Crate Training Your Dog or Puppy. We are big fans of crate training and recommend it to every dog parent we get hired by, especially those who need to house-train a puppy or adult dog. Whether your canine companion is a puppy or a senior, a new member of your family or an old hand, providing him with his very own cozy space has a number of advantages for both of you.
A crate can help not only with house-training, but also car or plane travel, and overnight stays with friends, family or at a pet-friendly hotel. YOUR BLUE WORKBOOK Pages 29, 30, and 31. has our protocol along with page (37) for adult dogs who need to be housebroken IT IS THE ONLY WAY to KNOW for sure your dog is housebroken
Why We Recommend Crate Training for Dogs
Many people equate a crate with a jail cell, but if you understand a little about the nature of dogs, you know this isn’t true. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to talk to some dog-loving friends who’ve crate trained their pups.
Chances are they’ll tell you their dog seeks out her crate on her own for naps, at bedtime and whenever she just wants a little me time. A crate allows you to work with your pet’s natural desire to be a den dweller.
Dogs in the wild seek out small, dark, safe spots to inhabit. In fact, if you bring a new dog into your home and you don’t have a crate ready for her, chances are she’ll find a spot, such as under a table or chair or even behind the toilet in the bathroom, which answers her need for a secure, out-of-the-way “den” of her own. If you leave her in her makeshift den, you’ll notice that she won’t relieve herself there.
That’s because dogs are programmed by nature not to soil their dens. In the wild, nursing wolves and coyotes teach their pups to relieve themselves outside their dens. This keeps predators from investigating inside their little homes, and keeps messes outside the sleeping area, And that is exactly why crates are so useful for dogs who haven’t yet been house-trained.
A dog with her own den will not want to soil it, so by providing a crate for her, you’re working in harmony with her natural instinct to keep her little space clean. As long as your dog is getting consistent and frequent trips outside to relieve herself, nature will prompt her not to soil her den space in between potty trips.
Another benefit of crate training is that a dog accustomed to spending time alone in her own den even when you are home is much less likely to develop separation anxiety or other phobias/panic disorders.
Putting a puppy in her crate for a nap or some quiet time also helps her learn not to expect constant attention from human family members. This strategy coupled with basic obedience training will set the stage for a secure, balanced adult dog who is pleasant to be around.
Crates can be your other best friend, but you need to teach a pup to be comfortable in one. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!
If you are using a crate, put it in a room that you use often. You want your pup to feel like he is an area that feels and smells like “home.” Don’t exile your pup to some lonely spot in the house.
If you need your dog to be in a rarely used room, you can make it comfy by spending time in the room with him You want the room to feel comfy and cozy, not like an unfamiliar warehouse.
Settle into the designated area with your pup and a paperback, and hang out for an hour or so, several times a week. Whatever room you use, put the crate off to one side, or in a corner, so it is out of the way of traffic.
Don’t put it smack in the middle of a traffic zone in which your dog will constantly be stimulated and disturbed. In addition, don’t put it by a window to “entertain” your pup. You’ll just end up over stimulating and frustrating him.
We advise keeping the crate in the bedroom at night, so your puppy is sleeping with you, but is unable to potty on the carpet while you snore into your pillow.
TEACHING YOUR PUP TO ENJOY THE CRATE
It is a good idea to condition your pup to like being in his crate, even if you’ve already started using it. You can’t lose by taking it slowly and teaching your dog to feel good when he enters and stays in his crate (even if it seems like you are going backward in your training!).
Begin with your pup near the crate, off leash, with the crate door open. Show him that you have a really wonderful treat by moving it to within an inch of his nose. Next, move the treat slowly toward the crate door, “luring” him toward the crate with the food.
Once your pup is close to the door of the crate, toss the treat just inside the crate. Hopefully he will reach his head into the crate opening to get the treat. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t go all the way in at first, you can build up to that by throwing the treat farther into his crate each time you practice this.
(If the food you’re using doesn’t tempt him, try something better, like real meat. Be sure not to force any part of this. You want him to enter voluntarily and be glad that he did. Let him come out of the crate right away, don’t try to close the door yet.
Toss treats in again, four or five times in a row, gradually throwing them so that he has to go all the way into the crate. Each time let him/her turn around and come out. Your job right now is to teach him that entering the crate is really fun!
Once he goes inside willingly, put it on cue by saying “crate up” “kennel up” or “go to bed” a second before he enters the kennel to get the treat. If he is too afraid to go in at all, set the treat on the floor just outside the kennel door and let him take his time.
Get him comfortable eating it outside, but near the crate, before trying to put the food just inside the door. Make sure he’s comfortable at each stage before moving the food farther and farther into the crate.
Repeat this game 4-6 times each session. Keep it fun, don’t force or drag him into the crate, which could easily make him more afraid of it. Your job right now is to teach him that entering the crate is really fun!
Repeat this game several times until he dashes into the crate enthusiastically. That could take one session or several, depending on your dog. Once he enters cheerfully, shut the door for just a second while he’s inside eating his treats.
Repeat these four to five times, changing the game a little to get him used to the door swinging shut. Open the door immediately at first, and then work up to keeping it shut for several seconds.
As you increase the time in the crate, toss in a handful of treats or put a hollow toy like a Kong (stuffed with food) in the crate with him. Feeding him his meals in the kennel also helps him learn to be comfortable when confined.
You can also lure him into the crate when he’s sleepy. Young puppies especially have “off/on” switches, and once they are tired, they sleep as if drugged. You’ll be able to predict when your pup is getting tired and take advantage of his natural cycles to crate him up before he nods off.
LET ME OUT!
