Crate Training

Crate Training
The two issues regarding dogs that I'm asked about most often are problems with house breaking and how to prevent destructive behavior when dogs are left home alone. These two problem behaviors are also the main reasons why so many potentially wonderful pets are sent to shelters. Both could probably have been avoided in the first place and both have the same solution....Crate Training.

Contrary to what many frustrated dog owners believe, crating a dog is not inhumane. When properly introduced to a crate, a dog will not feel like it's trapped in a cage, but secure and content in it's own special place. Experts tell us that crating actually helps to satisfy a dog's inherited "den instinct".

My own dogs hide favorite toys from each other in their crates... Schatzie will sometimes take something from Fritz and stash it in her crate...and sometimes when the coast is clear, Fritz will take it back and stash it beneath the covers in his crate. They might go to their crates to do some serious chewing on a new toy. When they see us getting ready to go away, they will often go in their crates on their own. Sometimes they get so comfortable and content that they must be persuaded to get up and go outside for a potty break before we leave.

Crating is the best way to keep a puppy safe and sound when you can't be there. When left alone, most puppies will quickly become bored. Puppies have a need to chew and without supervision, everything is a possible chew toy. Using a crate is not only a good way to protect your home, furniture, carpets, shoes, and other posessions from being destroyed, it protects the puppy from chewing on things like electrical cords, wood that could splinter, poisonous house plants, and other harmful objects. Many adult dogs need to be constantly with the people they love. Being alone triggers anxiety and that sometimes leads to very destructive behavior. Whether you have a playful pup or an otherwise great dog with separation anxiety, by using a crate, you'll be able to leave the house, knowing that your possessions are safe and your pet will be comfortable and secure.

A crate can also make learning self-control and adjusting to a routine for house training easier. Dogs have a natural instinct to keep the area where they eat, rest and sleep clean and dry. If allowed to roam freely, even when confined to a single small room, puppies or untrained dogs will find a place to use as a potty, far enough away from their favorite resting spot. A dog who is confined to a crate but taken outside at regular intervals will make an effort to wait until it can relieve itself outside.

Introducing Your Dog To A Crate....
A dog's crate should be a comfortable and secure place. The first association with a crate should be a pleasant experience. Both puppies and adult dogs need to be gradually introduced to a crate. Most dogs eventually accept a crate and many dogs will really like their crate. For others, especially for some older dogs who have never been crated before, it will take some extra time and effort. Some will need to be supervised very carefully at first to prevent injury. An extra-sturdy, top of the line crate will be needed for a large, strong, active dog.

A new puppy should have a crate from day one it's new home. Place the crate in a quiet corner of the living room, family room or whatever location is the most frequently used area in your home. Keep it away from drafts and air conditioning or heat vents.

Plan on spending some time to get a dog used to the crate. Leave the door open for the first few days... tie it open so it can't suddenly close and scare the dog. Place some favorite toys, chews and treats inside the crate, about half-way in at first and gradually move them further back. Simply let the dog go in and out on it's own. After a dog gets used to going in and out of the crate, encourage him to lie down and relax. Use lots of praise when he does! After he seems comfortable and at ease with it, and while you're spending time in the room, try closing the door briefly. Sit near the crate and use food, treats or chews as encouragement if needed. Gradually increase the time... leaving him alone for 15 or 20 minutes at first, then for longer intervals, always followed by praise and rewards for good behavior.

Eventually, your dog will lay quietly and be content, whether the door is open or shut. Your dog will soon think of it's crate as it's own special place, not as a cage or as a prison.

What size crate?

Buy a crate that will fit a dog's size when fully grown. A dog should be able to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably inside the crate. A crate that is too spacious will allow a dog to relieve itself at a spot that's far enough away from it's bed. For a large breed puppy, buy a crate that will be large enough when it's grown, but while the pup is small, block part of it off with a divider panel.

