So what is crate training? How can we use it to our advantage? What are the benefits of crate training? These are questions you may ask yourself if you have an indoor dog.
So what is crate training?: Crate training is a tool used to teach dogs several different things. Dogs are naturally den loving animals. They like a small, warm, and confined spaces. A crate is used as a den within your home to give the dog a place of his/her own to call home. The crate is used by the dog for security and privacy. It is good to place the crate in an area where the dog can have access to it at all times, and can still be around the goings ons of the home. The living room is a great place for a crate. The dog can still be around his family, and have some privacy if he likes. The cool thing about crates is that they come in a variety of colors, styles, and sizes. Depending on how deep your pockets are, they even have crates that look like and act like functional furniture!
How can we use crate training to our advantage?: Once the dog is comfortable with using the crate as his home, we can then use it to our advantage. We can use the crate to potty train, secure, and transport the dog. Potty training is much easier to train using crate training. The reason is that since the dog views the crate as his den, he will keep it as clean as he can. Dogs do not like to soil the places they eat or sleep. So to potty train a dog using crate training is quite helpful. You can keep the dog in the crate at night and not have to worry about him pottying in the house. However, puppies that are kept in a crate for too long, will soil their crate. They have to go to the bathroom more often than adult dogs and don’t have the developed muscles needed to hold it yet.
What are the benefits of crate training?: There are many benefits of crate training. Dogs that are properly crate trained feel more secure, they have a place to go for privacy, they won’t soil in their crate, and can be more easily trained to potty outside. Also dogs can be transported more easily when traveling be car, bus, or airplane and still feel safe and secure. Crates are also great for dog sporting events. They can be kept in their crate while waiting for their turn for show, flyball, swimming, or whatever. Keeping the dog in the crate also frees you up to go and do things you need to do with out the dog in the way when nessicary. The beauty of crate training is that dogs love it! Once they are used to it, you usually only have to tell them once to "load up" or "kennel" and they go and do it. Usining it for travel allows the dog to have his home away from home.
Crate training is a bonus all the way around, but what about those dogs that just don’t seem to take to it? Well, those dogs have probably had negative experiences with crates. Chances are that they have not been properly crate trained. Puppy mills generally keep their pups in kennels at all times. The pups learn to soil in their crates because they have no other choice. This creates problems when a person purchases the puppy. This poor puppy doesn’t know how to stay clean because he was not properly taught by the mother. The mother is usually kept in the kennel as well, so it is a vicious cycle. Fortunatley, this can be reversed. It takes time and patients, but it is possible to properly crate train a puppy that has had a negative experience with a crate.
So how do you begin crate training your dog? Simple, purchase your choice of crate. Place it in a good spot in the house where the puppy or dog can access it easily and still feel like part of the family when he/she is in it. A corner in the living room or family room with no drafts is a great spot. Once you’ve found a good spot for your dogs crate, place some bedding and favorite toys in the crate. Leave the door to the crate open and let your dog or puppy enter and exit as he/she so chooses. If you have trouble getting your dog into the crate, break up some cooked hot dog or bologna and place it one piece at a time in the crate. When your dog goes in to get the tastey treat, have him come out and repeat the process. When he gets comfortable with going in the crate, start closing the door when he is in it and reward him with a treat for not freaking out. Leave the door closed for 5 seconds and then let him out. Continue to increase the time the door is closed by 5 seconds after every 10 reps. When your dog gets good at going in the crate for the treat and stays in there for 20 seconds, then pair the behavior with a command. Tell the dog to "load up" or some other command you choose while the dog is entering the crate. Continue the process as discussed with the command. Praise the dog heavily when he begins to enter the crate on command. He should begin to associate going into the crate as a positive experience.
Again, leave the door open while you are home watching t.v. or lounging around so your dog can go in and out as he pleases. Feed your dog in his crate if possible, and this will reinforce his/her instinct to keep it clean. Make sure to wash the bedding weekly. If you have a cuddling breed like a Boston Terrier, then a blanket works well as bedding. Bostons love to cover up under a warm blanket. If there is a blanket laying around in my house, chances are that there is a Boston curled up in it! I can’t seem to fold any blankets around here with out a Boston falling out of it!
It is also a good idea to remove your dogs collar or harness when you leave him/her in the crate, especially if it is a wire crate. His tags could get caught in the wires and choke him. When leaving your dog in a crate, make sure it is not for too long at first. You want the crate to stay a positve experience for your dog, one mistake and you may have to start all over.
With time, patience, and training, your dog will love his new home..his crate!