11 Crate Training Games to Help Your Dog Like His Mini House

Last Updated on April, 2024

The crate is the ideal tool to house-train a puppy or a dog. Crate training is all about teaching your dog how to behave well, and crate training games are a great way to get this process going. 

Crate training sessions can be challenging. It is important to build your dog’s relationship with his crate for special occasions or emergencies, improve your dog’s skills, or shape their behavior.

If your dog is comfortable in its crate, your life as a dog owner can be much easier. It is safe to say that the most efficient way to improve your dog’s relationship with its crate is Crate Training Games.

Read further to find out the answer to that. Along with that, we’ve also included some of the easiest crate training games that you can try out with your dog. 

Quick Summary

The best & suggested crate training games by professionals are Treat Trail, Magical Crate, Treat Toss, In and Out, Close the Door Game, Quiet When the Door Closes, Meal Time in Crate, Place Cue Game, Red Light/Green Light, Hide and Seek, and Time to Chill-Bonus Game.

Crate training games should be tailored to the environment and type of crate used, and can be a great way to build a positive relationship between you and your dog.

Crate Training Games can help to overcome anxiety and refrain from destructive behavior, speed up crate training, make traveling with your dog convenient and safe, and even help with potty training and bedtime routines.

What Are Crate Training Games?

Crate training games are activities you can engage in and around your dog’s crate. They are a set of behaviors related to the crate.

These games can:

  • Get your dog to love the crate
  • Strengthen the bond between you and your dog

If you are one of the many dog owners who feel guilty for leaving your dog in their crate for an extended period on other important obligations, crate games can make you wipe off your guilt.

It is a fun way to show affection to your dog, where you can both relax and unwind. 

Crate Training Games Your Dog Will Love

a white dog playing an intellectual training game

Games are a part of the crate training process and can make your dog familiar and more comfortable with their crate.

Below are some crate training recommended by professional dog trainers, all of which help you spend some quality time with your dog as well as speed up the training process

1. Treat Trail

This game is more of an introductory level game that helps during the initial stages of familiarizing with the crate. This move will work if your dog is not a big fan of the crate.

Just as in the story of Hansel and Gretel, leave a trail (of treats) to lead your dog home into its crate.

It will encourage your dog to enter the crate on a positive note and explore it completely on its own.

2. Magical Crate (Surprise Treats)

When your dog seems to have lost the awkwardness of the crate, it’s time to show him that the crate is magical. Toss treats into the crate when your dog doesn’t notice. Wait for it to go in and find the treats on its own.

It will delight him, and he might walk into the crate more willingly, hoping to find more magical treats. It encourages a positive association with the crate.

3. Treat Toss

Picture of a dog playing the treat toss game

We are still in the stage of getting familiar with the crate. When your dog knows the smell and the taste of the treats, it’s easier to lure it into the crate. When the dog is out, toss a treat inside the crate. When it’s inside the crate, toss a treat outside.

Don’t push it, no pointing, relax, don’t make a big deal. It has to be a natural exercise. Praise your pup when it grabs the treats.

4. In and Out

This one sounds similar to Treat Toss; however, the real control starts here. 

First, you toss a treat into the crate and wait just a few seconds before you toss the other in the opposite direction. When outside the crate, wait a few more seconds to toss the treat in again. Gradually increase the time between the treats.

The goal is to teach the dog to control its movements instead of running around aimlessly. It’s better not to use any commands or cues here. Let your dog watch the movement of your hand and learn to make its move.

You are starting to promote patience, anticipation, and attention through this game. 

5. Close the Door Game 

Next comes the real deal – closing the crate door. Drop a treat in the crate and, wait till your dog enters the crate for treats, close the door behind it.

Do not open the door right away; leave the door closed for a few seconds.

Then, when you open the door, do not let it out right away. Make your dog wait for your signal or cue.

If it tries to sneak out before your signal, close the door and block its path. Release him only on your release word.

a white color puppy sitting inside the crate

Treats will drive this game; reward your dog when it follows your commands. It promotes obedience, and your pup will learn self-control and discipline. However, this stage might be difficult with dogs that are nuisance barkers. 

6. Quiet When the Door Closes

Some dogs might still not be ready to change their view on the crate. This game is especially for nuisance barkers who can’t resist being inside a closed crate. When it starts barking and howling, try clicking your tongue to make it silent.

Even a short cue word would do in this situation. You are basically expressing your disagreement about its behavior.

