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Library > Training and Behavior > Crate Training Your Dog: Prison or Palace

Crate Training Your Dog: Prison or Palace

3/28/2013

When Jackson, a Jack Russell Terrier, sees his kids donning coats and hears his mom’s car keys, he runs straight to his crate. He curls up on his bed and stays there, even with the door open, until Mom gets back home. His crate is his castle.

Bradley the Bearded Collie is the opposite. He hates his crate. When he hears the car keys, he leaps over the baby gate, runs upstairs, and hides under the biggest bed he can find. If he gets a good head-start, he grabs a shoe to chew on, too.

Why?


Why do these dogs see their crates so differently?

First, some of it might not be up to you. Dogs often have positive or negative exposure to crates in their very early weeks. If your dog is a rescue from a puppy mill or a less-than happy home, he may have been crated for long periods of time, or even kept in a cage that was far too small for him.

Dogs with negative experiences may have a harder time accepting crates. For these dogs, consider your reasons for crate training. You’ll need to determine if a crate can be healthy for your dog.

But if your dog was from a responsible breeder or a small family environment, crate training can offer your dog a den of his own — a place for him to stay sane during the chaotic times and to keep your shoes safe when he might get lonely or bored.

Why crate train?

It helps your dog travel better.

If you need to travel with your dog across town or across the country, he’ll handle it far better if he views his crate as a safe, comfortable place to be.

It saves your stuff.

Let’s face it. A bored dog can become very creative when he spends time alone. If he’s free to roam the house, he’ll invent destruction you could never imagine. Of course he’ll chew. But he might also try to serve you by emptying trash or helping with the laundry. Some dogs even suggest remodeling projects by pulling up carpet, removing wallpaper, or pulling off baseboards and trim!

It's a "safe" place.

Often, the security of his own "room" helps keep your dog more happy and relaxed.  It gives him a safe place to go - when you're home and when he's home alone.  It also keeps him in a safe place when you're not at home to supervise him.  When your dog is content in his crate, you're preventing unwanted chewing (chairs, shoes, bathroom trash),  digging (carpet, potted plants) and even encounters with unsafe things on the counter (knives, scissors, whole loaves of bread) or in the trash.

Keys to responsible crate training:


Pick the right crate.

Dogs come in different sizes and so do crates. This isn’t an accident!

Make sure the crate is the right size for your dog. He needs to have enough space to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Too big and he won’t get that cozy “den” feeling he needs. Too small — well, is just too small.

Put his crate in the right place.

Keep the crate in an area of the house where he is close to the action, but isolated enough to feel like his own “space.” Tuck it into a corner, or consider covering the sides and top with a blanket.

If your dog gets overexcited by visitors, put his crate in an area where he can’t see or hear the visitors come in, and take him to his crate before they arrive.

Many dogs prefer to sleep near their owners, too. If your dog gets anxious if he’s too far away (he may want to protect you, or to be protected by you), set up a crate in the master bedroom or with one of the kids, so he can feel like he’s where he needs to be to do his job.

Make his crate a cozy home.

If your dog gets cold, has stiff joints, or just likes to nest, make sure he has a blanket or a heated pad to make him more comfortable. Let him keep a few toys to chew on–puzzle toys (including treats hidden inside a toy) will keep his mind busy, too.

Limit his crate time.

Never leave him in there longer than he can “hold it,” and never contain him in there after eating or drinking if he hasn’t gone outside and done his business. Also, don’t use the crate for extended periods of time when house training him, and NEVER crate him as punishment.

If you need to crate him during the day while everyone is at school or work, be sure he’s old enough to manage the whole day without a bathroom break…Dogs under 6-9 months of age typically have a harder time making it that long. Being confined in the crate when they just can’t hold it anymore can create negative associations with their crate. Get a trusted neighbor or pet-sitter to check in on him mid-day and let him out to potty and play.

Make sure he plays.

If you crate your dog during the day, night, or both, make absolutely sure he gets enough play and exercise during the times that he is out and around the family, and work with him as he gets older to be able to sleep at night with his crate door open.

Always work to keep the crate a safe and pleasant home for him.

 

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