Just as there are many different types of dogs, there are many different styles of dog training. There are choke chains and harnesses, whistles and clickers, gates and muzzles. And you can bet that every dog owner has a strong opinion about the methods that work best. This is certainly the case when it comes to crate training.
At first glance a crate may look like a tool for punishment. But that is not its intended purpose. In fact, a crate should never be used as a form of harsh discipline. Instead, it should represent a safe haven for your dog, a place where they can relax and feel at ease. It is a spot where the dog can hide out if there is a lot of activity around him, or a place to chew bones and nap when the family is out of the house.
Of course, not all dogs understand right away that the crate is supposed to be a “happy place, " so you should be prepared to introduce the crate in a methodical and patient manner.
Meeting the Crate
It is best to begin using the crate when your dog is still a puppy, but older dogs will also adapt. Keep in mind that the crate will probably seem scary to your dog at first, so be patient and make sure you take the time every day to show your dog the crate and reinforce its positive purpose. Here are some tips to get you started:
Place a comfortable blanket in the bottom of the crate (but be sure to remove it if the puppy chews it up or urinates on it). Some dogs will push the bedding aside and lay on the hard surface, and that’s just fine. It is always good to provide a softer option.
Stock the crate with chew toys and treats. This way, the dog will begin to associate good things with the crate.
If you know your dog will be in the crate for two hours or more at a stretch, be sure there is a source of water, such as a bottle attached to the crate’s walls.
Using the Crate
Now that you have got it set up, it is time to get the dog inside the crate. Never use force—no pushing or pulling. Instead, try coaxing the pooch with a treat or a toy, or put the food bowl in the back of the crate at feeding time. It is a good move to keep the door open when the dog is getting used to this new area; as soon as the dog is visibly relaxed, you can experiment with closing the door. Be sure to praise the pup whenever he is in the crate.
At first, it is important to crate your dog only when you are home. With the door closed, you can move about your house freely, sending your dog the message that the two of you can successfully be “alone together. " Over time, you will be able to leave the premises when your dog is safely tucked away.
Before long, you may notice your dog seeking out the crate at random points during the day. Just as you may crash on the sofa for an afternoon nap, your dog may flop in the crate for some quiet time. This is a terrific sign!
Benefits of the Crate
If introduced properly, a crate can have tremendous benefits for your dog and you. The key to successful crate training is to be patient, calm, and persistent. After all, who doesn’t appreciate having a room of one’s own?
Melissa Steele is a freelance writer for PawDigs.com This site features Pet Essentials with Style including dog beds of all sizes and styles.