Many people view a kennel or crate from a human perspective - a cage, or prison. Yet, if it is properly introduced, a dog crate provides a sense of security for your pet; a place of her own. At the same time, a dog that is comfortable in a crate is easier to housebreak and travels well.
It is important to get the right size crate for your dog while she is a puppy. It is best to get a crate that will fit her as an adult - she'll quickly grow into it! Ideally, the crate should be large enough to allow an adult dog to stand up and turn around, with about four inches of extra space in length. Its important that you find out how large your puppy could grow to - there are plenty of books or websites that can give you this information.
Very young puppies should not be crated for any length of time as they will not be house trained and will soil the crate. If your puppy messes in his crate do not punish him. Simply wash out the crate using a pet odor neutralizer. The odor of ammonia-based products resembles urine and your dog will attempt to urinate in the same spot again. You will need to teach your dog that the crate is hers. Some dogs take longer than others to “catch on" to their special place. This is not an indication that the dog doesn't like the crate, just a result of unique personalities each dog has. Training your dog to use the crate requires a number of small steps, as well as patience. The kennel should always be associated with pleasant moments. If you force your dog into the crate or get angry at her, she will see the crate as a bad thing. Spend time with your dog while she is inside so that your dog does not associate being in the crate with being left alone or abandoned.
To introduce the crate to your dog, sit beside it with treats in your hand and call her to you. When she comes to you, give her a treat and lots of verbal praise in a happy voice. Place a treat at the entrance of the crate, and after she takes it, toss one into the crate. Each time you place a treat inside, give a unique command so she begins to associate the behavior with the command. This will help your dog to associate positively with the crate.
End the session before the dog loses interest. Once your dog enters the crate easily, begin using a ball or toy - if you keep using food your dog may develop behavior problems.
Crates and kennels are comforting for dogs and excellent tools for housebreaking, but they should be used carefully. Puppies will need to be taken out of the kennel during the night to relieve themselves. Never leave any dog confined to a crate for more than 6 hours - they will become bored and can develop behavior problems as a result.
Never use the crate as a punishment, as you will be unable to use it when you need to - your puppy should be happy to go into the crate at any time.
Making use of these simple tips and suggestions will make your life, and the life of your puppy, much easier in the future.
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