Benefits of Crate Training
Some dog owners believe they are instruments of cruelty; others believe they are magic problem solvers. They are neither.
Crating a dog may save its life in the case of a car accident, protecting it from injury or escaping onto the highway.
A crated dog is easier for firemen to locate during a house fire and quickly evacuate them to safety. If your dog is relaxed in a crate, he will be less stressed during an overnight stay at the veterinarianâ€™s office.
Crating a dog or puppy can be tremendously helpful teaching housetraining or preventing inappropriate chewing. A crate can also be your dogâ€™s safe haven, which can keep him away from children who pester him when he is tired. However, the crate is used inappropr iately if the dog or puppy is crated for too long, isolated from the family, or put in the wrong size crate.
When housetraining a puppy, crating him when you cannot watch him prevents housetraining accidents. With puppies and adolescent dogs who chew inappropriately if you canâ€™t watch them, crating prevents them from chewing your furniture or personal items. Think of it this way, you wouldnâ€™t leave a two-year old child loose in the house!
If puppies are introduced to crates early and in a positive way, then they will be happy and feel safe and comfortable in their crates. Responsible breeders will crate train puppies before they leave for their new homes. Puppies should only be left in their crates for one hour per month of life, plus one hour. For example, if you have a four-month old puppy, he should not be crated for more than five hours at a time. A puppy can stay in his crate overnight, but if he begins to whine or bark during the night, he should be taken outside in case he needs to potty.
Older dogs may take longer to crate train. If the older dog has had previous bad experiences in a crate, the process can take a while but should always be accomplished in small, positive steps. If a dog suffers from separation anxiety, it is generally not appropriate to crate as he may panic and hurt himself. Consult a reward-based trainer or veterinary behaviorist for assistance with this difficult behavior problem.
Provide your dog or puppy something to entertain him in the crate and help form that positive association with the crate. Food-stuffed toys, such as a Kongâ„¢ or bully stick, are good choices. You can increase the positive association with the crate by only providing these special treats when your dog is crated. You can also feed your dog in his crate. Not only is this another way to make the association positive, it is a good way to help manage the chaos of multi-dog households.
Crate training a dog does not mean you force him into the crate and shut the door. It should be a gradual process. When training your dog or puppy to love his crate, leave the crate door open and allow him to come and go. Toss treats in the crate. Let him run in to get the treats, but donâ€™t close the door. When he is happy, close the door as he eats the treats, then open it when he is finished. Gradually increase the length of time you keep the door shut.
Occasionally toss treats in the open crate for your dog to find. You can even put treats in the crate and shut the door. Your dog will see the treats and want to go in the crate to get them. Let his desire to get in the crate grow for a few minutes, then open the door and let him run in to eat the treats, but donâ€™t shut the door at first. Crate your dog near you as you watch television or cook dinner, occasionally dropping special treats into the crate.
When your puppy is house-trained and no longer chews up bedding, you can make his crate more comfortable and inviting by adding soft bedding and toys. However, when you are housetraining a puppy, it is best not to keep bedding in the crate or your puppy may urinate on the bedding and move away from the bedding to a dry spot. For housetraining purposes, a crate should only be big enough for the puppy to stand up and turn around. Otherwise, he will be tempted to mess in his crate. Many wire crates come with dividers to adapt the space. You can buy the size crate he will need as an adult and use the divider to enlarge the space in the crate as your puppy grows.
If your puppy or dog is barking in the crate, do not let him out until he has been quiet for at least 30 seconds. If you let him out when he is barking, you have rewarded the behavior and he will continue to bark. Do not leave his collar and tags on when he is in his crate. The tag can get caught on the crate and choke him.