Crate training has long been accepted by professional trainers and veterinarians as one of the quickest and least stressful ways to mold desirable behaviors in dogs. Although many new dog owners initially reject the idea of using a crate because they consider it cruel or unfair to the dog, a crate helps to satisfy the dog's denning instinct while being the answer to many problems faced by dogs and their owners.
WHAT IS A DOG CRATE?
A dog crate is a wire or fiberglass enclosure that comes in a variety of sizes proportioned to fit any type of dog. It's Just big enough for a dog to stand up, lie down and turn around In. Its purpose is to provide confinement for reasons of safety, housebreaking, prevention of destructive behavior, or travel. The crate is a place for the dog to be when no one is around to supervise her. It is the dog's bed and sanctuary.
WHY USE A DOG CRATE?
Correctly and humanely used, a crate can have many advantages for both you and your dog.
Can enjoy peace of mind when leaving your dog home alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed - and that she is comfortable, protected and not developing any bad habits.
Can housebreak your dog quickly by using the confinement to encourage control, to establish a regular routine for outdoor elimination, and to prevent accidents at night or when left alone.
Can effectively confine your dog at times when she may be under foot (I.e., when you have quests, at mealtimes), over-excited, or bothered by too much confusion or too many children.
Can travel with your dog safely and be assured that she will more easily adapt to strange surroundings as long as she has her familiar "security blanket".
Can enjoy the privacy and security of her own "den", to which she can retreat when tired, stressed or ill.
Can avoid much of the fear, confusion and anxiety caused by your reaction to problem behavior.
Can more easily learn to control her bowels and to associate elimination only with the outdoors.
Can be spared the loneliness and frustration of having to be isolated, in the basement or outdoors, from Indoor family surroundings when being restricted. Can be more conveniently included in family outings and trips Instead of being left behind alone.
Because dogs are highly social animals, it is important that they are indoors much of the time, even when you are not home or are sleeping and can't interact with them. Your dog needs to feel that she is a part of the family, and that feeling of belonging comes from being included in family activities and living in the house even when her family may not be there. A crate allows you to leave her in the house, when you are away, or unable to supervise her. If she were to spend large amounts of time outside, she would very likely start to exhibit problem behaviors such as barking, digging, fence jumping, and chewing. These problems can be avoided by keeping her inside and making her an integral part of the family.
USE, BUT DON'T ABUSE
Confinement in a dog crate is not recommended for a dog that must be frequently left alone for extended periods of time, such as all or much of the day while you are at work or school. Four or five hours while you go shopping, or overnight so you can sleep without having to worry about what the dog is doing, is fine. If the dog must be left for longer periods of time, she should be confined to a larger area, such as a basement, secured room or exercise pen. Crate or no crate, any dog constantly denied the human companionship she needs and craves will be lonely and will find ways to express anxiety, depression and stress.
Probably the best crate to buy is a plastic "airline carrier". Plastic is easy to clean, lightweight and doesn't squeak like the metal crates do when the dog moves inside them. Crates can be obtained from most pet supply stores, but you may want to check the newspapers first to see if you can find a used crate at a lower cost. The cost of a crate may seem expensive at first glance, but remember that it will last for the lifetime of the dog. Also compare it to the cost of losing furnishings and carpets to the dog's unrestricted behavior.
You dog's crate should just be big enough for her to stand up, lie down and turn around in. If your dog is a puppy, you will need to estimate her adult size and buy a crate that will be big enough for her as an adult dog. Then put cardboard boxes in one end to make the space inside the crate smaller. As the puppy grows, you get smaller cardboard boxes and replace them accordingly. To size a dog for a crate, stand the dog next to the crate. The top of the crate should extend two inches above the dog's shoulders. The end of the crate should be two inches from the dog's rump. This should give you the perfect fit.
INTRODUCING THE CRATE
Place the crate in the most often used room in the house, such as the kitchen or family room. At night, move the crate into your bedroom. Make the crate as comfortable as possible, with a blanket or towels for bedding. Leaving the door open, try to coax the dog into the crate using a phrase like, "Get in your bed." Place a treat in the crate and praise the dog when she goes inside to get it. Let her leave immediately if she chooses. Spend time by the crate, talking to the dog and petting her as long as she's in the crate. Stop this attention when she leaves the crate.
Once she seems comfortable going in and out, close the door with her and some treats inside. Stay with her, talk to her, and give her treats if she seems nervous. At first, confine the dog for short periods. If she whines while in the crate, do not let her out. If you do, you have just taught the dog she can get her way by being vocal. Wait until she becomes quiet before releasing her. As she begins to positively regard the crate, the time periods can lengthen. Soon the dog will find comfort and security in her "den."
Crate training a dog takes anywhere from 30 minutes to a week. Puppies usually accept their crate quicker than adult dogs, but with persistence and patience any dog will soon view the crate as a secure and safe haven. Although not an answer for all behavior problems or a substitute for your personal time spent training the dog, a crate will help your dog form positive behaviors and become an important member of your family.