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Crate Training Successfully
Crates: I wouldn't dream of raising a puppy without using a crate. Crates are a great tool to use when you can't actively supervise your pup. And you know how much trouble puppies and young dogs can get into when they are not supervised! A crate will also make the job of housebreaking much easier.
Problems with Dog Crates!
The problem with dog crates is convincing people that crating a dog is not cruel and unusual punishment! The dog is not in "jail". Dogs that are crate-trained actually like their crates. Dogs are den animals. A crate can be your dog's "den" - a safe haven where he can relax and feel secure, a room of his own. Ever wished you could just go to your room for peace and quiet? Well your dog may feel the same way at times.
A puppy should not be confined continuously (except at night), but a crate can be a big help for an hour or two at a time. As the pup grows older, he can spend longer periods of time in a crate as long as it isn't a regular long-term arrangement.
The only problems arise if the pup is forced into the crate suddenly and becomes frightened, or if he is left in it for hours at a time and becomes lonely and bored.
Crates can be very useful for dogs of any age. At some time in your dog's life, he may need to stay at the veterinarian's, where he will be confined in a crate. If he has been crate-trained ahead of time, he will feel safe and secure instead of overly stressed. A dog that can relax and rest in a crate may even have a faster recovery rate.
A crate is also excellent for car travel. It keeps the dog safe from sudden stops and swerves, and keeps the people safe from an excitable dog.
Types of Crates and Sizes:
There are two types of dog crates -
- the fiberglass "airline" kennel , and the folding wire crate . The choice is yours. Some dogs prefer more privacy - you can drape a towel or blanket over a wire crate if desired. Wire crates are generally more expensive but you have the advantage of folding them up if necessary.
- The crate should be large enough so that the dog can stand up, turn around, and lie down. If using the crate to housebreak a puppy, it is important that the crate not be too large. Buy a crate that will accomodate your pet when it is fully grown. Then get a piece of pegboard that will fit the inside of the crate. Using plastic 'wire ties', secure the pegboard as a divider inside the crate, giving only enough room for the puppy to lay down inside. Some folks have used bricks (or even concrete blocks!) to take up extra space temporarily. As the puppy grows, provide more room by moving the divider. When the puppy does not soil in its crate, remove the divider so the puppy can have use of the full crate.
Getting your dog used to the crate:
When getting the dog used to the crate, keep it near the center of activity so the dog won't feel isolated. A corner of the kitchen or the family room is good. At night you can move the crate to your bedroom so the dog can be with you.
Set the crate up and let the dog investigate it. Show it to him while talking in a happy voice. Have some yummy treats on hand. Put a treat just inside the crate and let the dog get it. Then throw a treat farther inside the crate, until the dog is willingly going all the way inside the crate. Leave the door open during this phase. When the dog is comfortable going into the crate, shut the door with the dog inside. Scratch him through the side of the crate, tell him how wonderful he is, give more treats and let him out. Repeat this step several times. The next step is to leave the room for only a few seconds, then return and let him out. Gradually build up the time you are away. After the dog is crate-trained, he will be content in the crate for several hours at a time, if he is properly exercised beforehand.
Always praise the dog for going into the crate, and during the training process give him a treat every time you put him into the crate. Use a word or phrase, like "go to bed". or "kennel".
Use the crate wisely. Don't crate only when you are leaving the house, or he may associate the crate with being left alone. Place the dog in the crate while you are home, too. By crating when you are home and when you leave, the dog becomes comfortable in it and not anxious that you are leaving him/her alone. This helps to reduce separation anxiety later in life.
Never let the dog out of the crate while he is barking or whining. This would reward him for barking, and he will be training you to let him out when he wants. Try ignoring the dog while he is barking, and let him out after he has been quiet for a few seconds. If the barking persists, you will need to use a correction. Tap the top of the crate, making a loud noise, as you say "Quiet". Praise as soon as he is quiet, and give a treat. Give random treats while the dog is quiet. Be proactive, not just reactive when he barks or whines.
I like to give a stuffed kong, bully stick, or other safe chewy when I crate a dog.
Feeding the dog in the crate is one way to speed the acceptance of the crate.
When your dog is not confined in the crate, leave the door open so he can go in if he wants. Never permit children to crawl into the dog's crate. This is his own space and should be a place where he can go for peace and quiet when children get overbearing or when he just wants to be alone.
A crate is a wonderful tool for the prevention of problems. It can keep your dog safe, happy, and non-destructive.
Copyright © Pat Scott