Crate Training Your Dog
For those of you that aren’t aware a crate is like a bedroom for your dog. One they can be safe in, relax when they want to and where you can level them when they need to be secure. Not all people like the idea of a crate for their pets, they feel they are locked up and uncomfortable, but with correct introduction to the crate it will be a place your dog loves, not somewhere they feel trapped.
There are many reasons people crate train their dogs, but let me tell you why I do it. From the day a new puppy enters my home they are taught to enjoy their crate. I leave my puppy in their crate at night while I am sleeping so that I don’t wake to a mess all over the house, and as puppies will prefer to toilet away from their bed it helps to teach them to advise me when they need to go outside. This allows me to get a good night sleep and a pleasant morning when I get up. To start with the crate is generally close to my bed so I can hear when they need to go out easily.
I also use the crate when I need to give my older dogs a break from the puppy, let’s face it, sometimes the younger generation can drive older dogs crazy. Or when I want my puppy to be able to eat his meal in peace without the older dogs trying to help themselves.
The crate is also great when I can’t supervise my puppy and want to ensure they don’t learn or practice unwanted behaviours when I am occupied or away. Just remember not to have them locked up for too long without a toilet break so if you are going to use the crate to go out make sure you are back within a couple of hours at the latest (click here for info on toilet training)
Crate training from day one also made it really easy when I needed to confine my dogs later in life; at the vet, while travelling, when visiting other people; no matter where we were, or how confined they needed to be they would relax and sleep without causing issues or getting stressed.
When you first start to teach your puppy or dog to use the crate it is important to make it comfortable for them, a cushioned bed, some toys, etc so that they can relax, sleep or have a little game by themselves. Another great idea, especially with the older dogs is to move their meals into the crate so that they realise being in there is good and rewarding, rather than feeling like a trap. For puppies I go straight to locking them in, however if you are working with an older dog that isn’t as comfortable in the crate you can leave the door open and throw toys or treats in there to teach them to walk in and out on their own rather than having to force them inside.
Some of you may be like me where your puppy flew from the Eastern states to get to your home, if this is the case they may be a little worried about being in a crate as they associate it with the flight. But this does not mean that you can’t get them used to relaxing in their crate, take Morfah for example (the one that writes to you each month with his Musings), he flew from Brisbane to Perth to get to his new home. When Morfah arrived he was able to remain out of the crate and explore his new home for a few hours, but as sleep overcame him Morfah was picked up and placed in the crate. By the time the door was closed Morfah would be fully awake and would start to complain that he was locked in. This complaining was ignored, no matter how sorrowful it sounded, and he was left in his crate until he quietened down, the first time took 2 hours, once Morfah was quiet for about 5 minutes the door was opened and he came out, having never slept. The second time he started falling asleep and was placed in his crate he cried for an hour to an hour and a half before being quiet and eventually being let out. By the time we were all ready for bed around 11pm that night Morfah was so used to his crying being ignored and he was only allowed out when he was quiet, and has exhausted from the biggest, most challenging day of his life, that within 30 minutes he was asleep and remained that way for hours before he needed a toilet break. The next day he quietly and happily went into his crate when I wasn’t able to keep an eye on him, for his regular meals and for bedtime.
Now what would have happened if I was to go to Morfah every time he cried out when in the crate? He would have learnt that crying whenever he doesn’t want to be somewhere will get the attention he wants and he would never quietened down, plus he would have started to work on other attention seeking behaviours.
What is the best crate for your dog? Crates are made of many materials, wire mesh, plastic, fabric and wood. The material chosen will depend on the breed of dog you have, the use you have purchased it for and where the crate is to stay. For instance, if you wish to be able to take the crate with you anywhere you may prefer a wire mesh or fabric crate that can be collapsed easily to move around, especially if you have a larger breed dog, however if the crate is to remain in one place the type isn’t overly important, though the solid crates can also be used as storage on top. Many airlines, especially for international travel, will use the plastic or wooden crates, and other crates may be declined for air travel. Some larger dogs will limit the crate material as there are maximum heights and widths for commercial crates, so the giant breeds may need a specially made crate.
To save money I always try to purchase the crate that would be suitable for my fully grown dog. When he is a puppy he gets to use it like a bedroom and playpen, as he gets older and larger it changes to a bed only and the play happens outside.
I have a crate set up in my lounge-room at all times and my guys have always loved going in there, especially when they needed a break. Morfah in particular always puts himself in the crate when he is feeling sore or unwell and likes the way it feels snug and secure. The door is always open and when I had a multi-dog household all my dogs knew that if someone was in the crate they were to be left alone, pestering a dog in the crate would result in me having words with the pest. This was especially important when I sent a dog to the crate for a time out when he had done something wrong, I would not allow any dog to cause him to get into more trouble. In Narloo’s case I could send him to the crate when he was too bossy or boisterous and not even worry about shutting the door, he would lie down and remain in there until he was told he could leave.
The most important thing to remember when using a crate for your dog, no matter their age, is that the crate is their safe haven, just like a den for wild dogs. When in their crate they should be allowed quiet, alone time and the crate should always be comfortable and free from draughts.