What if my dog already has a negative association to the crate?
If your dog already has a negative association with their crate, then you’ll have to work through this course from the very beginning and really take your time. It’s much easier to create an association from a neutral than it is to change an existing association, especially the negative ones. It might take a little longer than a “blank slate puppy”, for example, however you can still get there!
What do I do in the meantime?
I need to crate my dog tonight! Proper crate training isn’t like an Instant Pot® recipe – it takes some time and some work. Oftentimes that means you’re stuck with a dog you’re afraid to crate until you’ve worked through all the steps. There really is no “right answer” here, so let’s look at a couple options:
If your dog is resilient and has a fair to positive association with the crate (for example, already sleeps in it overnight and can tolerate up to 30-60 min in the daytime), then continue using the crate as you are, but keep your dog busy in there with a stuffed food toy (we’ll get to this) and try to keep crate-time to a minimum as you work through this.
If your dog is sensitive and already has a neutral or negative association to the crate, let’s save the crate for training exercises only, and consider using a baby gated, a puppy-proofed area such as the bathroom or kitchen, or an exercise pen in the interim. Many dogs will tolerate these spaces better than a crate if they are not yet conditioned to love it.
Do the best you can with what you have and carve out some time to really dedicate to this course so that you can meet your goal as soon as possible!