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Positive Techniques for Crate Training Your Dog

By Chris Bach and The Third Way - The Next Generation in Reinforcement Training

In March, Chris provided her technique for getting "sustained and committed eye contact, modifying the cue as eye contact is sustained and committed, and how to build continuation". This month you will learn how to teach your dog to NOT rush out of her crate immediately upon the door being opened, by using the “Eye Contact" game.

The Crate Method

For Starters: The crate must have a door that swings open to the side. Crates that open by sliding the door up can be rigged with pegboard and zip-ties to create a temporary swinging door.

Very Important: Trainer MUST be able to see exactly what Pup is doing in the crate. Covered or solid crates may have to be elevated in order to accommodate this requirement.

Pup must WANT to come out of the crate in order to use this method.

Special time is set aside specifically to teach Eye Contact using THE CRATE METHOD. It is introduced as part of a contrived training session and NOT after Pup has been confined and needs to get out to relieve himself.

Approximations

  1. Pup is put into crate. Door is closed but not secured.
  2. Stand in front of crate with foot holding the door shut and wait silently for Pup to momentarily suspend all movement. Immediately I/R (Indicate/Reinforce) by opening the door and letting Pup out.
  3. After a few moments of affectionate interaction, Pup is put back into the crate.
  4. Once again the door is shut, and not secured. Use foot to keep door shut and wait silently for Pup to be perfectly still. As soon as this happens, I/R by opening the door and releasing Pup from the crate.
  5. This procedure is followed until one of two things happen:
    • Either Pup tires of the game and no longer wants to find the “secret” to getting out of the crate. Instead he sits, lies down, or ignores Trainer. Try moving slowly away from the crate to renew Pup’s interest. If this tactic works, wait for Pup to be completely motionless, indicate and reinforce by letting the puppy out of the crate and going on to something else. Wait to require Eye Contact until the next training session, but from now on, under all circumstances require Pup to be at least motionless in order to open the crate door.
    • OR this time when Pup is put back into the crate, he waits motionlessly and expectantly for the door to be opened. This response means that Pup is beginning to comprehend that “being still” results in the door being opened. I/R this conclusion.

Once Pup Knows that “Being Still” Gets the Crate Door Opened

  1. The next step is to put Pup back into the crate and wait for him to make Eye Contact. As soon as he does, I/R immediately. If pup is still enthusiastic enough about the game, do one or two more sequences.
  2. If not, the best policy would be to quit at this time and go on to something else. But it is important to have one or more session before Pup is put into the crate for a reason other than training. This is paramount so Pup can rehearse the Eye Contact criteria a few more times without Trainer worrying about having to let him out for relief before he makes Eye Contact.
  3. Doing this will assure that at the precise time when Pup has learned the new routine, he is not released without making Eye Contact because he must eliminate. Allowing Pup to vacillate between making Eye Contact or not to get out of the crate will create a gambling problem that is hard to overcome. Pup needs to understand that Eye Contact will ALWAYS be required in order for the crate door to be opened.

Once Pup Knows That Only Eye Contact Opens the Crate Door

  1. Once Pup knows to make Eye Contact to get out of the crate ALWAYS require Eye Contact before opening the crate door. ALWAYS “indicate” the moment Pup commits to Eye Contact. However, other reinforcers such as dropping a piece of food into the crate should follow the indicator rather than letting the puppy out. A simple “YES!” (Indicator), “Gooooooood Puppy!” utilizing praise as REINFORCER can also suffice. Doing this will facilitate Pup learning that the indicator is NOT the release and teach him how to make Eye Contact for longer periods of time.
  2. When it is time to let Pup out, simply say “ok” or “free” and let him out. Make this as neutral as possible.
  3. It is best to require the pup to do something to earn attention once out of the crate. This procedure will facilitate Pup learning how to be calm in his crate, not be let out of his crate, and to remain calm once released. It will also prep him for learning to remain in the crate making Eye Contact even though the door is open. Pup will learn to stay put until released to come out.

Using the Crate to Teach Extended Eye Contact

  1. Require Pup to maintain Eye Contact for varying amounts of time (working towards one minute, but never going below the count of 10) and use the word “Ok” or “Free” as the cue that the door is opening and the puppy can come out. The release from the crate should then be neutral.
  2. Another helpful technique is to create little distractions such as have another person walk past the crate but not look at Pup. Pup will notice the person, but as soon as he focuses back on trainer, I/R that decision immediately by dropping food in the crate. Do not use “release” from the crate as reinforcer. Practice this and other distractions (dogs walking by, tossing food or toys around) until Pup no longer bothers to attend to these disturbances. Eventually he will learn to just ignore them and maintain Eye Contact.
  3. Once the puppy knows to make committed, sustained Eye Contact to get out of the crate, start using other methods such as DOOR METHOD, DINNER DISH METHOD, and FOOD CHOICE METHOD to rehearse Eye Contact as often as possible.

(c) THE THIRD WAY ~ Chris Bach ~ 2002. All rights reserved.

Chris Bach’s EYE CONTACT game is one of her three “Foundation Games”. This game teaches dogs the beginning mechanics for self-imposed, self-control because they must be calm, quiet and still in order to make eye contact. Paws-A-Tive Choice will be featuring several uses for teaching this game to your dog.