Is Crate Training Right for Your Dog?
Have you just made that wonderful decision to bring a beautiful, cuddly puppy into your home, and now you are thinking “what could be the best way to train my puppy in the house?”. Well Crate Training has become a very popular method, but just like any form of training there are benefits and drawbacks to using this technique.
What is Crate Training? Well, essentially it is the process of training your puppy to accept a crate as a familiar and safe location, a place that they WANT to spend time in. Once they have accepted the crate you can use it to house train your dog, and prevent ‘little messes’ or chewed up furniture around the house.
How to Crate Train your dog?
If you don’t do it well then Crate Training will NOT help your dog!
Before the training even starts, make sure you get the right crate for your dog. You will require a crate that is big enough for your dog to move around and stretch out.
A good way to begin the Crate Training is to leave the door open for the first few days with toys inside, so your canine companion associates the crate with positive things. Usually quite swiftly they will go into the crate voluntarily to lie down.
Once they are used to the crate you can start to close the door, at first for short periods, then gradually prolong. After a short while you will be able to leave them alone, with the crate closed, and they should be calm and relaxed inside.
However a locked Crate should not be where your dog spends most of its time! A couple of hours at a go is considered a reasonable amount for a young pup, and a crate should only be locked when it is necessary, such as when your puppy is unsupervised.
Why Crate Train?
‘Potty Training Your Puppy’
A Crate can help prevent those ‘little surprises’ inside your home
Having problems getting your puppy to ‘eliminate’ outdoors? It isn’t uncommon with puppies, it takes time for them to learn the ‘wheres and whens’. Many would argue Crate Training is the best method to teach a puppy where and when to go.
Dogs simply do not like to soil where they rest or sleep. Place your pup in the crate for short periods of time, say an hour or two, then take them straight out of the house to do ‘their business’. This will encourage the puppy to learn to ‘hold it in’ for short periods, and to accept outside as the right place for relief.
‘Saving Your House from Destruction’
Relaxed in their crate, your puppy can’t run wild in the house
All puppies love to chew, some more than others. If your pup has active teeth, which insist on attacking your sofa, teaching your puppy to love their crate can save your home from destruction. If your puppy adapts well to the training you can leave them closed in their crate for the short time you are out of the house, and not worry about the pup ravaging your home.
‘A Safe DEN for your Dog’
Dogs by their very nature tend to be den dwelling animals, and a crate can act as a ‘den substitute’. I am sure you will have noticed in a thunderstorm how your dog will fly under something to hide away, it is their natural instinct. Remember if your Crate Training is successful your puppy will want to go in the crate because it is somewhere safe and pleasant.
It is also likely that at some stage you have to put your puppy in a crate, for example during travel of if you need to leave it at a kennels while you are away. If your dog is already Crate Trained it will prevent struggles or problems when it is necessary.
Crate Training can be done very wrong, and be overused!
Despite the various benefits of Crate Training your dog, there are several possible drawbacks that you should consider before going ahead.
Crate Training is only for dogs that need it! Once your dog is trustworthy and house trained they SHOULD NOT be locked in their crate, it should be left open for when your dog wants to use it. A crate should only be locked by this stage for safety reasons, such as when you have a guest in the house, or during travel.
‘A Dog Crate is not a Dog Prison’
If a puppy is locked in a crate throughout the day they can suffer from withdrawal, hyperactivity, depression and even illnesses such as muscle atrophy. Remember that dogs are social animals, they want to be out and interacting, they do not want to be locked away all day long.
All dogs are different, and some just won't want to go in a crate, if this happens with your canine, do not force them to use the crate.
Crate Training can be a very effective and positive process for your puppy, and it can be a one of the easiest ways to house train them. But a crate should be more than that! Once you pup is trained it can be a place they enjoy relaxing and sleeping in. As long as you do the Crate Training right, and don’t make the mistake of overusing it or using it for punishment, you will have a dog that is happily house trained and loves its crate.
An Alternative - Paper Training
Paper training, or pad training, basically involves designating a certain area in your house by marking it with waster paper or a puppy pad. That area will be used by your puppy for potty training.
When you notice that your puppy is going to poop (yes you have to keep a close watch, or else it's a no go) you must pick her up place her on the sheets so that she does her business on the paper.
After you clean up, cover the area again with fresh paper, and keep a slightly soiled piece in the area so that she will associate the smell of that area with her potty routine.
Soon she will go there of her own accord when she needs to poop.
As your puppy learns each time that she is to go to the designated area, keep reducing the area of the paper so that it reaches a consistent size.
Reinforce the fact that potty is only to be done in the marked area by immediately cleaning up accidental drops in the wrong place with diluted vinegar. This will remove the smell and will prevent the dog from associating that area with her potty again.
Final Tips for Crate Training...
- Don't rush. Dogs have different learning abilities, and some take longer to pick up new skills than others. Relax as you go through the crate training process, and you will both enjoy it more. Most dogs eventually become crate trained given time.
- Use heaps of treats when your dog is learning to use his crate. They will look forward to their training sessions and enjoy the process, because they have the opportunity to get a scrumptious reward.
- Make the crate an enjoyable space to be. Make sure your dog has a padded bed to lie on (unless they like to chew these things) and put their preferred playthings in there. Stuffed Kongs and similar chew toys will keep them busy if they have to pass a few hours on their own.
- Position the dog crate in the activity hub of your house, so your dog senses that they are part of your family's activities, even when they are confined to the crate.
- Don’t place your crate near the heater or fireplace, or in the path of a cold draught. Your dog will be at ease in their crate if they aren't too warm or too cool.
- Don't leave your four legged best friend unsupervised in the crate while he has a bone. There is the chance of the bone becoming stuck in their molars, or worse still, in his pharynx or esophagus. If you wish to feed them a bone, make a point of remaining near the crate to keep a close watch on them
- Watch out for strangling hazards. If you have drapes, keep the crate away from the cords, so they don't hang inside where your dog could reach them. Think about removing the collar while they are confined to the crate.
- Give your dog their dinner in their crate, so they connect being inside with enjoyable experiences, and is glad to go into it. Regularly check for any food that has been spilled as it could go bad and give off a bad odour. Not only that, but if your dog eats any spoiled food, it could make them sick.
- Lastly, never put your dog into his crate by force, or shout and yell at them while they are in the crate. Don't put them in his crate to punish them. If your dog becomes apprehensive about the crate, you might have to go back to the beginning and re-train them to enjoy their crate. Also, they may end up scared of you, and that's not healthy for your relationship.