How to train your dog to use a cage

Not everyone likes the idea of confining their dog to use a cage – but you’ll be providing your dog with a safe, comfortable den they can choose to lie in and make their own.

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The benefits of den training

Introduced correctly, a cage can be a very useful piece of equipment:

  • In the home for home alone training, toilet training and when non-doggy visitors come over
  • In the car for safety and security
  • On holiday to provide a home from home. 

The cage must be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down in comfortably. There should also be room for a bowl of water. If you’re buying a cage for your puppy, make sure you plan ahead and buy one they’ll fit into when they’re fully grown.

Making the cage into a den

Introduce the cage to your dog slowly and make it as attractive as possible by turning it into a ‘den’. Put in some thick comfy bedding and always have some tasty titbits on hand for encouragement and reward.

Choose a quiet position to place the cage in and cover it with a blanket. Never push your dog in and shut the door. Here is our step-by-step guide to den training:

Step 1: Introduce the den

Start by calling your dog and throwing a treat into the cage. Praise them as they move in. Repeat this several times, throwing the treat a little further into the cage until your dog has to go all the way in to eat it. You can then start to add a phrase to this such as ‘in your bed’ before you throw the treat in.

Leave the cage door open at all times and allow your dog to wander in and out when they like. If the den is inviting enough they may start to choose it as a sleeping area.

Step 2: Dinner in the den

Next, start to feed your dog their whole dinner in the cage instead of just a treat. Leave the door open the whole time. Shutting the door too soon will make them reluctant to go back in again.

Step 3: Close the door during dinner

Once your dog happily walks into the cage on their own you can start closing the door while they eat and open it when they finish. Repeat this for every meal.

Step 4: Build up their time in the den

Now try feeding your dog part of their dinner in a Kong or give them a long-lasting chew to prolong the time they’re in the cage. Repeat as above, opening the door as soon as they’re finished.

By gradually building up the time they spend in the cage and using food each time, your dog will soon realise the den is a great place to be. Use the cage for no more than 4 hours at a time.

Den training hints and tips:

  • Make sure your dog has gone to the toilet before leaving them in the cage
  • If they start to bark, whine or scratch at the cage, ignore them. Wait until they’re quiet and then open the cage
  • Never rush your dog, complete the training at their own pace.
  • Never discipline your dog while they’re in the cage
  • Never use the cage to punish your dog. It must remain a safe, secure, happy space at all times