Crate training is one of the most important practices that dog lovers should learn.
Gone are the days when dogs stayed in kennels outside the house keeping watch as security guards. Dogs are more and more considered part of the family, and owners want to keep their furry friends as close as possible.
Just like children, dogs are very curious in a new environment. If you’re worried about Fido roaming around and knocking over your favorite vase when you go to work or head off to bed, it might be time to start crate training.
Dog crates come in all shapes, sizes and material. Buying the right one will give you better odds of success when training your dog. In terms of size, the crate should be large enough to allow your dog to turn around with ease, but not too large or your puppy may end up feeling anxious with so much space to roam.
If you have a puppy and want the crate to serve them even when they grow into adults, then get a bigger crate and partition it to fit your pup’s current size. The crate can then be expanded with time to accommodate the growing puppy.
Alternatively, you can purchase one of those wire crates that come with interior barriers which can be easily removed or adjusted to the right size.
When it comes to the best type of crate, there are a few things to consider—such as cost, since crates can go for anywhere from $20 to $200 depending on the material. Ensure that your crate does not include gaps in between the bars where the puppy can squeeze through or get stuck, even just its paws. Crates should also be durable enough to prevent your pup from chewing through the gate and staging its own escape from Alcatraz.
Ideally, the crate should be placed in the room where you spend most of your time, allowing you to watch over the dog. While some people would prefer to keep them in another room to avoid their cries, dealing with those early days (or weeks) of whimpers and howls will pay dividends in the long run when it comes to your dog’s well-being.
Create a good impression about the crate from the start. Never use it as a time-out or punishment cage. Let the puppy view his or her crate as a happy place—its house, den, or just somewhere to take a rest.
First, let your pup get some kind of exercise until it feels good and tired. Allow your puppy to have food and water between 30 minutes and one hour before entering the crate. Before entering, spend some quality time bonding with your dog, and let the pup go outside to use the bathroom. This isn’t play time, so let your dog do its business and head right back inside.
Some dogs will instinctively run into the crate and lie down, but some will need some persuasion and a few treats before going in. You CANNOT force your puppy to go into the crate.
However, depending on the puppy’s age, your training methods will differ. For young puppies 3 months old and below, you can just pick them up and gently place them in the crate. Once they are in, you can spoil them with sweet words or a pat on the head.
Older puppies between 4-6 months of age need a lot more than just placing and praising them in the crate, so throw them a bone (or just a treat) to coerce them into entering the crate. Sometimes you might need to place a trail of treats leading into the crate, or even their bowl of food. Some puppies will not budge, and you might have to bust out your private reserve of treats like hot dog chunks.
One step at a time—just remember to shower the puppy with praise each and every time they enter the crate. This might have to be repeated for a few more days, or even weeks. Ensure that you do not spoil the puppy too much that it will have to depend on the treats in order to get into the crate. The whole point for training is to get the puppy used to crating on its own, or when it is told to.
Once the puppy willingly goes into the crate on its own, you can now close the door. Give the puppy lots of praise, and walk away slowly once your dog has calmed down. Observe keenly from a distance. They should spend at least 10-15 minutes in the crate, about three times per day. Let them out to use the bathroom and play. They can feed in the crate and also sleep there at night.
Do not let barking and whining fool you—as long as they went to the bathroom, are well-fed and not in any danger, then let them be. If you open the crate and let them out at the slightest of noise, then they’ll make it a habit and the training will be futile.
This is the hardest part of the training, and it goes against our instincts—you wouldn’t ignore a crying baby, but you must learn to deal with the pleading of your pup to escape its confines.
The puppy should take all of its naps in the crate and sleep in it at night. However, puppies should not be in the crate for more than 8 hours at night time, or for more hours than they are months old. For instance, a 3 month old puppy should not be in the crate for more than three hours without a potty break. The rest of the time should be used for playing, cuddling, grooming and loving by its new owners.
The crate is your dog’s safe place, but it also keeps your home and belongings safe, too. Once fully trained, crates will save you the stress and hassle of yelling at your puppy for destroying your favorite shoes or getting locked in the bathroom for the thousandth time.
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