Crate Training – A “Life Saver” for Canines
Before you think of giving up your “problem”pet, PLEASE consider crate training. We strongly suggest this method whenever we are confronted with a pet owner who is thinking of giving up their pet due to behavior problems such as chewing, eliminating in the house, destructive behavior when the owner is away, a puppy who isn’t housetrained, etc.
Many people feel that crates are “cruel”, that it’s like putting the dog in “jail” or is even harmful in some way to the dog. As humans, this is an understandable reaction. But that is a strictly “human” perspective, not a dog’s perspective.
As a human, you may see the crate as a “cage” so you object to the idea. But the DOG looks at the crate as his house; like his den in nature. To him, this place is like a security blanket where he can escape confusion, rest and sleep. Dogs have a den instinct and the crate helps to satisfy this instinct. Think about it… has your dog ever crawled under the bed or cozied up on some pillows or blankets that surrounded him? If so, he was showing the den instinct. What we see as “closed in” a dog sees as “security”. As humans, we object to being controlled. But a dog only wants to please his owner and do as they wish him to do. We see a “cage”… the dog sees “home”.
Used correctly and humanely, a crate will provide peace of mind for both you and your pet. House breaking and training a puppy can be a much simpler task using a crate. For an older dog, more patience may be called for, but a crate may be just the answer you need to solve the behavior problems that are damaging the bond you have with your pet.
Nothing is 100% effective for all dogs, but crate training is something that you should give careful consideration to and attempt if at all possible. Still think it’s cruel? Consider this. Nationwide 70% of all animals turned in to shelters due to behavior problems are euthanized. But they are first traumatized by being abandoned by their owners in a place that is filled with strangers and other strange animals. And in many shelters, they spend almost ALL their time in a cage…
Please, give crate training a try. Chances are that you will solve the behavior problems and you and your pet can have a wonderful life together.
How to Crate Train
Buy a crate that allows your dog when fully grown to stand upright and turn around. If you are training a puppy, you can divide the crate so that he doesn’t have too much room in it. Crates are available in most pet supply big box stores, retailets like WalMart, and many local pet supply shops.
The idea is that the crate is like a “den” or home to your dog. Dogs naturally want to keep their dens clean. They don’t like to poop or pee in their den, therefore, they will not want to do it in the crate.
However, if the crate is too large, the dog (especially puppies) will be able to do their business in one corner or end and escape from it to the other end. That is why the proper size is important. If you are training a puppy in a crate designed for him/her when fully grown, divide the crate using cardboard so that the puppy is confined to a smaller area.
Start by introducing the crate slowly. Put a tidbit of food into the crate and put the dog/puppy in. Praise them lavishly when they go in the crate. Do not praise when they come out. This is to reinforce the fact that being in the crate is “good” behavior and desired by the alpha dog (you).
After a few minutes remove the animal and both of you leave the area. Repeat this again, but this time, close the door and leave the room for a few minutes. The animals may cry, but do not run to comfort him/her. Remember to praise when the animal enters the crate.
After about 5 minutes, and ONLY when things are quiet should you come back in and without commenting or praising, open the door and let the dog come out. By doing this, you again reinforce the “good” behavior of being in the “den” (crate). Gradually work up the time the animal is in the crate. Remember praise on the way in, do not praise on the way out.
When using a crate for housetraining reasons, remember that the animal’s natural instinct is to not soil in their confined area or their “den”. Work up the time the animal is in the crate just as explained above. The puppy will learn to “hold” his bathroom needs because he will not want to soil in the crate. Puppies should always be taken out upon waking, after playing, after meals and on a periodic basis throughout the day (and throughout the evenings until they can hold it).
After successful crate training, many dogs naturally seek out their crate for solitude during times of stress, just to “take a break” away from the family and more. If your dog is “skittish” with people or other animals around their food, make the crate his feeding place. The dog will feel secure and be less likely to snap at others around his/her food.
Never leave you dog in the crate for more than 4 – 5 hours at a time if at all possible. If you work all day, immediately upon returning home allow your dog out of the crate and give him some much needed attention and exercise.
Never use the crate as punishment. If the dog soils, chews or exhibits any other bad behavior, do not shove him in the crate as punishment. The dog will then see the crate as something to be avoided, not something positive and your efforts at crate training will be ruined.