Dog Crate Training
It is a misconception that dog crates or ‘cages’ are cruel as it is the idea that you are locking your beloved dog away; this is not the case, the dog crate is an important training tool, and gives your dog a safe haven to go to. Dogs like to have a ‘den’ to retreat to; it is like having their own room. It is often the case that a dog will find a safe, snug hidey hole to spend its time in such as under a table, or under the stairs, it is in a dog’s nature to find somewhere to hide and feel safe; dogs are descended from wolves, and share many of their instincts. Wolves live in dens which are snug spaces underground. Though dogs have become domesticated over the years much of their original instincts remain, such is instinct to hide away in a snug safe environment. A crate offers this safe space and so much more.
Why use a dog crate?
A dog crate has advantages for both you and your dog.
Which Dog Crate should I get?
Dog crates are generally made from wire. Chose one with a removable plastic tray for hygiene reasons, this will also make cleaning more convenient. Plastic dog crates are also available; as long as they are cleanable they are suitable.
Purchase a dog crate large enough for your pet to stretch out on its side, to turn around in and to sit or stand erect. If you have a puppy, it is more economical to buy a wire crate that will accommodate him as an adult, then partition it to the right size, it is important that a dog crate is not too big for your puppy as it will eliminate at one end, and use the other for rest, in turn undermining the training process.
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How to use the Dog Crate?
Use your dog crate correctly and humanely. If you properly train your dog to use the dog crate, he will come to think of it as his safe place and will be content to spend time there when needed.
Understand dog crate training can take days or weeks, take the process slow and steady. The dog’s first association with the crate should be a pleasant one.
Place the dog crate in a social area of the home such as main living room, this way your dog is close to his pack (you and your family) and he will not feel isolated. Have a blanket or crate bed in the crate for comfort and warmth. Keep the dog crate free from too much heat or cold.
Encourage the dog to enter of its own accord by placing a treat (or Toy) in the far end. Don’t force your dog into the crate; he must enter of his own free will. If he is pushed in, he may think he is being punished, and be confused and upset. Continue to throw in treats until he enters. Remember to praise your dog when he does enter.
It is an excellent idea to associate the dog create with a pleasant experience, so place your dogs food bowl by the crate, as a dog is most happy when he’s eating. When your dog is more familiar with the dog crate put his bowl inside for him to eat from, with each feeding gradually put the bowl further back into the crate until it is all the way at the back. Close the door while he is eating, and for the first few times open the door when he has finished.
With each successful feed, leave the door closed a little longer. Once he is happy to stay 10 mins after eating without whining you know things are going well. If he whines or barks to be let out during these 10 mins, you may have rushed the process, and need to go back to leaving him in for shorter lengths of time, and building up to longer again. Do not let your dog out if barking or whining or he will understand this is what he needs to do to get let out; you must simply ignore the whining.
note, only place your dogs feeding bowl in the crate while you are training. When the time comes to leave your dog in his crate while you are out of the house, do not leave food inside the crate.
Once your dog is happy with his 10 min stay after meals, with no signs of distress begin to leave him in for short periods of time while you are at home.
You may need to entice him in with treats, praise your dog when he enters. Leave him for 5-10 minutes to begin with, and stay near the crate, leave the room (out of sight) for a few minutes before the time is up, then return to the crate for the last minute or two then let him out.
This process will need to be repeated several times a day, each time increase the amount of time he is in the crate, and the length of time you are out of the room.
Do leave at least an hour in between his crate visits. When your dog is content to be left for approx 30 minutes, with you out of sight for the majority of time, then you may begin to leave your dog in the crate when you are out of the house.
Use a command word when getting your dog in the crate; “kennel” is a popular choice. Your dog will soon learn where he needs to go when he hears this word, and that there should be a treat in it for him!
Once happy and familiar with being left in the crate, leave it open throughout the day for your dog to come and go as he pleases. You may find your dog frequents his crate often to have a nap or have some escape from hectic family life.
Done successfully, dog crate training will result in a happy and content dog that will grow to be a well-adjusted member of your family.
Leaving your dog in a crate
Put your dog in his crate 5-15 mins before leaving to go out, do not make too much of a fuss, and do not get sad or over emotional. You must be matter of fact, give a short praise, and then go about your business. Try to leave the house quietly.
Your dog will not want to eliminate in his dog crate, and doing so will be a last resort and your dog may feel distressed and embarrassed if he does. Therefore make sure your dog has an opportunity to ‘go to the loo’ before spending time in his dog crate.
If leaving a puppy in a dog crate you will need to leave it somewhere you can hear his whining to be let out. Puppies are well known to need to eliminate during the night so be prepared to let him out. If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether he's whining to be let out of the crate, or whether he needs to be let outside to eliminate.
If you have followed the training process correctly, then your dog will not have been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from his dog crate or treated. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, he'll probably stop whining soon. If he does not stop after a few minutes of you ignoring him, let him outside to eliminate. Do not use this time to have a play; there is only one purpose for this outing. If you do not believe your dog needs to ‘go’ ignore him, and he will soon get the picture.
Older dogs introduced to the dog crate will also need to be kept near by to prevent them feeling isolated.
A dogs time in his crate is its ‘own dog time’ he will go there when he wants to be left alone, or is feeling under the weather, therefore this is not the time for children to play with him or be harassed in any way. You may wish to put a blanket over your dog crate for extra seclusion.
Make sure the dog crate is welcoming for your dog, place a blanket or crate rug inside.
Be sure to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you are home so our dog does not associate crating with being left alone.
Do leave chew toys in the dog crate for interest and stimulation, and make sure to rotate to toys or he will become bored. Always have water accessible to your dog; a water bottle attached to the side is advisable, as your dog will have no water if he knocks his bowl over!
Accidents will happen, if your puppy messes in his crate while you are not home, do not discipline him upon your arrival.
How long can I leave my dog in a crate?
Never leave your dog in a crate longer than it can contain a bowel movement i.e. if your dog needs to go every 3 hours don’t leave him in there for 4.
4 hours is then general maximum time to leave your pet crated.
If you occasionally must be gone longer than this, place the crate with the door open in an enclosed area such as a bathroom, utility room or conservatory (as long as it does not get too hot). Place newspapers on the floor of the room incase you need to clean up.
Do not leave your dog in a crate for long periods of time, on regular occasions. Continually leaving your dog in a crate will lead to lack of companionship, depression, stress and potentially an unfit dog. Other arrangements should be made to accommodate your dogs emotional and physical needs if you need to leave your dog all day, a crate is not the solution.
The dog crate, however, is NOT a substitute for social interaction, and leaving a young puppy in a crate for hours on end is abuse. Puppies under 6 months should spend no more than 3-4 hours in a dog crate at any one time, as they can not control their bladders for any longer than this. A good rule of thumb is no more than one hour for every month of life your pup has.
When to avoid putting your dog in a crate.
What else should I know?
If your dog does not take to the crate, it may be because you have rushed the process in which case you may need to start from the beginning, which is why it is important to take training slow and steady to avoid wasting time in the future.
Understand not all dogs take to the crate, especially older dogs. And if used incorrectly a dog will feel confused, anxious and stressed. If a dog dislikes his crate immensely it will be unlikely to keep it clean.
Exercise your dog before and after crating, and be sure to give your dog plenty of attention during this time.
It is recommended to have the dog crate as your dog’s only bed.
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