|What is Crate Training?|
|The most talked about
new method of training dogs is crate training. More and more dog owners
and their pets are learning the benefits of starting puppies on crate
training as soon as they arrive in their new home. Crate training is the use
of a plastic airline crate or a wire cage to confine a puppy when the family
is not home or is unable to supervise the puppy's activities. The crate in
effect, becomes the puppy's bed. Other terms used interchangeably with crate
training are den and kennel.
You may feel that it is cruel to confine a dog to a crate. It would be cruel to just close him in the crate and leave. But if you introduce him to the crate properly, you will find that your puppy will quickly come to prefer it for sleeping and quiet time. Too many dogs are surrendered to animal shelters because of the damage done while they are unattended. Since over 85% of these puppies are euthanized, it is kind, NOT cruel, to crate train a puppy to prevent behavioural and housebreaking problems.
|Why Crate Train?|
|Dogs in the wild live
in dens. The den provides wild dogs protection from predators as well as the
elements, and it allows for a feeling of security. That's why you often find
dogs curling up under a table, chair, or bed. By giving dogs a secure place
that is all their own, pet owners can take advantage of a dogs' natural
instincts to help the dog feel safe, thus reducing isolation-induced stress.
Crate training, if done properly, is a wonderful training tool with many benefits. Apart from the obvious uses for transporting dogs, a crate can be used for short-term confinement -- to keep your puppy out of mischief so he does not develop bad habits when you cannot give him your undivided attention.
A crate can also be used to develop good habits --to housetrain your puppy, to establish a chew-toy habit, and to reduce inappropriate barking and digging. Also, if your dog ever injures himself or becomes ill, the crate will be invaluable during recovery. If you move, your dog's adjustment to a new home will be quicker and less stressful if he is crate trained. If you stay in motels or visit relatives, your dog will be "damage-proof" if he travels with his crate. If you travel by car, placing the dog in the crate will keep him out from under your feet, away from the driver, and more safe in case of an accident.
|Who Should Crate Train?|
|Owners of new puppies
and any adult dogs with destruction and/or housebreaking problems should
crate train. The only time crate training would not be advisable is in a
situation where a puppy will be left alone for an extended period of time
and a family member cannot come home to let the puppy out during the day.
It is a dog's natural instinct to keep his crate/home clean, so he will "hold it" as long as he can before eliminating in the crate. The maximum time an 8 week old puppy should be in his crate without a break is 4 hours. Puppies younger than 8 weeks have to "go" about every 2-3 hours so they should be given a crate-break at those intervals. Except for overnight sleeping, crate confinement approaching 8 hours is strongly discouraged. As the puppy gets older (4-6 months) you can gradually leave him in his crate for longer periods of time, but you should never exceed 8 hours for any dog.
If a family member is unable to come home midday to let the puppy out, there are a couple of alternatives. The most desirable would be for a pet-sitter, relative, or neighbour to come by the house and let the puppy out while he is young. If this is not an option, leave the puppy in a confined area with his crate with the crate door open. This way he can sleep in the crate and come out of his crate to use the bathroom. A collapsible wire barrier called an "exercise pen" (or X-pen) can be used to create a damage proof, safe inside area or a small bathroom can be used. However, using this type of set-up will lengthen the housebreaking process because the puppy will be learning to eliminate in the house. Also, some puppies can quickly learn to climb out of the X-pen.
|When Should You Crate Train?|
|Owners of all age
puppies and dogs can start crate training at any time. It is best to start
puppies immediately, so they do not have the opportunity to develop bad
habits. Most adult dogs can be taught to like using their crates if they are
introduced to it properly. In most cases, it will take an adult dog longer
to adjust to a crate than it will a puppy.
The key is to let the dog get comfortable going in and out of the crate on his own. Never force the dog into the crate. To get your canine interested in the crate, you can put his food dish inside so he has to go in to eat. Also, you can make going in the crate a game by throwing treats or his favourite toy inside for the dog to retrieve.
|What Size/Type Crate?|
Size: The ideal situation
for housebreaking is to use a size crate that is 2 times the puppy's body
length and big enough for the puppy to stand-up, turn around, and lie down
However, for most people, it is not feasible to purchase new crates as the puppy grows. The best alternative is to buy a crate that will be large enough for your dog when he grows up. As an adult, the dog should be able to lie down comfortable on his side as well as stand, sit, and turn around without difficulty.
Type: There are two basic types of crates: a plastic "airline kennel" and a wire cage. Each has certain advantages. The plastic crates are usually more portable than wire cages and are more "cosy" for the animal, while wire cages typically have more width and height space than plastic cages of approximately the same size. The angled design of the plastic crates makes their width at the base more narrow than the box design of wire cages.
You can buy wire cages that are easily collapsible and can be carried like a suitcase, which is helpful when travelling. Most wire cages have removable pans that can slide out for easy cleaning. If you select a wire cage, cover the back completely and top and sides 1/2 way down with a towel to create a den-like atmosphere. If you do not cover a portion of the cage, the dog may not feel safe and secure because of the openness of the cage.
|Where Do You Put The Crate?|
|Dogs are pack animals
and prefer to be with their pack/family, so keep the crate in a lived-in
part of the house. A bedroom, kitchen or family room is good -- never a
garage or unused basement!
When the puppy is young it is recommended to have the crate near the door he will be going out to use the bathroom. Having the crate close to the door will help prevent any elimination accidents as the puppy leaves his crate and heads for the door to go out.
|How Do You Crate Train?|
|Your dog should
thoroughly enjoy spending time in his crate. This can be accomplished by
introducing him to the crate properly, making it comfortable and fun to go
into the crate, and by giving him something entertaining to do in the crate.
Below is a step-by-step outline of the recommended process: