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Crate training

The purpose of a crate is to provide confinement. You will use the crate for reasons of security, safety, house training, activity management, travel, illness and protection of household goods. You may think that putting your dog in a crate is mean or inhumane and might cause your dog to resent you or to be psychologically damaged. However,dogs view the world differently than people.

As your dog sees it, the crate is a room of his very own.

The crate helps to satisfy the “den instinct” inherited from his den-dwelling ancestors. Your dog will feel secure, not frustrated, once accustomed to his crate. You want to enjoy your dog; this will not happen if he destroys your home. The crate can help you achieve abettor relationship with him by preventing unwanted behavior when youaren’t available to supervise him. With the help of a crate:

  • You can enjoy peace of mind when leaving your dog alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed.
  • You can housebreak your dog more quickly by using the crate to motivate him to wait until taken outside.
  • You can travel with your dog without risk of him getting loose.
  • Your dog can enjoy the security and privacy of his own den where he can go when tired or stressed.
  • You can keep your dog from learning unwanted behaviors while he is unsupervised.
  • Your dog can avoid much of the fear and confusion caused by your reaction to problem behavior.
  • He can be included in family outings, instead of being left behind because he will have his familiar den to take along.

A dog crate is a cage usually made of wire or molded plastic.

Today you can even find designer crates to match your home decor. Crates can be purchased at pet stores, department stores, and from pet supply catalogs. My preference is a folding wire crate that includes are movable metal floor pan. Plastic crates can also be used, although some dogs will chew the plastic. Your pet will be more comfortable ifit has a smooth floor. Purchase a crate large enough for your pet to stretch out on its side and to sit or stand erect. He must be able to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably.

If you have a puppy, it is more economical to buy a crate that will accommodate him as an adult, then partition it to the right size for his age and training development. A movable partition can be made or purchased. Too large a crate can undermine house training because your pet may eliminate at one end of the crate and lie down at the other.(See our article on house training.) For bedding, use an old blanket orbuy a washable crate pad. When you know that he will not destroy or soil his bedding you can purchase a more expensive bed to fit inside the crate. Depending on size and construction, a new crate may cost $40- $150. This is a bargain compared to the cost of replacing a sofa,woodwork, carpeting or window blinds. I have seen dogs that in a short period of time have done thousands of dollars of damage to a home. 

Dogs are pack animals and very social. 

Theywant to be with their people. Try to avoid high traffic areas but place the crate in an area where the family spends a lot of time, like the family room. The top of the crate can serve as an extra shelf or table.At night, move your puppy’s crate into your bedroom so you can hear him if he needs to go out. I have two crates; one in the family room an done in the bedroom. When crate training a young puppy, he should have no problem accepting the crate as his place. Crying at first is caused, not by the crate, but by adjusting to an unfamiliar household. Do not reward barking or whining with attention! If you are sure he doesn’t need to eliminate, ignore him until he is quiet, then praise him or take him out of the crate. Do not leave meals in the crate or feed your puppy immediately prior to confining him. Most puppies will spill water left in the crate. Do leave a safe chew toy in the crate for your pet. Close your pet in the crate whenever he must be left alone or can’t be closely supervised by a responsible person.

Never crate your pet longer than you know he can wait to eliminate.

This would usually be less than 4 hour intervals during the day. If you must be gone longer than this, place the crate with the door open in an enclosed area such as a bathroom or laundry room. Place newspapers on the floor of the room to facilitate clean-up. Your puppy should soon stop eliminating overnight and then may be crated in his regular place.(See our house training article.)

When a dog is 6 months or older you can have problem behaviors that result from the pet feeling insecure when left alone. A crate can actually help alleviate this anxiety,but it must be introduced gradually and in a positive manner. The dog’sfirst association with the crate should be pleasant. First secure thedoor open so that it can’t suddenly shut and frighten the dog.Encourage your pet to enter voluntarily by tossing treats into the far end when he is not looking. Praising him enthusiastically once he enters, then let him come right back out. Feed him in his crate with the door open. Tie one of his favorite chew toys to the back of the crate with heavy string so your dog must lie in the crate to chew on it. Once he enters the crate confidently, coax him to lie down and relax, using food, if necessary. Shut the door briefly, while you sit beside the crate or when there are people in the room. Again, don’treward barking or whining, with attention. When you feel your dog willremain quietly in the crate, leave him alone for 15 – 30 minutes. Do not make a fuss over letting him out. All the rewards and praise should happen when he is in the crate. The process should be a gradual introduction to the crate. If all goes well, you can leave him for longer intervals over the next few days.

After a few days, start teaching enter and exit cues like “kennel up” or “go to bed”.

Throwa treat into the crate and cue him to go in, wait for compliance and then drop in another treat. If he doesn’t go in then just wait until he does and toss a treat in. Have patience – he will go in eventually.When he does, give him a few extra treats. Once he is going in on command, start shutting the door and giving him his treat through thecrate. As he gets older, you may no longer need to shut him in the crate, but he will probably appreciate still having access to his special place.

Unfortunately the crate does not always work. There are some dogs (usually adults)that can or will not tolerate this form of confinement. A few will showno desire to keep the crate clean.  If this is the case then consult a trainer for advice.

Rules to remember:

  • Children should be taught that the crate is a special room for the pet and that they should not pester the dog or pup when it is in the crate or use the crate as a playhouse.
  • The use of a dog crate is NOT RECOMMENDED for a dog regularly left alone all day, although some individual animals can tolerate it. If it is attempted:
  • The pet must be well exercised before and after crating.
  • The crate must be equipped with a heavy, non-tip dish of water.
  • Your pet should get lots of attention and complete freedom each night.

If you do not have time to take a puppy or dog outside to eliminate and exercise as recommended here, you should reconsider getting a dog as a pet for a while. Crate or no crate, any dog consistently denied the attention and companionship it craves, will find ways to express boredom, anxiety, and stress.

Remember, by crate training, you do your pet a favor by preventing him from getting into trouble when left unsupervised. If things don’t go smoothly you need to talk to “The Dog Lady”. Give us a call.


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