When crate training is first mentioned to new dog owners, a common initial reaction is to say, “How cruel!" On the contrary, crate training is far from cruel, if done correctly, and can actually be a source of comfort and convenience for both you and your dog. In short, crate training is conditioning your dog or puppy to accept a comfortably sized crate as its primary “den"-a place to sleep, retreat from the world, and be safely contained when you are away or when you and your dog are traveling together. Crate training is NOT leaving your dog locked up in a cage eight hours a day and ignoring its basic needs. So why and how should you use crate training? Read on to find out!
Whether you've just adopted a new puppy, welcomed an adult dog into your home, or you're interested in keeping your dog (and belongings!) safe when you leave for a few hours, crate training is a great idea. Crate training is actually far safer (and kinder) than the alternative many people choose-putting the dog or puppy out in the yard. An anxious, lonely dog left in the yard will often chew, bark incessantly, or dig out and get lost, not to mention the fact that countless dogs are stolen from unsupervised yards every year and sold to laboratories or used as dog fighting bait. In a crate, your dog will have his favorite toys, a soft bed, and a climate controlled environment in which to await your return, and his destructive tendencies will be limited only to the chewies you provide for him. An appropriate crate fulfills a dog's instinctive need for a cave or den of his very own, so if you approach crate training correctly, your dog or puppy should have no qualms about curling up for some quiet time when you leave home.
Choose a crate that affords the dog enough room to stand up and turn around completely. The two basic crate designs are the solid plastic “airline kennel" designs and the collapsible wire type crates. If you're planning on traveling with your dog, the “airline kennel" is obviously your best bet. It's also more solid than a wire crate, and therefore, offers a sense of greater security to your dog. If you have a puppy, buy a crate that the puppy can grow into, lest you be investing in a new crate every few months! Outfit the crate with soft, familiar (and washable!) bedding, a few favorite toys, and, if you'll be gone for more than two hours, a small water dish mounted on the side of the crate. Place the crate in a central location where family members often congregate. Your human den or living room is a great place! Though you should place the crate in a central location, try to keep it in its own special corner and make it clear to everyone in the family (especially young children) that the crate belongs to the dog-it is his private space, and under no circumstances should anyone every go into the crate or otherwise harass the dog when he is near or inside of his “den. "
Getting your dog used to his new crate is easy, as you are already playing to your dog's nature by providing him with his very own space. If you're going to be crating your dog while you're away (the primary reason most people choose to crate their dogs), you'll need to get the dog used to being crated while you're at home. Don't just push the dog into the crate and go out for a long day of shopping! Introduce him gently to his new quarters, and make it a positive experience. Make a trail of treats leading to the crate, with a few treats positioned at the back of the crate. Begin serving your dog his meals inside the crate, and while he is eating, close the door. When he is done eating, open the door immediately. If he comes out, fine, if he stays, all the better. Either way, he'll learn to associate positive things with his new crate. Never, ever lock your dog in his crate as an obvious punishment. It will only create negative associations with the space and lead to further anxiety rather than alleviate separation anxiety!
Once your dog is used to eating in his crate with the door shut, you can begin putting him in his crate, giving him a rawhide bone for a few treats, and leaving him in the crate for fifteen minutes or so while you're in the room or working about the house. If he begins to bark or whine, do not let him out, excite him with “comforting" baby-talk, or otherwise give any indication that you're giving him the attention he's vying for. Your dog is not whining because he's terrified or feeling abused. He's whining because he wants to be with you. As soon as he realizes you're still in the room or that you'll be coming back into the room, he'll stop whining. Wait thirty seconds or so after the whining has ended, then let the dog out of the crate. Continue with this procedure until your dog no longer whines or barks when crated. By this point, you should be able to successfully crate your dog for an hour or two when you go out of the house. As time goes by, you can leave your dog crated for longer and longer stretches. Indeed, many people crate their dogs when they're at work during the day, which works out fine provided some adjustments are made. An adult dog should never be crated for more than three or four hours at a time, as they will most certainly need to relieve themselves and stretch their legs around the four hour mark. A benefit of crate training is that a dog will, at all costs, avoid soiling its sleeping/living quarters. This means you could end up with an extremely miserable, embarrassed dog should your negligence force him to relieve himself in his crate! If you're going to be crating your dog while at work, you'll need to either come home during your lunch hour to take him for a short jaunt or you'll need to have a friend or family member do it for you. For puppies, the wait time is far shorter. Most puppies, at their most mature, can only “hold it" for an hour or two. If you're a workaholic, it may not be in your (or the puppy's!) best interest to bring a puppy into your life until you have more time to devote to its care and training.
If having peace of mind and a safe, well-mannered dog sounds appealing, then crate training is the definitive way to go. With patience, dedication, and know-how, crate training a dog or puppy could take as little as a week with positive results that will endure for the lifetime of your four-legged friend!
About The Author: Barry S. Mcgee is a pet enthusiast. His site at: http://www.squidoo.com/puppyanddogtraining covers all areas of dog training.
For answers to all your puppy and dog training questions, please visit: http://www.squidoo.com/puppyanddogtraining