like food and toys.
And the same goes for bad experiences, if a dog associates a crate with being locked down and being left alone you’ll have a hard time getting him in the crate again.
3. Safety of a den
The whole purpose of the crate is to provide safety and a stress free zone for your dog, that’s why forcing a dog into the crate is the opposite of what you want to establish with a crate.
When you lock down your dog against his will in the crate, he feels scared and loses the safety of the den the crate is supposed to provide.
No matter what your dog does he should never have any negative experience in the crate, even potty accidents and bad behavior should not be dealt with by time out in the crate.
You can spend a long time crate training a dog to perfection only for it to fall apart in the matter of a few minutes only by forcing a dog into the crate.
How to recover from forcing your dog into the crate
As we’ve mentioned some new dog owners make the mistake of forcing their dogs into the crate, and then they have a really hard time crate training, so how can you go back and recover from it?
the answer lies within the three reasons you just read, good deeds erase bad deeds, the same way you’ve created a bad association in the dog’s mind with the crate, you can reverse that into a healthy relationship.
You can follow the same crate training process as you’d do for a new puppy, it will just take a little longer because you’ll need to break the old experiences.
Create a new bond with the crate using treats and toys, start with play sessions using some interactive toys to establish trust.
Next, you can use treats to lure your dog closer to the crate, and make sure the crate is open and the door is secure to avoid any incidents that would freak the dog out.
Dogs generally love treats more than they’d hate a crate so just toss a few treats around the crate and keep going until you get him inside.
When the dog is not showing any signs of rejection, you can start crate training from the start and let your dog explore the crate right from the start.
Should you change the crate after forcing your dog into one?
It is very logical to wonder if it’s a better idea to just change the crate if you’ve made the mistake of forcing your dog into the crate.
If you can afford to do this it will certainly help, and for crate training we use and recommend the Wire crate (check on amazon), it has two doors and an open view that will reduce the feeling of being trapped.
However, changing the crate will not magically fix the problem, and you’ll need to start over on the right paw this time and build up some trust.