This is a really great trick to teach your dog. First, your dog should view his crate as a “safe place.” A place to go when he’s tired, to take a nap or to just be left alone. Here is the fastest and easiest way to teach your dog to get in his crate, on command. It’s especially useful for if you have unexpected company and don’t want your dog to ‘get in the way.
Start by palming a cookie in your right hand. Put the training collar and leash on your dog. Walk him up to the crate and make him sit. Now, say, “Get in the crate!” Toss the cookie in the crate, and then pull forward on the leash, in the direction of the open crate. As he moves into the crate, he’ll automatically release the tension on the leash. Close the door to the crate, and tell him, “Good dog!” as he munches on the cookie. Next, open the crate door and tell him, “Free!” When he comes out, praise him lavishly. Repeat this exercise, four times. After the fourth time, open the crate door, take the leash and training collar off, give him another cookie and close the crate door.
In 20 minutes, you can return and repeat this exercise. After you’ve done this a few times and see your dog start to ANTICIPATE the command, the next thing to do is only give him the cookie once every third time. At this point, he’ll likely begin running into the crate before you even tell him to. You’ll need to tell him, “No!” and pull him out of the crate. No praise. Remember–he can go on the crate on his own when you’re not standing next to him, but as this is a formal exercise, we want him to wait for the command. This sounds confusing, and it is for the human mind. But it’s one of those things that your dog will understand naturally. Trust me–I know this from experience.
After you’ve brought him out of the crate, he’ll start looking at you for the “Get in the crate” command. Give him the command. Reward him this time with the cookie. You’ll start to see that he’ll begin looking to you… waiting for that magic command that allows him to dive into the crate and get your praise. (Note: If your dog is more motivated by a toy or something else (No, not the cat!!!) you can use whatever you want. The idea is to use a motivator. The reason you want to pull forward on the leash instead of just throwing the food/ball/motivator into the crate is so that your dog learns that you are actually making him do it. This is the difference between using food as a motivator vs. using food as a bribe. If the food isn’t there, you’re going to make him do it anyway.