Crate training is a frequently debated issue amongst dog lovers, trainers and animal rights activists alike. For the uninitiated, the idea of confining a healthy, active animal to an enclosed space for hours on end can seem cruel and unusual. These people feel that dog crates are isolating, and that crate training is simply a lazy alternative to more hands-on training methods. While we’re certainly not in favor of using crate training to avoid the responsibility of properly caring for a pet; we believe that, if employed correctly, crate training is an essential part of any dog owner’s toolbelt.
People who argue against crate training often fail to take into account some basic facts about canine behavior. The first thing to note is that dogs are den animals. Absent of all human intervention they will still seek out warm, enclosed spaces where they can give birth and raise their puppies in safety from the many hazards of the outside world. The second thing to note is that dogs spend a lot of time snoozing. On average, wild dogs can sleep for up to 16 hours a day between hunts, while wolves will punctuate long bursts of activity with equally long periods of rest. Once again, when dogs look for places to sleep they will prefer snug, dark areas that are free from outside influences. With these factors in play, using a crate to train a dog seems like a much less unusual proposition.
Dogs are naturally den animals and therefore feel safest in small, dark, enclosed spaces. You may have noticed that during storms or loud disturbances, your dog “hides” in a small dark space. This is because they feel safer when in a den-like area. Dogs of any age will benefit from having their own “Zen Den” but crate training is especially important during the housebreaking process. While we all love puppies, they can also be a lot of work. Without proper training they can cause a lot of damage to your furniture and floors, especially when left unsupervised. But how do you teach a rambunctious little pup to stop teething on the carpet, climbing on the couch and going to the toilet just about everywhere indoors?
With puppy crate training you can ensure that your new pet has a regular resting place that they are instinctively inclined not to soil. When you train a dog to use a crate, you have far more control over where and when they decide to relive themselves as they will not want to make a mess in the same spot they sleep. Puppy crate training is also a great way to teach hyperactive puppies to remain calm even when they’re not afforded your immediate attention. By placing your pooch in a comfortable environment that they already love, you can ensure that they aren’t running around barking and chewing slippers while you’re occupied with other tasks.
Finally, the crate gives your pup a place that’s all their own. It’s a private space where they’re free to play with their favorite toys uninterrupted, or recuperate after an overwhelming sensory experience. After all, even the most excitable dog can benefit from some downtime. Crate training can also help reduce problems related to separation anxiety.
When it comes to dog crate training, our in-home dog trainers in Port Saint Lucie and Port Salerno have some key recommendations.
Casually introduce your puppy to the crate. Place it in an area of the house that they already frequent, and line the crate with familiar items. For example a soft, familiar smelling piece of your clothing could help make them feel more comfortable in the environment. No matter what, do not force your puppy inside the crate; this will make crate training far more difficult. Make sure that the crate is shaded. Dogs prefer darker environments for sleep and rest. You can do this with a purpose-built cover or a thin sheet during warmer weather.
Let you dog explore the crate in their own time. Encourage them to spend more time in the space by lining the crate with their favourite toys, and add in a bowl of food and some water. All of these things help to create positive associations around the crate. If possible, place these things as close to the back of the crate as possible so that your dog is trained to enter the crate completely. If your dog isn’t willing to do this at first then start by placing items closer to the entrance and slowly shifting them back. Make sure to mark all progress with clear and consistent praise.
Once your dog is comfortable eating and spending time inside the crate you can start closing the door. The amount of time you want to keep the door closed for depends on your dog’s behavior. While some pets will be comfortable straight away, others will require a slow ramp-up with only short durations of confinement initially. Be ready to put up with whining. Just because you puppy complains doesn’t mean you should let them out straight away, this will only teach them that whining is an effective method for getting their way.
While you should never force your dog into the cage, you can gently guide them into it. Once your dog has been crate acclimatized this should be accomplished with a simple nudge of the leash. If you meet resistance then guide the leash through the back of the cage and encourage your pet to enter inside. Patience and praise will do a lot more than force.
Puppy crate training is not a magic bullet for correcting canine behavior. It is a supplementary training technique that should be used alongside supervised care and training. If you can only deal with your pet by confining them to a crate for 10-14 hours a day then you may need the help of an in-home dog trainer. At Bark Busters Treasure Coast, our in-home dog training programs provide owners on Florida’s Treasure Coast from Sebastian to Boca Raton and Vero Beach to Pompano Beach with targeted support that can help them to regain control of even the most unruly pets. We can help you build a healthier, happier and safer home environment for your pup.