BBS Training Tip #9: Crate Training
Dog owners everywhere know raising a puppy can be a monumental task. The initial investments of time and money takes many by surprise — not to mention the emotional investment and huge amounts of patience it takes to raise a dog. To make life easier on you and your dog BestBullySticks recommends one key strategy every dog owner should become familiar with as early as possible — crate training.
Crate training is an amazing tool that when used properly. Not only does it help eliminate bad behaviors, it can also improve your dog’s overall comfort. A home within a home, your dog’s crate should be similar to a natural den — cozy and comfortable where he/she goes to feel at ease and relax.
Before you make the jump and bring a puppy home, let’s review a variety of ways you can use crate training to improve your dog’s life.
Picking Your Dog’s New Home
Dogs are den animals and crates provide them with the same type of comfort they seek in the wild. Crates should never be used for punishment otherwise they’re sure to become a source of anxiety. They are, and always should remain, a safe haven for your dog. Naturally, dogs don’t want to soil their living quarters so crate training also becomes one of the fastest ways to housebreak a puppy.
When choosing a crate, make sure it is large enough for your puppy to grow into. Your dog will be far more comfortable and you won’t have the headache of picking up a new one when Fido outgrows the first one. Most crates are a bit too spacious during your dog’s early years. If your crate is too large your pup may use one end for sleeping and the other as a bathroom! Use cardboard to partition the crate and add some blankets or a bed to create a smaller but equally comfortable environment. Setting your dog’s crate up this way will give them more of a reason to "hold it" until you’re ready to take them out.
Getting Started with Crate Training
Once you’ve selected a crate, the next step is to get your dog comfortable with its new home. Begin by placing the crate in a social part of your home.
Begin by casually tossing treats near the door of the crate and offering a bit of praise to your dog. Slowly coax your dog into the crate with treats. Make sure you don’t physically force your dog to enter against his/her own will. When ready, the prospect of more treats will be more than enough to convince your dog to hop in.
You should then begin feeding your dog his/her meals in the crate. This will further reinforce the “den” as a positive and comforting place. After the first few feedings inside the crate, begin easing the door closed a bit more with each meal. The first time you close the door completely, be sure and let your dog out right after feeding. Over time, you’ll be able to leave the door closed for longer until your dog is totally content hanging out in the crate.
Once your dog builds a positive association with it’s new home, the crate becomes a perfect place for your dog to hang out while you’re gone. Of course, don’t keep your dog locked up if you plan on being gone all day! This strategy is merely a way to lessen your dog’s anxiety in your brief absence.
Until you train your dog not to chew on the furniture or that new pair of shoes, crating is a great way to keep destructive behaviors at a minimum.
Excessive whining and crying is more or less guaranteed at some point during the crate training process. Chances are your dog just wants out but doesn’t need to get out to use the bathroom. Give it some time and your pup will usually stop whining within a few minutes. After your dog has quieted down, you may then let him/her out and offer some praise. If your dog doesn’t stop whining for some time, chances are it need to use the bathroom!
Dogs are social creatures; they enjoy being around their pack at all times. Keeping your pet isolated in a crate for too long can lead to anxiety issues. These issues, if left unchecked, may lead to a whole host of behavioral issues. Don’t keep a dog cooped up for too long. Also, if you try and fast-forward through the training process and your dog comes to dislike the crate, you’ll have a difficult time rebuilding the once positive associations.
Dogs also enjoy sleeping near their pack. Having a separate but equally accessible crate for the night time is a great way to lessen your dog’s separation anxiety during the evenings. Consider putting this crate in or near your bedroom. This holds especially true while just beginning the crate training process.
Crate training is meant to be taken slow. Never use the crate as a form of punishment or forced isolation. Doing so will only worsen bad behavior and more often than not lead to the development of new ones. Get familiar with the process and stay patient. Keep cool and before you know it your dog will be housebroken and enjoy sleeping in their comfy crate without command!