Crate Training- You'll be Happy you did
During the past several months many people have become new pet owners. For those of you who are new to pet ownership, you have probably wondered about whether or not to use a crate to train your new family member.
There are lots of people who grew up with dogs, but may have never had a dog of their own. Now that they’ve grown up and are on their own, bringing a puppy into the home can prove quite challenging and even overwhelming when you’re not prepared for the trials and tribulations that puppies bring.
Using a crate to train your puppy is beneficial for both yourself and your new pet. Although some people think crates are used for punishment, this is certainly not the case; when used properly, a crate is a great training tool (even for potty training).
Dogs don’t like to rest in a wet or soiled area and when you use a crate (which should come with a moveable divider) you should keep the area your pup is in properly sized and just large enough for them to lie down comfortably. Not being able to use the whole area of the crate will help to teach your pup to control their bladder and bowel since they will not want to rest in a soiled area. This of course doesn’t mean that your puppy should be confined to the crate for long periods. You still need to get your puppy out at regular intervals to relieve themselves and for young pups this means at least every two hours or so. Puppies have limited bladder control so try not to confine your young pup for too long.
Puppies have a natural instinct to be in a “den” where they can feel secure and rest. This is what a crate provides for your dog. Once your pup is used to being in a crate, they will go there on their own when they feels stressed or tired and want a time out. If you have children in your household, you should also teach them that when the puppy is in the crate they should not be disturbed.
When first introducing your pup to a crate, try to make the crate comfortable and inviting. You may want to put a small bed, towel or blanket in the crate for them to snuggle in. Start by putting a few treats in the crate to encourage your pet to go in. Never try to force them as this will only create a negative experience. When your pet goes in the crate for the treats, leave the door open and after a few minutes call them back out and be sure to give them lots of praise. You should try this several times a day until the dog feels comfortable going in and out of the crate. Once your pet seems to be comfortable, try closing the door for a few minutes then open it up and call your pet back out and repeat this a few times each day. After your pup seems more comfortable in the crate, you should try putting a Kong or other non-destructive toy in the crate with them, close the door and leave them alone for a while. At first your pup may start to whine or bark when they know you aren’t close by, but ignore this and go on with your business around the house for at least an hour. You’ll find that in doing so, your pup will soon realize that they’re safe and comfortable. After a week or so your pup should be happy to relax in the crate for several hours a day and overnight.
When you’ve chosen the best room to place your pup’s crate, be sure that it is not near any electrical cords or outlets that your pup may try to get at and make sure that it’s not directly on top of or under a floor or ceiling vent where hot or cold air will pass through. You should also have a cover over the crate to keep it dark and free of drafts.
If you have to leave your pup for an extended period of time (to go to work or for other commitments), make sure that you have a friend, relative, or dog walker to come in and relieve your pup while you are gone. Remember, puppies can only control their bladder for a limited amount of time when they are young. If you find that you will be going out of the house to work on a regular basis, be sure that your pet gets plenty of exercise before you leave and again when you return. You’ll find that if you have a pup that has been crate trained it will be easier for you to take them on vacation or to a friend’s home knowing that they will be safe. Using a crate will ensure that they’ll not be able to make any type of mess or destroy furniture or other items they find lying around your home. Another strong point is that if you have to leave home for any period of time and do not have a pet sitter or someone to leave your pup with, it will be much easier to take your pup to your vet or a kennel for boarding. If your pet is used to a crate, they will not feel as intimidated or frightened.
You should also think of times when you may have to cook for a group gathering or have a number of friends or relatives in your home making it hard to supervise your pet. If your pet is crate trained, they can be left safely in their room and you will all be able to enjoy your time together without worrying about your pup running around and getting into things they shouldn’t, or accidently getting out an open door. If you travel with your pet you will find it very convenient and safe to have your puppy in a crate which should be securely anchored in the back of your vehicle. If you do not wish to have your pet in a crate in the car, especially for short trips, be sure that you use a harness and seat belt to secure them in your vehicle.
And in the event of an emergency where you have to evacuate your home quickly, as in the case of a fire, it will be so much easier and safer if your pup is confined to a crate, especially if it is necessary to leave them with a rescuer. If you misuse a crate it can have a very negative effect on your pup, so it’s important not to use the crate as a punishment. Be sure that your pet feels the crate is their own special haven and even after your pet grows up, you will probably find them resting there on their own with the door open. Also don’t use the crate as a crutch because you don’t want to take the time to teach your pup proper house rules. Be sure that you train your puppy to behave in your home while not crated and spend enough time with them outdoors for exercise to keep them happy and healthy for many years to come.