May 1, 2013

The Crate Games Cake Walk

Taking the time to play crate games and teaching your dog the value of self-control pays in dividends when we are working with our canine dance partners. Certainly ‘crate games’ are applicable to the pet-home family dog and are beneficial in any dog sport, but let’s take a look at the merits of using these games for our beloved sport of freestyle.

Freestyle requires enormous focus and endurance from our dogs. In addition, they must respond to a variety of cues not only in close proximity to us but at a distance with impeccable timing! They must seamlessly pair with us in our movements; sometimes complementing them, sometimes acting as independent accents in our routines. The activity of ‘dancing’ must be highly reinforcing for our dogs to have any reasonable quality of performance or success. In this sport we do not have jumps, tunnels, dumbbells or frisbees etc. as motivating factors for our dogs.  In freestyle the end product consists of just the team of human and dog plus music. What other sport demands this much from our dogs? Crate games can help build the relationship, drive and focus we need for such a demanding sport.

The value of developing crate games in training sessions:

Criteria     – Enables handler to easily keep this high and consistent, developing absolute focus for working together

Relaxation   – Crate acts not only as a source of drive but also as a cue for the ‘off-switch’ we also desire so dog can relax when not working

Anticipation – Clear cues for dog when ‘work’ or ‘dancing’ is about to begin.

Training plan – Creates a thoughtful trainer who prepares and plans ahead before a training session

Energy and drive – Is created by building and transferring value from ‘inside’ the crate to activities with the handler ‘outside’ of the crate

Self-control – Empower your dog with self-control skills amongst amazing distractions.


The use of crate games in a dog’s foundation training can help us achieve our goals in freestyle while building our performance relationship with drive and enthusiasm. In fact, because of the lack of need for verbal or ‘enforced’ control, even very young puppies can be taught advanced behaviors such as distance work quite easily. An added bonus is they are learning to work with us with 100% attention and 100% energy at the same time!