Reward your dog with treats when it follows your cue to stay quiet; it can calm your dog and help your dog learn the basics of crate training.

7. Meal Time in Crate

a dog having its meal inside the crate

The goal is to get your dog to spend more time in the crate so you can let it have meals inside. This can improve eating habits and even work well with a food dispensing toy.

While it enjoys the meal, you can stay within eyeshot doing your usual chores or pretend to do so to let your pup know it can take things slow. Do all this while the crate door is open. 

The lesson here is to finish the meal inside and relax afterward. Rushing out as soon as the food is over cannot be allowed. If it attempts to come out soon after, block the door.

You can open the door once it settles down, but you should only let it out with a release word. Your puppy must learn how a routine mealtime should go. 

With you around doing your usual housework, it has to stay inside the crate throughout the mealtime and remain inside if you’re still busy with work.

8. Place Cue Game

Now that your dog knows how to mind their own business when you’re hanging around, let’s get them used to it when you’re not around.

When your dog is inside the crate, toss in a treat and close the door. Move a few steps away while it watches you. Come back and treat your dog. Do this a few more times, moving further away each time. 

For the next step, do the same, but with the crate door open. It might take a few tries back and forth until your dog understands you want to avoid being followed. But once it gets the hang of it, voila! You’ve almost mastered the art of playing crate games.

9. Red Light / Green Light

Once your dog gets the hang of using the crate with the door open, this great game can help them follow and obey your cues.

This game will teach your dog to act on command and control their excitement.

Signal your dog to stay inside the crate; when you open the door, it should only exit it on your release word. 

Make them run around you, encouraging them and creating excitement. Use toys and treats that your dog loves.

a brown and white dog in a cage looking at the camera

You should control their movements. When you say “red light,” you and your dog should immediately stop all movements.

You can train it to sit and stand at this point. “Green light” is your release word and sets you free to move and run around.

10. Hide and Seek

When your dog is indifferent to a closed door, things look great, and there’s nothing more fun than a classic game of hide and seek. Send your dog into the crate, but leave the door open.

You can hide and call out your dog, who will come and seek you in the rooms next to the crate or wherever you choose to hide. This wonderful game can relax and bring you and your dog great joy.

11. Time to Chill – Bonus Game

A good game of appreciation that can be played at any stage of your training routine. Treat your dog with a snack when it is completely relaxed and comfortable in the crate. A sweet gesture to compliment your pup’s calm behavior.

Why Should You Get Your Dog to Love the Crate?

a brown dog laying in a metal cage

The crate is your dog’s home, inside your home. It’s his safe place within the safe walls of your home. But then, why not raise your pet without a crate?

It is possible, however, even if you dog-proof your entire home, there can always be times when you wish your dog would be used to a crate.

When you have important obligations at work, have guests over for a meal, or the space has to be shared with another pet, crates could be really handy in such situations.

A pup experiencing everything for the first time and a grown dog trying to adjust to new surroundings both need comfort and guidance, more or less. 

These training games aim to offer your pooch ‘’comfort within confinement’’.

Benefits of Crate Games

a brown and white dog in a cage

Overcome Anxiety and Refrain From Destructive Behavior

Many dogs face the problem of adjusting to new environments, which is natural. Game time can help your dog love their new home. These exercises are programmed to help your pet loosen up and overcome separation anxiety.

Speeds the Crate Training Process

It is important to shape your dog’s habits and crate training plays a major role in this. These games establish the idea that crates can be their happy and safe place.

Convenient and Safe While Traveling

Crates can keep your pet safe when traveling. When your dog is used to the crate, it wouldn’t mind traveling in it too. So the risk of getting thrown or hitting something in case of an accident or sudden application of brakes could be eliminated.

Helps in Potty Training

Spending more time occupied and happy around the crate is naturally teaching your pup how to hold back and control its bladder. When dogs are anxious, they tend to relieve themselves regardless of the place.

But if they’re relaxed and accept their new home, they are more cautious about littering.

Great for the Bedtime Routine

All daytime activities end with the perfect bedtime routine. If your dog achieved good results in potty training while familiarizing itself with the crate, it is all set for long, undisturbed hours of sleep.

It Becomes Their Retreat When Unfamiliar Guests Head Over

The crate is their escape to avoid the unnecessary excitement of seeing new people. It’s a place where your pet can sit and relax without being bothered by loud, unpleasant noises. 

