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Before you bring a new puppy or dog into your home, you will need to determine if crate training is right for your family. Crate training can be an efficient and effective way to train your dog. There are many benefits to crate training. However if used incorrectly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated. It is widely believed that by providing a safe and secure environment for your new family member, you will have a better behaved pet. Follow the proper tips to make crate training a positive and rewarding experience.
The Dog’s perspective of the crate
In the wild, canines live in packs and their home is a den. A wild dog’s den is his home, a place to sleep, hide from danger, and raise a family. Domestic dogs, therefore, have a strong natural tendency to seek out this type of shelter. Often, in households where a dog does not have a crate to call home, you will find them curled up under a table, a chair, or a similar area that feels enclosed. The crate will help satisfy the “den instinct” inherited from your dog’s den-dwelling ancestors.
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The Benefits of the crate
A dog crate, when used correctly and humanely, can have many advantages for both the pet and the owner. A crate is your dog’s own personal den where he can find comfort and solitude while you know he’s safe and secure — and not destroying your house while you’re gone.
Enjoy Less Behavioral Problems-When the dog is stressed, tired, or confused from a lot of activity, it gives him a comfortable and secure place he can retreat to. When dogs are crate trained, they tend to be more secure and confident and experience less anxiety or nervous behavior problems.
Housebreak Quickly and Effectively-Housebreaking is generally much easier and less accident prone when being done in conjunction with crate training. Crates are said to cut housebreaking time in half! It is important that you correctly utilize the crate for housetraining. We have included tips and advice to help with this.
Controls Destructive Behavior-A crate protects your home from damage and your dog from hurting himself while you’re gone. The crate will keep your pet from getting into trouble with chewing, scratching, or having accidents while you are not able to watch him. You may also have a happier dog, as he can avoid the fear or punishment caused by your reaction to problem behavior.
Safe Travel-By crating your dog while on the road, you will reduce the risk of being distracted by him while driving. If you are in an accident, a dog’s chance of injury is reduced if crated. In addition, he will have the assurance that he can adapt to strange surroundings because he has his familiar “security blanket” along.
Please be fair to your pet
We do not recommend leaving your dog in a crate alone if you must be gone for the entire day at work. One option is to hook a folding wire exercise pen to the crate. This would give the dog some room to have a play area, a sleeping area, and a bathroom area. Another option is to find a small room, preferably with a tile floor, and puppy proof the room. Put your open crate in the small room so that he has some space to move about. Alternatively, there are many dog sitting services where you can have someone come to your home to give your pet a break and some human interaction mid day. Another option would be a doggie-daycare facility — this would give your dog some great interaction with other animals and help with socialization.
STEP ONE: Choosing a Location
Dogs are pack animals, and their human family is their pack. Since one of the main reasons for using a crate is to confine the dog without making him feel banished, the crate should be placed in an area where the family spends a lot of time. Typically a kitchen or family room is best. A dog will not want to go to his crate if he is always by himself.
STEP TWO: Acquainting your puppy or dog to the crate
To get your dog to enter the crate, you may try tossing a treat or toy into the back of the crate. He may go retrieve the treat and quickly come back out. That is normal and it is important not to force the dog into the crate. Leave the door open and periodically put treats into the crate. He may begin going in to look around to see if something magically appeared. Let him go in and out on his own for a while. Always give him lots of praise when he goes in to check out his crate.
STEP THREE: Practice Brief Periods in the Crate
After introducing your dog to the crate, start making going in the crate a rewarding experience. One option is to feed him his meals with the food all the way in the back of the crate, eventually closing the door while he’s eating. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until he’s staying quietly in the crate for about ten minutes after eating. If you don’t want to use their meal for training, a treat stuffed toy works too.
STEP FOUR: Lengthen the crating periods
When the dog is comfortable and relaxed in the crate without showing signs of stress or anxiety, you can start to increase his crate time little by little. Still give a treat for entering the crate, and leave your dog with a safe treat releasing toy, like a peanut butter stuffed Kong®. This will provide a positive association with the crate, and give him something to do while you are gone — which can alleviate boredom or separation anxiety.
If your dog or puppy whines, cries or barks, do not respond to him. If you go to him you are rewarding his unacceptable behavior and that is his first step in getting you trained! Teach your dog that complaining is useless. Don’t weaken; don’t worry; be consistent and be firm. You and your pet will be much better in the long run. However, keep in mind an otherwise quiet puppy that suddenly starts whining may need a potty break. In this case, take them out quickly and quietly and return them to their crate without fuss.
Choosing a size and type of crate
Most crates are either collapsible wire or plastic.
The collapsible wire variety is very practical. It is lightweight and easily handled. It allows for good ventilation and enables your pet to see everything going on around him. They will fold flat when not in use to save space. Most of the current models will totally fold and unfold with no loose parts or pins. This is very practical for storage so that pieces don’t get lost. Many wire crates come with wire divider panels that allow you to adjust the size of the home while the puppy is growing, allowing you to buy the cage that will be the proper size for your dog when full grown.
There are also situations when a plastic kennel is a good choice. For any pet traveling on commercial airlines, a plastic kennel will be required. Also, some owners feel plastic kennels provide a greater sense of security and privacy for their pets. This quiet refuge may be preferred for loud and busy households, particularly those with young children. Keep in mind that a blanket or cage cover placed over a metal kennel can provide the same result.
If your dog is still growing, choose a crate that will accommodate his adult size. He should be able to stretch out fully when lying down, stand up and turn around in his crate and sit without hitting his head on the top. If you have a younger puppy, it is best to use a divider while you are housetraining in order to limit the available space for him. If the crate is too big, he may go potty in one in and sleep in the other.
Using the crate as a tool for Housetraining
There are a number of reasons that the crate is effective for housetraining. A dog will instinctively not want to soil his “den”. The crate will help with establishing an elimination schedule and teaching the puppy to hold his bladder. Strict monitoring leads to fewer accidents!
House Training Rule Number One:
If you don’t catch your puppy doing it, then don’t punish him for it!
It is important to know how often your young puppy needs to urinate. A puppy of 8 weeks of age can only “hold it” 3 to 4 hours — and this is while he is resting. While up and moving, take young puppies out every hour on the hour. As the puppy gets older, he will be able to hold his bladder for longer periods of time. Quickly establish a regular schedule for eating, sleeping and going out. Immediately upon getting up in the morning, let your puppy out of the crate and immediately lead him to the door. Praise him for following you out and to the area of the yard you want him to use. Treats are a great motivator!
By 4 months of age, most puppies can go all night without soiling their crate. It will help if you do not allow him free access to food and water for the last hour before bedtime. Keep an eye on your puppy any time he is out of his crate. Any time you see him sniffing or circling, immediately take him out. Any time your puppy appropriately eliminates where you want him to, give him lots of praise.
The Anxious Dog
Sometimes there are situations when a nervous or high-strung dog may have problems associated with separation anxiety. Depending on the level of the animals anxiety, you may want to discuss behaviors and alternatives with your veterinarian, a professional animal trainer, or behaviorist. Be cautious leaving a severely anxious or nervous dog alone in a crate. If they are distressed enough they could injure themselves trying to get out. These dogs might require starting crate training over from the very beginning.
Successful crate training requires time and patience, but the benefits for you and your dog are far reaching. From providing a safe haven for your pet, to cutting housebreaking time, to keeping your pet and your household items safe, crate training is beneficial for all.