How to Train Your Dog to Kennel Up

Teach Your Dog to Kennel Up

A dog (Miniature Pinscher) wearing a blue sweater sits patiently in his crate.
Hillary Kladke/Moment Open/Getty Images

Crate training is an important part of raising your dog. The crate, or kennel, is an important dog training tool as well as a safe means of confinement. Crate training also very useful when house training your dog. Even if you don't plan to crate your dog often, it's still important that your dog is crate trained. This will help if there are times throughout his life when he needs to be confined to a cage or crate, such as at the veterinarian or while boarding.

Although crate training is valuable, it doesn't work if you can't easily get your dog to go into the crate. It can be pretty frustrating to get your dog to enter the crate when you ask, especially because it's usually at a time when you are ready to leave the house. The good news is that you can train your dog to get into his crate on command.

Start Training Your Dog to Get in the Crate

To train your dog to get into his crate on cue, you'll need some treats and his crate. If you are clicker training, you'll also need your clicker.

Choose a command to let your dog know it is time to get in his crate. Many trainers use "kennel" or "kennel up." However, you can use any word you wish. Just make sure it doesn't sound too much like his name or another cue word you use.

How to Teach Your Dog to Kennel Up

You can usually teach your dog the "kennel up" command in a few short training sessions. Here's how:

  1. Start by standing in front of your dog's crate and showing him some valuable treats.
  2. Say the cue word and throw the treats into the back of the crate. As soon as your dog walks into the crate to get the treats, praise him and click your clicker (if using one).
  3. If you're working on the wait command, make your dog wait before you release him from his crate.
  4. Repeat this process several times.

Practice the "kennel up" command a few times a day for about 10 minutes each session. After several days, you can stop throwing the treats into the crate. The first few times, you might have to move your hand as if you're throwing a treat inside after you give the command. When your dog gets inside, click your clicker or praise him and drop a treat into the crate. With a few practice sessions, you should be able to get your dog to step into his crate immediately as soon as he hears the cue word.

Tip on Training Your Dog to Get in the Crate

  • If your dog is not running into the crate for the treats, you may need to find something more valuable to entice him. What is your dog's favorite food or toy? Try to find something he cannot resist, like stinky treats, hot dog pieces, chicken, a new squeaky toy, etc. 
  • If your dog is hesitant to approach the crate, try not to make a big deal out of it. Keep the crate open and accessible. Give him treats and feed him when he is near the crate. Let him explore it on his own terms. Consider keeping a chew toy or edible chew near the entrance to the crate so it will attract your dog.
  • Don't force your dog into the crate, especially if he seems afraid of it. Instead, make the crate extra comfortable (a nice plush bed will work). Leave the crate open at all times, put your dog's favorite toys inside, and feed your dog as close to the crate as he will get. If there is a removable top, take it off. As your dog gets more used to the presence of the crate, increase the proximity of the feedings. It may take some time, but your dog should get over his fears.
  • The crate should be a place of comfort for your dog. If your dog seems anxious inside the crate, don't leave him alone until he gets used to it. Try feeding him in the crate and letting him spend time in the crate while you are around. Let him out after a short period of time (ideally while he is calm). Gradually increase the length of time you leave him in the crate. Once he seems to consider the crate his own space and can relax in there, then you can start leaving him in there when you leave. The last thing you want is for your dog to associate you leaving with anything fearful. This can lead to or exacerbate separation anxiety.
  • If you continue to have trouble getting your dog to get in the crate on cue, seek help from a dog trainer or behaviorist. Ask your vet for recommendations or a referral.