The Basics of Crate Training Your Dog

By Everything Shih Tzu January 22, 2023

There's more to new puppy ownership than just cuddles and tail-wags – you'll also need to tackle their training!

Multiple Shih Tzu puppies on top of a crate

If you're a first-time dog parent, crate training may sound intimidating, but don't worry - it's not as complicated as it sounds! 

Crate training is actually an important part of the process of teaching your pup how to be both happy and well-behaved.

In this post, we'll explore everything you need to know about what crate training is and why it works so well.

So, break out the treats (and some patience!) because your pup will soon have appropriate manners in no time!

What is Crate Training?

Crate training is a technique many dog owners use to help establish house rules and boundaries while providing a safe space for their pets.

It involves enclosing the pet in an appropriately sized crate with bedding, treats, and toys to train them as positive reinforcements during their adjustment period.

This method does not involve force or fear-based corrections.

Instead, crate training relies on gradually introducing the crate space as a den for the pet to feel secure and comfortable making it their own.

Crate training is beneficial for new puppies, who may take time to adjust to their surroundings, as well as older dogs, who may need refreshers on consistency if they have been living in an environment without firm boundaries. 

Crate training can also be used to speed up the housebreaking process, assist with separation anxiety, make traveling easier, reduce destructive behaviors, and improve safety during car trips.

By providing your pup with a crate, you are creating a comfortable space for them to rest in and where they can retreat for peace and quiet whenever they feel anxious or overwhelmed.

Introducing the Crate to Your Dog

Crate training your Shih Tzu is a great way to get them used to their own space and help with house training.

Introducing the crate can be daunting, but if done correctly, it can be a positive experience for your pup. To start:

  1. Place the crate in an area of the house your dog is familiar with, like the living room.
  2. Put some treats inside the crate, along with comfortable bedding and toys, so it looks inviting for them to explore when first introduced to it.
  3. Toss a treat inside the crate and encourage your pup to follow it.
  4. Leave the door open, let your puppy explore the crate, and give them time to get used to it before you start formal training.
  5. When introducing your dog to the crate, start by having them enter it for just a few minutes at a time. Rewarding them with treats and praise when they enter, so that crate time becomes a positive experience.
  6. Gradually increase the amount of time spent in the crate while providing rewards whenever they enter or stay inside.

Crate training your Shih Tzu is all about creating positive associations with the crate. You want your pup to think of the crate as a safe and comfortable space, not a prison.

By following these steps, you can help ensure that your Shih Tzu builds a positive association with their crate and that they see it as their personal space, something comforting and familiar, rather than something to be feared or avoided.

Start Slow and Avoid Overwhelming Your Shih Tzu

When crate training your Shih Tzu, it's important to start slow and avoid overwhelming them.

This means that you should not immediately shut the door and leave them inside. Instead, give them time to get used to the environment.

You can do this by introducing the crate in a positive manner, such as by providing treats and toys or putting a comfortable blanket inside.

Once your Shih Tzu is comfortable with the crate, you can start closing the door for a few seconds and, over time, gradually increase the time spent in the crate with the door closed. 

To make sure they are not overwhelmed, provide plenty of verbal reassurance and reward them with treats when they enter the crate willingly. 

You can also use a specific word or phrase to indicate that they should enter the crate, such as "crate up" or "in your bed."

Train Your Shih Tzu to Use the Crate Willingly

Training your Shih Tzu to willingly go into his crate can be a fun and rewarding experience for you and your pup.

To start, choose a few treats or toys that your dog loves, and use these to encourage your dog to enter the crate.

Begin by simply setting the treats or toys near the crate's entrance, then gradually moving them towards the back. This will help your pup become familiar with the crate and associate it with something positive.

Once he is comfortable going inside the crate, you can begin offering treats or toys as rewards for entering it.

To reinforce good behavior, give your pup plenty of praise when he is in the crate.

You can also use a specific word or phrase to indicate that he is doing a good job. With consistent practice, your pup will soon learn that the crate is a positive experience and will come to it willingly.

Train Your Shih Tzu with a Specific Word or Phrase

One of the most effective techniques for crate training is to use a specific word or phrase. This will help direct the pup's attention to the crate and make it easier for them to understand what they should do.