Overnight Boarding

You can not predict emergencies. A vet visit or a family emergency might call for an overnight boarding of your pet.

And how about an overseas vacation? You would be relieved knowing your dog can do fine in the crate in your absence, and the caregiver would not have a difficult time. 

Enjoy Their Time in the Crate

Most dogs adapt to this with time; however, the earlier it happens, the better. 

When to Start Playing Games With Your Dog?

a close up of a dog looking at the camera

The earlier you start, the better.

It doesn’t matter if your dog is 5 months or 5 years old; the crate could always be your dog’s special place. If you’ve got a new pup and are wondering if you should start with crate training immediately, crate is the right step. 

Puppies are natural charmers and will show all signs of “best behavior” initially. That will make you want to let them roam free or get them to sleep on your bed.

However, you will soon change your mind when they get too comfortable and start acting on their own around the house. Early crate train sessions with your pup might be easy because, just like kids, no pup would resist a toy or a treat.

The case with an adult dog might be different. 

The separation from their earlier home might cause them anxiety issues, which can take time to recover. However, this is another reason why it is a good idea to introduce them to their new crate right away.

And, if you want them to start loving their crate, a crate game can give you a headstart. 

Factors to Consider Before You Start Playing

a group of dogs running and playing in the grass

Right Crate, Right Space

A dog’s crate should be the right size if you expect to have a good game time. Confining your dog to a smaller crate is cruel, and a larger, more spacious crate will give your dog the option of relieving himself in the crate.

Your crate should be comfortable to sit and lay down, stand without hitting the head, and be spacious enough to turn around completely. 

Place Matters

Place the crate in a social place in your house to increase engagement with your family. Your pup should not feel isolated. Remove distractions and harmful items that might deviate your puppy’s concentration from the activities.

Keeping your puppy safe should be your top priority.

Be Patient 

Your game sessions might work out differently than you plan them; it can be downright frustrating. But everyone deserves time to learn, even your grown dog. So don’t let several tries bring down your spirit; focus on the larger picture instead.

Make the Crate Welcoming and Cozy

Before starting the training session, ensure your dog is comfortable with the crate. To train your dog, it must first accept the crate as its own space.

Not Just to Pass the Time

Do not consider this as simply spending time with your dog. Focus on getting the best results out of the time spent on every crate game. 

Do’s and Dont’s of Crate Training

Do’s

Keep the training sessions brief
Select the right crate for your dog
Let your dog explore the crate by itself
Place the crate in a social area of the house
Be sure your dog has relieved itself before playtime

Dont’s

Use a crate as a timeout or punishment tool.
Forcing your dog into the crate
Leave toys that can be chewed into pieces
Allow children or adults to tease when your dog is inside the crate

Guidelines for Crate Training Sessions

Guidelines:

  • Keep the sessions positive and fun. A few sessions a day should be fine; don’t overdo it.
  • Use short and easy release words like “okay” and “release” and stick to them.
  • Start when you’re in a good mood. Crate training takes time and effort, so only start if you are prepared. 
  • Play each game for several days before moving to the next. Advance gradually as later games rely on skills from earlier games.
  • Start simple and gradually build the game plan because all this dog training is new to your dog.

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FAQs

For crate games, a wire crate is the best option for bigger dogs and a plastic crate is recommended for puppies. Aluminum crates are lightweight, safe and durable, and are also a good choice.

Yes, you can play crate games with adult dogs! Not only is it fun for your pup, but it’s also a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your canine companion.

Yes, crate games are safe for a new puppy. They are fun, do not involve any dangerous tricks or moves, and help establish a positive relationship between the pup and their crate.

Conclusion 

Crate training games are a great way to enhance the positive association between a dog and its crate.

You may have mixed thoughts about whether or not to use a crate. This article proves that a crate has more positives than negatives, and it can be less challenging and fun.

The recommended games here can keep your dog happy and entertained. This way dogs of all ages and sizes can enjoy some quality playtime with their owners, plus they learn to love the crate.

These activities are rewarding and enjoyable for both you and your dog. Above everything else, seeing how much your dog will love spending time in the crate will make all efforts worth it.

Now that you know how it’s done don’t wait! Go on, it’s game time!

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Stefano Giachetti
Stefano Giachetti is always excited to share his knowledge and love of animals with you through our blog, IPetGuides. And he has always loved animals and has been blessed to have many pets throughout his life. Currently has a Pomeranian Dog Breed.

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