Do I really need to crate-train my dog?
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We’re getting ready to adopt a new puppy. A lot of people have told us that we need to train him to stay in a crate but I’m not sure. Putting him in a crate seems mean. What do you think?
I understand your concerns but crate training can be beneficial for both you and your puppy, if done correctly.
Dogs are naturally drawn to small, enclosed spaces. Like their canine ancestors before them, it makes them feel safe and gives them a place to relax and decompress.
It’s also a great tool for owners. Since dogs don’t like to soil in the place where they sleep, it can help with housebreaking by reminding puppies to “hold it” until their next scheduled potty break. In addition, it will keep your belongings from being chewed on when you’re not around to supervise.
Other benefits include having a safe place to contain them during travel and reducing stress should they have to be kenneled at the vet.
The key to proper crate training is to make it a positive experience for your puppy. Never use it as punishment and crate him for long periods of time, especially when first training him. A good rule of thumb is to crate no longer than one hour per each month of age, working up to the average workday of six or seven hours.
When you’re ready to start crate training, here are some tips to make it go more smoothly for both of you.
Choose the appropriate size.
A properly sized crate will give your dog enough room to stand up, move around and stretch out. However, make sure it’s not big enough to allow him to eliminate in one section and sleep in another.
Manufacturers guidelines are a good place to start, but make sure you take your dog’s size, shape and temperament into consideration as well. There are also a variety of crates on the market that can “grow” with your puppy by the simple addition of a temporary divider.
Make it comfortable.
There’s nothing better than a comfortable bed, and the same goes for our dogs. However, with a puppy’s natural desire to chew anything and everything, you might want to hold off on purchasing a nice, expensive dog bed until he’s a little older.
Instead, opt for inexpensive crate mats, and old towels and blankets. Check them often and replace if you see signs of fraying or chewing. If you’ve chosen an open, wire crate, consider purchasing a cover to make it feel more closed-in and secure
Never just put a dog or puppy in a crate for the first time, lock the door and leave. This can be a very stressful, traumatic experience. Instead, encourage him to investigate the crate, offering praise and rewards whenever he interacts with it.
Make it a game by tossing a few treats in. After he’s gotten the hang of it, start closing the door and immediately opening it again. Work up to longer periods of him being in the crate with the door closed. Always praise and reward for good behavior.
All good things happen in the crate.
Once he’s gotten comfortable with the crate, up the ante by making it an even more positive, fun experience. For example, feed him all his meals in his crate. Also offer him fun, safe toys like a Kong filled with healthy treats like bananas, peanut butter and even part of his meal. (Look online for more “recipes.”)
Put it on cue.
To make it easy to get your dog into his crate, be sure to add a cue to the action, like “kennel up” or “bed” while you’re training. It’s also a good idea to add a cue like “okay” or “free” to get him out of the crate, since some dogs enjoy their crate time so much they don’t want to leave!
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