How can crate training make your dog better? Let me count the ways! But first, let me give you a simple guide on how to teach your dog to love his crate.
First, your thoughts and feelings about a crate will transfer to your dog, so get yourself in the right frame of mind from the get-go. A crate is NOT a prison…unless you think of it as one or use it as one. Think of a crate as your dog would – a refuge and a private space where he can relax and be safe, away from the worries of the world. Remember that your dog is by nature a “den” animal. Small, confined spaces are sought out by dogs in nature as places of safety and security. Bring this thought to your crate training.
- Start slowly. If your dog has no previous crate experience, begin by putting his food bowl inside the crate at the far side, so that he must walk completely INTO the crate in order to eat. Leave the door open and the food inside. NO other food or treats are given during this stage. His only access to food is through the open door into the crate. (Water can be outside the crate.) NOTE: Be prepared for a 3-day hunger strike, though it will probably not take that long to convince your dog that the crate is the source of all things good and tasty. And no dog will starve if food is accessible.
- When your dog is willingly going into the crate for each meal, start closing the door until he finishes eating. Then leave the door closed for a couple of minutes after he finishes, with you going out of the room during this time. Work up to 15 minutes.
- Next step is to feed your dog in the crate, closing the door and leaving the room or house for 30 minutes. Let your dog out when you return. Do this during the day so any barking will not upset the neighbors.
- Finally, your dog is ready for overnight in the crate after his “last call” potty break. I am NOT a fan of having the dog’s overnight crate in a bedroom. All the work you’ve done building your dog’s confidence in the crate while alone could go out the window. And the temptation of seeing and hearing you – right there but unattainable – could cause your dog to whine with anxiety. That’s not fair. Keep the overnight crate in a separate, quiet place. If necessary, you can even try covering the crate with a sheet to reduce outside stimuli. (Just be sure your dog does not try to pull the sheet into the crate and eat it!)
- Do NOT let your dog out of the crate if he barks or whines. If he’s had the chance to relieve himself before bedtime and if you have followed this step-by-step plan for acclimation to the crate, he is most likely just testing you and your resolve by whining or barking. Dogs and kids do that. Rest assured, he can “hold it” until morning if he chooses to, and barring physical illness he will. On the other hand, if you teach your dog that you will cave whenever he complains…guess what? Not only will your crate training go down the tubes, so will your ability to manage your dog overall.
- NEVER put your dog in his crate when you are angry! Always have a smile on your face at crate time and even give your dog a treat when he goes in. Keep the association with the crate positive and happy.
- Success will be yours!
Once your dog is successfully crate trained, the usefulness of this will be limitless: Safely transporting your dog in the car, short term refuge when “scary” workmen come to do home repairs, house training, no more counter-surfing or chewing your shoes while you run errands, anxiety-free crating at the groomer or vet, and much, much more.
But even more importantly, a dog that will accept crating is a dog that understands who makes the rules in the household. You decide when he goes in the crate and you decide when he is let out. It is subtle but profound, as are most things that define and create your relationship with your dog. Consensus about who is in charge is the basis for all obedience! A dog that accepts your management of his life in this way is generally a dog that is set up to listen better and obey more often. Crate training in itself can be the foundation of a relationship that will offer satisfaction and immeasurable joy to both of you.
For more information about molding the dog of your dreams, contact us a Dairydell Canine and ask about our Dream Dogs program! www.dairydell.com.