13 Crate Games For Dogs – Teaching Self Control And Motivation

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Crate training your dog makes potty training, traveling, and home-alone time much easier for you and your pet. Essentially, your dog’s crate is his safe space, and somewhere he can chill out and enjoy some quiet time.

Training your dog to use his crate can be fun for both of you if done in the correct way. And you can use different games to teach your dog that spending time in his crate can be both enjoyable and rewarding.

Read this guide to learn 13 crate games to help make crate training sessions fun and entertain your dog when he’s confined for long periods of time.

What Are The Benefits Of Crate Games?

dog with toys inside a crate

Most dog owners don’t like to let their dogs run free around the home while out at work or taking a trip to the store, and wire crates can provide the ideal solution. Using crates can make the house training process much easier and more fun for puppies, too.

The idea behind playing crate games with your dog is to teach him that spending time in his crate can be fun, even when you’re not at home to keep him company. Also, well-chosen advanced crate games can teach your dog self-control while motivating him at the same time.

Basically, if your dog is amusing himself by playing a game, he’s less likely to suffer from conditions such as separation anxiety, indulge in destructive behaviors, or make escape attempts.

13 Crate Training Games For Dogs

You can read a detailed article on crate training at this link.  

Meanwhile, here are 13 crate training games that you can use as part of your dog’s additional crate training session.

1. Treats And Toys

A small dog cage with toys for living in the house

This is a really simple first game to get you and your dog started.

While your dog is out of the room, put a few treats in his crate. You could use your pet’s favorite toy; a KONG stuffed with peanut butter or some yummy calming treats.

Leave the crate door open, and let your dog find the treats on his own. That teaches your pet that the crate isn’t a scary place at all but a treat-packed, fun place to be!

Once your dog is relaxed and happy, you can close the door for a few minutes and then open the door again. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to shut the door. Your dog must feel comfortable and happy inside the crate before you attempt to confine him.

2. Treat Tossing Game

Once your dog is confident and happy to go into the crate on his own, you can up the ante to more interactive crate training games.

Take a handful of small treats and start by tossing one into the crate. Don’t try to force or coax your furry friend into the crate; he must go in of his own volition.

Once the dog is inside the crate, praise him immediately. After he’s devoured the treat, call your dog back to you, and toss another treat into the crate so that your pet goes into the crate again.

Play the game for 5 to 10 minutes. Be super-positive and be aware of your dog’s attitude throughout the game. If your dog gets bored, give him a break, and play the game again later.

3. Close The Door

Husky in a crate

When your dog is happy to play the treat tossing game, you can move on to closing the door behind him. 

Begin by tossing a treat into the crate. Your dog will go into the crate to get his reward. When he does, close the door for a few seconds. 

It’s crucial that you don’t keep the door shut for too long, otherwise, you’ll be tempted to open the door as soon as the dog starts to whine or scratch at the door. If you do that, you’re reinforcing bad behavior. So, take things slowly, and give your dog the chance to feel comfortable and relaxed inside the crate before you extend the confinement time.

4. Dinner Time In The Crate

This is another simple exercise that works extremely well with most adult dogs, as well as puppies.

All you need to do is feed your dog his meals in the crate. To begin with, leave the crate door open. Once the dog gets the idea, he’ll be so distracted and excited by the prospect of eating his dinner he won’t even notice if you shut the crate door behind him.

Stand by the crate and be ready to open the door right before your dog finishes his meal so that he can get out again freely.

5. Easy Does It!

Puppy in a crate with toys

You don’t want your dog to bolt out of his crate as though his tail were on fire! There are two reasons for that:

  • A dog that charges out of his crate could collide with someone or something outside the crate and cause injury or damage.
  • Your dog could bolt out of his crate and dash right out into the street. That’s especially important to bear in mind if you travel your dog in a plastic airline crate in your car.

So, it’s essential that your dog remains in his crate until you tell him otherwise. 

You need your dog to remain calmly inside the crate with the door closed to play this game.

If your dog attempts to bolt when you open the crate door, push the door closed again and toss a treat into the crate. That rewards your dog for waiting calmly inside the crate. Open the door, distracting your dog with a treat. If the dog stays put quietly inside the crate, give him another treat.

Each time the dog attempts to bolt, shut the door and repeat the process. Your dog will quickly learn that bolting is not okay, but sitting quietly will get a reward.

6. The Chill Out Zone Game

When your dog will happily enter the crate and stay inside with the door closed for a few minutes, you can start to reward that relaxation.