It may take a while to get your Shih Tzu to understand the phrase, but it's worth it in the long run. Here's how you can get started:

  1. Start by introducing the phrase or word you've chosen to your pup. Then, say it in a calm and friendly voice every time you take them near the crate.
  2. Once your pup is comfortable with the phrase, start rewarding them whenever they approach or enter the crate on their own. Give them treats, praise, or a toy as soon as they enter, and gradually increase the reward until they start to understand that this is what you expect from them.
  3. Next, practice leading your pup toward the crate and saying the phrase as you do so. If your pup follows you and enters the crate, reward them again with a treat or praise. If they don't follow, try again but don't make it too difficult for them – remember that patience is key!
  4. Once your pup is familiar with entering the crate, when they hear the phrase, practice having them stay in the crate for short periods of time while you're still in the room with them. Reward them when they stay in the crate and gradually increase their duration of stay until they're comfortable being alone in there.

With practice and patience, your Shih Tzu will soon be able to understand and obey that particular word or phrase you've chosen for crate training!

Simple Steps in Using Crate Training for Potty Training Your Dog

  1. Start introducing your dog to the crate gradually. Place a comfortable bed inside the crate, along with a few toys. Let your pup explore it on their own and get used to the open door of the crate.
  2. Every day give your pup treats when they go near the crate and periodically put them inside while giving them positive reinforcement and rewards with treats or verbal praise.
  3. Once your pup is comfortable going in and out of their crate, you can start closing the door and then staying with them until they settle down. You can increase the length of time you stay in increments until your pup is calm when alone in their crate for an hour or two at a time.
  4. When potty training starts, take your pup outside to use the bathroom frequently during the day, especially after meals and naps. This will help establish a regular routine that your pup will eventually learn to recognize when it's time to go outside to do its business!
  5. Take your pup outside as soon as they wake up in the morning and after eating or drinking anything — even small amounts of water can lead to accidents if not taken care of right away!
  6. Praise your dog anytime they use the bathroom outdoors, so they know what behavior to repeat!
  7. When your pup has an accident, it is crucial that you remain calm and do not punish your pup. It's imperative that your pup does not associate pottying with negative feelings or punishment — pick them up quickly and take them outside, where they should be able to go again without any interruption from you!

Crate training is one of the most effective methods for teaching your dog to potty in an appropriate place. 

However, despite all your best efforts, accidents and setbacks may still occur. 

When your pup has an accident, it is crucial that you remain calm and collected so that your pup does not associate pottying with negative feelings or punishment. 

In addition, make sure to clean up any messes promptly and thoroughly; this will help keep your dog from using that space as his potty area and keeps your home smelling fresh!

Crate training can be hard work, but don't let any accidents or setbacks discourage you!

With patience, consistency, and lots of rewards, crate training can be a fun and effective way to teach your pup good potty habits.

Setting Rules and Routines

Setting rules and routines is a necessary part of crate training your dog or puppy.

Rules provide structure, helping your pup understand what is expected of them and how to behave when in the crate.

Establishing crate-time routines will also help create a positive experience for your pup when crate training.

When setting rules for crate training your puppy, be consistent and clear. This means having a set crate time for your pup each day and sticking to it so that they know what is expected of them.

When crate-time routines are established, crate training will become a positive experience.

In addition to setting rules and crate-time routines, remember to use positive reinforcement when crate training.

For example, rewarding your pup with treats and praise when they enter the crate will help create a positive association with crate training and make them more likely to comply in the future.


The benefits of crate training are immeasurable when done correctly.

It can help to relieve anxiety and stress in dogs, as well as make house-training easier.

Crate training is a great way to give your pup a safe place to call their own while also helping them build good habits.

When teaching your dog to go into the crate, it's important to be patient and consistent throughout the process.

Start off with short periods of time in the crate, gradually increasing the length of time as they become more comfortable.

If needed, you can use treats or toys to encourage your pup to enter the crate and show them that there's nothing to fear.

You can even leave the door open so your pup can come and go whenever they want, once they are potty trained and have learned how to behave.

Overall, crate training is a great way to teach your pup good habits while also providing them with a safe space of their own.

With patience and consistency, your pup will soon learn the ropes of their new environment and enjoy the sense of security that comes with having their own space.