Crates are a perfect tool for training dogs both new and old.
If you have a new puppy or recently adopted an adult dog, you might want to consider one of the greatest tools for dog owners: the crate. With the help of a crate, you can teach your dog how to behave in the house, how to travel safely in the car and how to feel secure in strange places.
Crate training takes advantage of a dog’s natural denning instinct. Wild canines create dens to raise their young, and sleep in these hideaways when they are not out searching for food. Crate training works because dogs view their crates the same way wild canines view their dens. Your dog will find security in this special place.
Crates are also good for housetraining. Dogs who are crated learn not to go to the bathroom indoors because instinct tells them not to soil their dens.
You’ll need to do some training to get your dog used to being in a crate. Start the process by feeding him in the crate. Begin by putting his bowl near the entrance and move it a little bit further inside each day. When your dog is finally going all the way inside the crate to eat, leave the door open at first. At this stage, you want him to know he can leave the crate whenever he wants. You can also encourage your dog to go inside the crate by throwing a toy into it and letting him go after it. Toss treats into the crate every so often, too. The idea is to help your dog associate good things with being inside the crate.
Whenever your dog enters the crate, give him a word or phrase command at the moment he goes in. “Crate!” or “In the crate” are two possible options. The command you give will be your way of letting him know in the future that you want him to go into his crate.
When your dog is readily going into the crate and comfortably eating meals in it, you can try shutting the door for brief periods while he is still eating. If he reacts to the door being closed with pawing or whining, ignore him. Wait until he stops fussing before you let him out.
Once your dog is regularly eating inside the crate with the door closed, leave the door shut for a few minutes after he finishes his meal. Increase this time gradually by 5-minute increments each day, remembering to never let him out when he’s complaining. In time, your dog will build up to an hour or more in the crate.
Before you ask your dog to spend an extended period in his crate, make sure he is relaxed and comfortable in it for at least an hour or more. (Remember to limit the amount of crate time to four hours a day—longer than that is not good for your dog. Be sure to take your potty dog just before you put him in the crate and provide him with a favorite toy that he can sleep with. Never feed him right before putting him in the crate. Eating can trigger his need to eliminate—something you never want him to do while inside the crate.
By using consistent training methods, and patience and persistence, you can crate train your dog in a period of just a few weeks. Once you discover the convenience of using a crate, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com and hollywoodhoofbeats.net.