The crate should be a chill-out zone for your dog where he feels relaxed and at ease. Toss a couple of treats into the crate and give your dog the command to lie down.

Once the dog shows signs of relaxation, such as rolling over onto his side, licking his lips, yawning, and sighing, praise him and release him from the down.

7. Where Is It?

dog eating from a bowl inside his crate

This is a perfect game for puppies, and it can be played in all types of crates. 

Sit down next to the crate with your puppy with a prepared chew toy or stuffed KONG. Your puppy is sure to get excited about the toy, especially when you take it away, put it inside the crate, and close the door.

The puppy will quickly show signs of wanting to get to the toy, scratching at the door, and looking at you. Once the pup is really excited, open the door and let the puppy go into the crate to get the toy.

Repeat the exercise over a few days until the puppy is happy to sit inside the crate with the toy. Now, you can close the door for a minute or two.

Related: How to set up your dog crate.

8. Look At Me!

This game aims for your puppy to keep his attention on you.

When your dog is happy to sit at the back of the crate, ensure that your pup knows you have a handful of treats. Now, ask one of your kids to run past the crate or throw a toy to distract the dog. 

If your dog remains sitting with his eyes focussed on you, open the crate door and reward your pet with treats and plenty of praise. 

9. You’re In, You’re Out!

Getting a Dog Treat

Begin this game with your dog sitting inside his crate.

Open the door and reward your dog for staying put. Step away from the crate and call your dog so that he jumps out toward you. Don’t reward the dog. The dog should go back into the crate, and when he does, immediately reward him with praise and a tasty treat.

Repeat the exercise, moving a little further away from the crate each time. The dog will probably jump around you excitedly a few times when he comes out of the crate but learns that he will only get the reward when he returns to his crate.

10. Tug Teaser

This crate game is essentially the same as the previous one, but with a twist.

While the dog is inside his crate, hold a tug toy behind your back and open the door with your other hand. Only open the door when the dog is sitting quietly at the back of the crate.

Show the dog the tug toy. Call your pet, have a quick game of tug-of-war, take the toy away, and wait for the dog to go back into the crate. Once the dog is back in the crate, reward him straight away with lots of treats and praise, keeping the toy hidden.

The idea of the game is that the dog returns willingly to the crate, even though he’s distracted by the toy.

11. Fetch It!

Goldendoodle clutching toy in his mouth while playing

Open the crate door and stand with your dog a few feet away from the crate.

Take the dog’s favorite toy and have a game with your pet for a few minutes. Now, throw the toy into the crate and ask the dog to fetch it. If the dog hesitates, throw the toy closer and closer to the door until the dog is tempted and goes into the crate to retrieve the toy.

Reward your dog when he retrieves the toy and brings it right back to you. 

You can add even more excitement to this game by having a few dogs that all know the game. Line them up with their crates and play the game en masse! That’s a great fast-paced workout for the dogs, and you can play it in your backyard, too!

12. Bed Fetch Challenge

This time, you’re going to play a game of fetch with your dog, as you did in the previous game. However, this time, set up the crate at one end of your backyard and put a bed or soft crate pad at the other end.

Ask the dog to sit on the bed. Now, have the dog run to his crate to retrieve a toy and fetch it back to the bed. As the dog gets the hang of the game, extend the distance he has to cover.

Using the bed provides a starting and finishing point for the dog and helps to increase and develop his skills ready for the next crate game.

13. Obstacle Course

Dog Jumping in hurdle

Once your dog has learned the Bed Fetch Challenge game, you can up the ante by building some simple obstacles for him to negotiate. 

Begin by making a few small jumps, a tunnel, or some cones to wind around. Once your dog understands the aim of the game and knows that he will be rewarded with a delicious treat each time he completes the game correctly, the possibilities are endless.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed our guide to teaching your dog how to play these 13 fun and beneficial crate training games. If you loved the article, please take a few moments to share it.

Crate games can help to teach your dog that a crate is a fun place to be! Your dog’s crate is a safe, den-like space that he can call his own. Crates are also valuable tools for potty training, containing and confining your dog when you’re not around, for safe travel, and for helping to treat behavioral issues, such as separation anxiety.

What crate games do you play with your dog? Tell us in the comments box below.

Meet our writer

Alison Page was brought up with dogs and various other pets! For a few years, Alison worked as a Practice Manager in a small animal veterinary clinic. Alison is now a full-time writer, specializing in creating articles on the care and training of dogs, cats, and fish.

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