Do's and don't's -

  • A crate should NEVER become a chamber for punishment or a place of isolation.
  • Take a dog outside to relieve itself as soon as you let it out of it's crate.
  • When using a crate for house-breaking, a puppy should never be left in a crate for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time.
  • Never leave even the most well-adjusted and trained adult dog in a crate for more than 6 to 8 hours.
  • Adjust schedules or make arrangements for someone to leave a dog out of the crate at appropriate intervals so it is never forced to soil it's crate.
  • A dog should be well exercised both before and after crating.
  • Never put a dog in it's crate right after eating. Feed after you return home, never just before you leave. If you occasionally must feed the dog before leaving, allow sufficient time and always take the dog outside to relieve itself before crating.
  • If there's an unavoidable accident, never leave a dog in a soiled crate. Clean and disinfect the tray and provide clean bedding.
  • Nothing should ever be around a dog's neck that could possibly catch in part of the crate or anything that could get pulled tight and cause strangulation or choking -
    ...No choke collars or loose fitting collars
    ...No scrunchies, ribbons, bows, or bandanas
    ...No leashes
    ...No toys that can be chewed apart or pulled apart
    ...No toys with squeakers or small parts that could be removed and become a choking hazard.
  • Nylabones and rubber kong type toys that are appropriate for the dog's size, age and chewing ability are okay.
  • Place a heavy, non-tip water dish in the crate.
  • Above all... A dog that must spend hours in a crate each day, should get lots of love and attention, sufficient outdoor exercise, and freedom indoors when you get home.

    In addition to housebreaking and preventing destructive behavior, there are other reasons why crate training is beneficial and sometimes essential. If you plan to travel by air with a dog, the dog will have to stay in a crate for hours. Travel will be far less stressful for the dog who is already used to a crate. If you travel by car with a dog, confining the dog to a crate while you're driving is safer, and even the most pet-friendly hotels and motels, will not allow uncrated pets left unattended in a room.

    Though house-training is certainly possible without a crate, crate training can make the job easier, especially when you can't be there to constantly watch an untrained puppy.

    Some dogs remain perfectly calm and content while home alone for hours and never need to be confined. For those that are crate trained... Some can eventually be trusted to stay peacefully home alone, uncrated, as they outgrow the need to chew and many hyper active puppies turn into calm, laid back dogs as they get older.

    But... for dogs with separation anxiety... dogs who quickly become anxious, upset, and destructive when left alone, crates can make life so much easier!

    There's an great variety of crates and accessories available online. Here's some of them.....


    Midwest Life Stages
    Training and Travel Crates

    Life Stages crates include a divider panel, so you can adjust the length of the crate as your dog grows.


    MIDWEST Championship
    Fold and Carry Crates

    These durable crates are easy to transport, store or carry.


    Life Stages Ultima
    Triple Door Folding Dog Crate

    This crate has front, side, and rear doors. Folds flat for transport or storage & includes a divider panel.


    Designer Color
    Wire Homes by Kennel Aire

    If your dog's crate will become a part of the family room furniture, make it a colorful addition.

    Crate Training the Right Way
    Learn how to properly crate train your puppy or dog on video. DVD or VHS.
    3-Piece Crate Bedding Set
    The stylish and comfortable way to accessorize your dog's wire crate has arrived! Set includes mattress, padded bumper and crate cover.


    Bumper Crate Pads from Fleximat
    This comfy, plush crate pad has a bumper so your dog won't have to lay against the wire.


    Midwest Big Breed
    Dog Crate

    Designed with special features for the comfort and safety of your extra-large dog.

    Wicker Crate by MidWest
    Attractive as well as functional, this "wicker" crate will complement to your decor. It's made of a tough resin material that won't absorb odors or urine, woven through a solid wire framework for super durability. Each crate includes a rugged ABS plastic pan which easily removes for cleaning. Both wicker and pan clean with soap and water. Simple, no-tools assembly. This crate is not intended for puppies in the chewing stage or chronic chewers.

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    This content was written by Sandy Moyer. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Bettina Thomas-Smith for details.