Téa's Crate Training Page
For most collies confinement is a curse word. Being restricted to a small area or a crate can be a very difficult thing as we not only like to be right next to our people but we can be a very energetic breed as well. Whether you're getting a puppy or an adult dog and you know that your schedule means that your collie may need to spend time alone and confined, you need to decide now where you will keep her when you are not there. Some people choose a sparse room like a spare bathroom or linen room. Some people prefer an exercise pen in the kitchen or a nice crate in the living room. Whichever way you go, your collie may need time to adjust to her new "alone zone" and perhaps a little help feeling comfortable when left alone in it. In the outline below, you'll notice that I'm using a crate as the safe zone. I should mention that this can be modified to assist in acclimation to just about any type of "alone zone" you designate to your collie. You can also use only the outline areas that you need depending on your collie's present level of comfort with the area.
Before you make her spend a minute in it by herself make sure you have it set up for her with all the accoutrements of home. Her blanket or bed, any special toys and safe chew bones, and anything else you feel will make her more comfortable should already be in there.
Begin by letting your collie explore the area around the crate if she has not already been able to do so. Let her become familiar with the surroundings so there will be little or no stress about what is around her.
Once she seems comfortable with the area, open the crate door after dropping a treat in and leave it open to allow your collie to investigate it if she should want to. Either stand back or sit next to it, but in either case don't move much. This is especially important with a dog that is already having crating problems. If your collie should go in on it's own, praise her softly to let her know it was a good thing. Hopefully your collie will go in far enough to discover the treat and get an extra reward for doing so.
If your collie is hesitant about going in, do not try to force her. It will create more problems then it can solve. Try putting a treat on the floor just before the door and let her discover it. Repeat as many times as you need to until your collie is really comfortable about going near the crate to get the treat.
Now start putting the treat just inside the open door once again letting your collie take it when she is comfortable doing so. Repeat until she is doing well.
Now you'll want to start placing the treat further in to the crate. If your collie is still a bit unsure then take your time and don't put the treat in to far. If your collie is doing well otherwise, you can try putting the treat in a good 8 inches or so. As usual, do this several times until your collie is good about going in.
You'll want to progress until you can put the treat all the way into the back of the crate and your collie will go right in. Once your collie can go right in with no problem you can begin saying a phrase like "Go to bed" or "In the crate" every time you put a treat in and then quickly get another treat in your hand. Once your collie gets the treat inside the crate and turns around you'll want to hold the treat in your hand to your collie before she comes out. You'll want her to pause to eat her treat before coming out. Remove your hand as she finishes eating telling her "Okay" at the same time. Remember to give her the treat while she is still in the crate every time so she comes to recognize that the treat comes when she is in it, not for getting out. By saying okay when you remove your hand (and she is ready to come out) you're teaching her that the word "Okay" is a release and that you say it when she can come out. Repeat this quite a few times until it becomes habit on your part to say the words and your collie comes to expect a treat from your hand before getting out.
With you gently holding your collie before the entrance, lightly toss a treat as far back into the crate as you can. Tell her to "go to bed" (or whatever your cue phrase happens to be) and release her to chase the treat in. Reward her verbally and happily the moment she sets a paw in. Repeat several times.
After doing the above several times now its time for the fake out. Pretend to toss a treat in quickly and ask her to go in. Hopefully she will do so and really praise her when she does. Immediately hold the treat from your hand to her as she may be a little confused as to why there wasn't a treat in the crate. You can try it again but be prepared to occasionally go back to tossing a real treat into the crate if your collie seems to get hung up. You will eventually want to completely wean your collie of needing the treat in the crate first.
So now your collie has no trouble going in the crate and taking the treat from your hand before coming out. Now what? Well read on!
Now we want to get your collie used to the idea of the crate door being shut for moment or two. Ask your collie to get in the crate and give her the expected treat but make it a larger one. While she is chewing, close the door for a moment and praise her gently, then open the door. Offer her another treat and then give her the "okay" signal. After a few times, keep the door shut a moment longer then it took for her to finish eating, then open it and offer her the second treat. Now you are helping your collie to create a tolerance for longer periods of confinement. I recommend varying the amount of time you keep the door shut so your collie does not begin to anticipate your timing. You may also find it very helpful to leave a special chewing bone or stuffed kong to help occupy your collie while they are in the crate for a longer period.
Once your collie can handle being in the crate for longer periods of time with you right there you'll want to begin walking around the room and doing other things before releasing her. Then occasionally walk out of the room for a second before returning quickly to praise/treat and release.
And from there, you build.
If at any point you seem to be having a hard time, go back a step or two and work on those again until your collie recovers its confidence.
Some other things to remember when your collie is in the crate
NEVER put your collie in a crate with any kind of collar on. Even a regular buckle collar can get caught and potentially choke your collie.
If she should bark, whine or scratch while in the crate, try to avoid giving her attention or releasing her from the crate until she is quiet for several seconds. Running to her and letting her out when she asks is telling her that doing those things works and the next time you try to wait she may do all of those things harder and longer. Just be patient and remember to praise when she is finally quiet before letting her out.
Avoid letting anyone bother her when she is in the crate. This includes keeping children out of the crate as well.
If you are correcting her for something and she should run into her crate, then stop any corrections and leave it at that.
Never yell at her while she is in the crate.
Never smack, bang or shake the crate aggressively to "get your point across".
Never throw your collie in or drag your collie out of a crate. If you plan to use the crate as a time out spot take her to it gently, put her in it nicely and close the door quietly. This will help to keep her from seeing the crate as a thing to be feared and avoided.
It is her space; her room; her private area; her safe zone. Let her always have that.
If you are curious as to how your collie handles being crated when you are not home, try video taping her and view it when you get home.
My Mom has seen dogs of all breeds and ages race through the program outlined in one weekend and she has seen dogs with severe crate and seperation fears take several months to feel even somewhat comfortable being in a crate for five minutes. The thing to remember is to be patient. Every dog is different.