Every dog wants his own personal corner – a place where it can remain comfortably and safely shielded while you do your household chores. You may call that corner the dog’s personal den, somewhere he knows he can rest and sleep in comfort, and can run into when faced with perceived danger. That’s what a crate is all about – your dog’s home. The home part, actually, is incidental. Basically, a crate is a place where you can train your puppy.
So while your pup is still being broken into the rules of the house, a crate can be extremely helpful in training. It limits the puppy’s access to the rest of the house. That simply means you’re not left coping with the dirt and grime left all over by its prancing paws. Now that does call for a long sigh of relief!
Use with caution
Like all dog training devices, the crate also comes with a few words of caution. You need to use it in the right manner to ensure that it works as it should and doesn’t end up with a detrimental effect on your pup’s physical or emotional health. Like a human being, a dog can also feel trapped in a confined space, so you need to understand how you should use the crate, and for how long. While the duration depends on the dog, ideally, it’s a bad idea to keep a pup under six months of age in a crate for more than 3-4 hours at a stretch. Apart from suffocation, longer durations could also lead to other problems. For instance, your pup’s going to need to respond to nature’s call occasionally, and you couldn’t possibly want it to do that in the crate.
Without exercise, your pup is in any case going to get depressed and frustrated. Vary the crate use with other training and dog care equipment. And whatever you do, just don’t use the crate to punish your pup; if you do that, the next time it’s probably not going to enter the crate. Also, you need to realize that a crate is basically a training ground for your little dog and not a place where you want to keep it confined for the rest of its life.
Choose the right crate
Having understood the broad purpose of crate usage, you now need to choose a crate that’s ideal for your adorable little pet. Size is one consideration, so look for a crate that your pup is going to feel comfortable in, and that gives your pet sufficient space to stand and move around in. But excess of anything can be bad, as we all know. So go for a crate that’s large enough but not too large. The problem with an excessively large crate is that your pup might end up crowing in one corner to escape the training process. Then the type of material is also important. The climate and environment of the place you live in will also influence your decision on the type of crate.
Using the crate for training
Coming now to the actual crate training process, there’re really no fixed rules on how long it’s going to take. Some puppies can pick it up quite quickly while others can take weeks to get the hang of it. It really depends on the age, temperament and learning ability of your pet.
Like all dog training systems, this is a step-by-step process, which, if followed sequentially, can work effectively. Another important point to be kept in mind is that is that a crate should never have unpleasant connotations for your pet. So no using it as a punishment tool, or in otherwise a manner that makes it unpleasant for your pup.
The training starts with introducing puppy to the crate. Make the crate comfortable – a towel or a rug or blanket in the crate would help. Keep the crate in a place where you and your family are going to be around for a substantial part of the time. Allow your pup some time to explore the environment of the crate – you can do that by keeping the door open, allowing your pet to go in and out as and when it wants.
Don’t worry if your puppy is taking longer than some other dogs to make the crate its home. Move slowly and take care to woo your pet into the crate gradually. Perhaps you can place its favorite food inside to draw him into the crate. Make it feel that venturing into the crate means a treat. A toy or two can also serve the same purpose.
The next step involves feeding your pup in the crate. You need to make your pet realize that the crate is the place for all its meals. It’s all about association – the pup will soon discover the association between the crate and its meals. Once your pup’s inside, close the door but remember to open it the moment the meal is finished. Forcing the dog to remain inside for longer than it wants to will only make things difficult. You can slowly, however, increase the duration for it to remain inside the crate.
Ease it in
Moving gradually from short to long durations inside the crate will help ease the pup into its new home. You’ll soon reach the stage where you can actually leave your dog inside the crate for short periods when you’re out of the house.
Night crating is probably the most difficult part of crate training a puppy. In the initial period, try putting the crate in your bedroom or just outside, where you can hear your pet during the night. Gradually, you can move the crate to some other part of the house, without triggering a sense of anxiety or depression in your pup.
So long as you don’t abuse the crate, it’s really a great way of training your puppy. Taking your puppy out of the crate, either to relieve itself or for exercise etc., will help minimize the pressure such training can otherwise put on your pet. Some accidents are bound to occur in the initial period. Handle those with patience and without resorting to punishment or other harsh measures. What punishment can do to your pup during the training process is well explained by dog trainer Danny Dog over on his website.