I think most people put their dog in the crate as punishment. (Except daytime crating while you’re at work.) If you find yourself upset at the dog and scolding and shoving the dog into the crate like a timeout as punishment and you walk away, STOP. You have taught your dog that the crate is a punishment, a “NO” zone. The crate becomes an undesirable location.
Also, many of my clients tell me they feel bad for the dog when it’s in the crate. They call the crate a cage and are not comfortable with it. Again, the dog is rewarded by letting it out of the crate and punished by putting it into the crate. They project their feelings onto the dog. You would not like to be confined but for a dog that has DNA that causes hyper-alertness and barking at noises or strangers, the crate can be a sensory deprivation chamber that allows the dog to completely relax.
Let’s reset with some fun crate training. Below is a game to create a new reality turning the crate into a “YES” zone. To maintain a fun positive relationship, you want to be the “yes” person as much as possible and avoid “no” if possible. If you find yourself saying “no” and scolding a lot, you need to reevaluate how you manage your dog’s access to things/areas and your dog’s behavior. Most people have no idea that a dog has a better life when there is household management in place, ie. the dog is not always allowed to free roam and do what it wants all the time.
To train a dog it must be motivated. If you are training with food, it must be hungry. Also, I suggest you use a high value treat (diced up meat roll from pet store), not just kibble for this exercise. If your dog is overweight, it is time to cut back on the amount of food you feed it. Then the days you play this game, skip the meal right before and wait an hour or so to play. You will be feeding the dog but waiting until it is hungry enough to be motivated.
Take everything out of the crate. With the dog next to you, roll a ½ inch cube of treat (assuming you got a very high value meat roll and diced it) into the crate. If it is hungry and likes the treat, your dog will run into the crate. As the dog is approaching but just before it picks up the food, say “yes” in an excited tone. Then, let the dog turn around and run out. Do this several times. If your dog doesn’t come out of the crate back up, clap your legs and encourage, “c’mon, c’mon”.
Next time you throw the food in and dog follows, say “yes” and throw in 2 or 3 more pieces and close the door calmly but do not latch. When your dog turns around to come out let it pause for a second, see closed door then you open it saying something encouraging, like “good dog” or “nice job”. Maybe pet him but do not feed him outside of the crate, only inside. Gradually increase the amount of time you close the door to 10 seconds, 15, 20, back to 10, etc…
You may have to break this up into two or three sessions because as your dog gets full, motivation wanes. But if this training is urgent, do them all in one day a few hours apart and do not feed dog from a bowl this day, just the game in the crate.
Once you have gotten to closing the door for 30 or 40 seconds duration then latch it and stay nearby with food and encouragement. You can sit next to the crate. Just say “good boy”, “good girl” or “nice job” and put a few pieces of food through the crate for dog to enjoy inside. Do this for 5 or so minutes. If your dog gets anxious or you already know it won’t remain calm for 5 minutes, try 2 and each session build up to more time.
Keep a bag of kibble up on a shelf or a closed-lid bin on top of the crate so when you tell your dog to “kennel up” you can already have pre-baited the crate or you can throw some kibble in as he/she enters. Then latch the crate and praise your dog. Early on stay nearby, don’t go away right away. Reinforce calmness with a couple pieces of kibble and a “yes”.
From now on the crate is a happy positive place. When you are mad at the dog, resolve the issue wherever it happened and if the dog does need to go into the crate, wait a few minutes until everyone calms down so going into the crate is a separate event. Maybe separate out being mad at the dog and crating with a few obedience commands like sit or down or throw a ball for it to fetch. Then, go to the crate in a good frame of mind and keep the crate a positive zone.
Classical Conditioning (think Pavlov) say “yes” give dog a piece of food. No expectation that the dog do any behavior. Just “yes” feed, “yes” feed about 100 times to classically condition “yes” as a marker word that tells the dog you like what he’s doing.