CRATE-TRAINING YOUR DOG
by Georgia Alyce O’Boyle
THE DOG CRATE: One day, while counseling a dog owner on various behavior problems that she was experiencing with her dog, I suggested, as I often do, that she use a dog crate as a part of the training process. The reaction that I received was, “Oh no! I could never CAGE my FiFi!”. This reaction didn’t surprise me. It’s rather common because people have a natural tendency to look at crate-training from a human viewpoint. But once FiFi’s owner understood how a DOG views a crate, she agreed to try it. Later, after crate-training FiFi, she assured me that FiFi LOVED her crate, and that she wished, for both of their sakes, that she had tried it sooner.
WHY CRATE TRAIN? Unfortunately, if you went into any Animal Shelter, you would find many dogs that were disposed-of because they house-soil, chew, or dig. Many dogs could be spared excessive and ineffective punishment, and ultimately, that trip to the shelter, if their owners had understood the various methods of dog training, including crate-training.
HOW DOES THE DOG VIEW THE CRATE? Researchers have found that wolves are pack animals that dwell in dens. Dogs, as relatives of wolves, share these characteristics. Have you ever noticed that your dog likes to crawl into enclosed areas, like under the coffee table? Crate-training helps to satisfy that “den instinct”. If introduced and used properly, most dogs will come to view the crate as their own special place – their “den”.
COMFORT & SECURITY: Because the dog can be left inside, in his crate (for reasonable periods of time) while you are away from home, he is protected from hot, cold, or stormy weather. He is also safe from getting out of your yard and becoming lost, from being hit by a car, or from being stolen from the yard.
HOUSE-TRAINING: A crate is a valuable asset when house-training. It allows the dog to be confined safely when the owner is unable to watch him closely. Most dogs are instinctively clean in their “den”.
PREVENTING BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS: Rex’s owners couldn’t understand why Rex would dig ditches in their yard while they were at work during the day. Rex couldn’t understand why, every morning, his “parents” would isolate him in the backyard. He was hot. He was bored. He was lonely, and frustrated at being locked outside. So he would dig a nice big hole, just to have something to do. Then he’d also have someplace cool to nap. The solution for Rex, and his folks, was a dog crate. Rex liked his nice cool den, inside his house. His mom would give him a couple of chew toys before she left each morning. His dad would come home at lunchtime to let him outside to relieve himself. Then, when mom and dad came home at night he got lots of attention and love. They didn’t come home and yell at him like they did when he was outside digging ditches. Everyone was happy with the new dog crate.
CAR TRAVEL: Gretchen was a dog that would jump from front seat, to back seat, to front seat again, barking wildly, anytime she was taken for a drive in the car. It became impossible for her owner to take her to the Veterinarian, the Groomer, or anywhere else, without risking an accident. A dog crate was the answer. A crate can also be viewed as a “canine car seat”. If you ever have an accident, a crate could mean the difference between life and death for your dog. It might keep him from getting slammed into the windshield, or from getting lost during rescue attempts.
OTHER REASONS FOR CRATE-TRAINING: If your dog is crate-trained, he may accompany you on trips. Many airlines and hotels will accept crated pets. Your dog can be left secure in your motel room while you sightsee, yet he will still be able to spend vacation time with you. For many people, this is an excellent alternative to leaving their dog at a boarding facility. If you do need to board your pet, he will be far less stressed at being confined at the kennel if he is crate-trained. And the same thing applies if your dog ever has an injury and your Vet recommends “crate rest”. So even when your dog no longer needs to be crated regularly, it’s a good idea – for his physical and mental well-being – to keep him acclimated to the use of a crate throughout his lifetime.
WHAT TYPE OF CRATE? Basically, there are two types of commercial dog crates suitable for crate-training. One type is constructed of wire mesh. The other is a molded plastic crate. Both are sturdy and very practical. The choice is yours.
WHAT SIZE CRATE? The crate should be tall enough to allow your dog to stand up. It should also be wide enough for him to turn around, and long enough for him to lie down without being cramped. When using the crate for house-training, it’s important that it not be too large.
LOCATION OF CRATE: Place your crate in a quiet corner of the most frequently used room of the house. It should be an area free from drafts, or excessive heat. If you like, the crate can be moved into the owner’s bedroom at night.
CRATE FURNISHINGS: The crate may contain a blanket or rug with the owner’s scent on it. The dog should be given one favorite chew toy, and one other special toy that he only gets when he is in his crate.
HOW TO CRATE-TRAIN: First, allow the dog to relieve himself. Then you can remove his collar, so that he cannot become caught on the crate. Next, get his attention with his special chew toy – something that he gets only in his crate. Then give a verbal command like “FIDO, CRATE!” in an enthusiastic, yet firm, tone of voice. Use the toy (or a food treat) to encourage your dog to enter his crate. Then give him verbal praise and his special toy (or treat). After practicing going in and out several times, you may begin to leave your dog in his crate for short periods of time. If he remains quiet, praise him. If he begins barking or whining, ignore him. Then praise him when he quiets down. If he continues his noise making, cover the crate with a sheet. Remember that he is not protesting because he dislikes his crate. He would just rather be with you. And that won’t always be possible, will it? Never let him out while he is whining or barking. As he comes to accept his crate, you may gradually increase the length of time that he spends in it. When you do let the dog out of his crate, always allow him to relieve himself.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Crate-Training does NOT mean isolating your dog for hours on end because he is a nuisance. It should never be used as an alternative to obedience and behavior training, or for punishing your dog. A crate should be used in moderation, as a part of a well-planned and consistently applied training program.
Copyright © 1986 & 2012 ~ Georgia Alyce O’Boyle, HAVENLEA DOG TRAINING CENTRE