At some point your dog is bound to try barking or whining to get out of the crate. This is natural, it’s his way of trying to let you know that he wants out or desires your company. It is important however that you do not inadvertently reinforce the barking or whining by letting him out (or telling him “it’s okay”) while he’s making a fuss.
Instead, ignore him until he quiets down on his own. If they’re not reinforced for making a fuss, most pups will learn to settle down and be quiet when left in their crate or sleeping room.
If he starts barking relentlessly, and you’re beginning to pull your hair out by the roots, do whatever you need to do to cope (ear plugs? wine?) but don’t shout at him to “BE QUIET!” If you do, you are basically barking back, and as anyone with multiple dogs knows, barking is contagious!
Even if your dog understands that you are irritated, you’ve still given him attention, and that, after all, is what he wanted. If you need to get him out of the kennel when he’s crying or barking, distract him with a noise (click of the tongue, tap on the wall, anything that gets his attention) to get him quiet for a moment.
The instant that he is quiet you can let him out of the kennel. The one exception is if your pup is trying to tell you that he has to potty. If you think this might be the case, take him outside quietly, give him his “go potty or our favorite “hurry UP” cue, treat and praise 1 second after when he does and then put him right back in the crate.
PREVENT TROUBLE WHEN YOU CAN.
Try to put him in the crate when he’s tuckered out whenever you can. When you do, give him something safe to chew on and be sure he’s eliminated outside before he goes into his crate.
He will most likely sleep if all his needs are tended to before you put him in the crate, and don’t leave him there for hour after hour. Limit the time he’s left alone to just a few hours at a time, especially when he is very young. Arrange for someone to let your puppy out every four hours or so if you have to be gone all day.
Crates can be overused. Leaving a three-month old puppy in a crate for nine hours is setting him up for failure and frustration. But if used judiciously, crates can be one of your best allies in teaching your pup how to be calm and quiet in the house.
- Discourage your puppy from using you as a toy: teach bite inhibition by yelping when she bites you in play, and immediately redirect her to an appropriate toy. Have toys handy at all times, including carrying them in your pocket so that you can engage your pup in appropriate play anytime, anywhere.
- Now is the time to start conditioning your pup to come when called. Decide on one cue and use it consistently; call your puppy to come and run away from her, clapping and praising as she moves toward you. Give her a treat as soon as she catches up, without asking her to sit first.
- Begin to use your visual and acoustic sit cues separately. Use both together, as usual, three times in a row, and then ask your pup to sit to one or the other. Pay attention to your own behavior here, using this week to train yourself to notice exactly what you are doing when you are asking your dog to sit or lie down.
- Teach your pup to stand on cue by luring her into a stand from a sit.
- Once a response has become reliable (say asking your puppy to sit in a quiet room), begin varying the kinds of reinforcements you offer. Continue to make your pup glad she did what you asked, but mix it up with treats, play, belly rubs and flirt pole games or tug.
- Condition your dog to relax in a crate by going step-by-step.
- Throw treats inside the crate and let your pup enter to eat them, and immediately come back out again. Once she’ll enter readily, give her a hollow Kong toy stuffed with food and leave her in the crate for gradually increasing amounts of time. Don’t expect young puppies to control their bladders in a crate all day long—arrange for someone to let your pup out every 4 hours or so if you are gone during the day.
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Crate Training a Fearful Dog
If your dog is nervous about his new little space or is fearful of it due to a bad past experience, you’ll have to take things slower. A dog who has been crated as a form of punishment or has been locked in a crate for inappropriately long periods will need to be gently and patiently reintroduced to his crate.
Obviously, you want him to be in there comfortably with the door closed as soon as possible, especially if you’re in the process of potty training. But until he gets the “it’s all good” message about his crate, you’ll need to be extra vigilant about getting him outside to potty at frequent, regular intervals.
Make sure to leave the door to the crate open for a nervous dog. Put food rewards around the outside of the crate and inside as well so he can get comfortable going in and out of the crate without worrying about being “trapped” inside.
Move his food and water bowls closer to the crate as another way to associate good things with the crate.
Once you sense your dog is comfortable inside the crate at mealtime, try closing the door as soon as he starts to eat. Do it casually, without fanfare.
Praise him in a calm, soothing tone and then get busy with something. Chances are he’ll finish his meal and then realize the door is closed and he’s not free to leave the crate.
He may look at you with an expectant or confused expression as if to say, “What’s the deal with the closed door?” You don’t need to ignore him completely, but you should keep doing what you’re doing and stay very calm as though there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on.
Your dog may whine or cry a bit, but he should pretty quickly decide to lie down.
I recommend when you first start closing the crate door that you close it only for short periods of time. You’ll also want to leave a toy or high value treat inside the crate to keep him entertained.
After a few minutes, when your dog has relaxed inside the crate, that’s your signal the crate has gone from being a bad thing to a neutral thing for your dog. Open the door so he can once again come and go as he likes.
Once your dog is associating only good things with the crate and feels comfortable inside it, you can close the door for longer periods of time. Don’t try leaving your house for short periods until he’s completely comfortable in the locked crate while you’re home.
You can gradually extend the amount of time you leave him in the crate, providing he’s getting consistent, frequent trips outside to potty. If you need to leave your dog for longer than four hours,
I recommend you use a dog sitter or a doggy daycare facility rather than crating him for long stretches. You want him to view his crate as a safe place to rest and be calm, so when he’s in there and you’re home, resist the urge to energetically interact with him/her.
When you let your dog out of his crate, give him a sit command and plenty of calm praise when he follows the command. Make entry and exit from the crate a calm, neutral experience and unassociated with any of your dog’s behaviors.
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