Just as you would not leave a two-year old child alone in your house, you should not leave your dog unsupervised until he is completely trained. A dog left alone will make choices. Choices like… “where should I urinate?” and “should I chew up the rug or play with my toys?”
Dogs under two years of age, as well as older dogs having difficulty with house training or destructive chewing, are excellent candidates for crate training. If you have just brought your new dog home, it is critical that you start crate training the first day. Establishing a regular schedule and getting your dog accustomed to being alone are very important for his mental adjustment.
The key to protecting your home and your dog is prevention. By successfully crate training your dog you have prevented him from learning inappropriate behavior in your house. The concept of the crate is simple: dogs possess a keen instinct. Their crate (if introduced properly) can quickly become their “room” or place they can go to fell secure.
Dogs also don’t like to eliminate where they sleep, so the crate is an effective house training tool. Dogs of any age can learn to enjoy a crate, as long as you’re patient and make your dog’s crating experience pleasant from the start.
First, be sure your dog’s crate is the right size. Crates should be just large enough for the dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. If it’s too big, the dog may urinate in one corner and lay in the other, making house training more difficult. Next, make sure to put the crate in a high-traffic area so the dog does not feel isolated when in the crate. Once you have the size and location all set, it is time to get your dog use to the crate.
Teaching Your Dog to Like the Crate
Open the door to the crate and drop a small food treat in the middle of the crate. Praise the dog when he goes in to retrieve the treat and exits the crate as he chooses. Keep the door open and practice until the dog is happily entering the crate to get the treat.
Repeat the above exercise only this time place the treat at the back of the crate. Again, let your dog retrieve the treat and exit crate whenever he wants. The goal is to teach your dog to relate the crate with good things!
When it’s time for your dog to eat a regular meal, put his food bowl in the back of the crate with the door left open. Let him go in and eat his food and leave when he is ready. If he won’t go in, wait him out, even if he skips a meal or two. When your dog is hungry, he will eat in the crate. Practice until he is comfortable eating his entire meal in the crate.
Next, give your dog his favorite chew toy in the crate. A Kong Toy stuffed with peanut butter, cheese spread, or moist dog food works well. Toss the toy to the back of the crate and close the door briefly when the dog enters. Gradually increase the amount of time the door is closed. Don’t encourage your dog to leave the crate when the door is open. If he wants to lay inside and play with his toy, great!
Tips for Successful Crate Training
By following these steps, you should be well on your way to a dog who is comfortable in his crate with the door closed. While you’re practicing, keep the following in mind:
- Crates are never used for punishment. Used properly, a dog is crated before he is able to chew a table leg. Never crate your dog after correcting him for inappropriate behavior. He will develop a negative association with the crate and won’t learn anything- except to dislike his crate.
- Use praise effectively. Praise your dog for going into the crate and for staying in it quietly. When you let him out, don’t give him praise or treats. It should be a big deal going into the crate but insignificant to leave.
- Never give your dog treats or attention for barking or whining in the crate, and never let him out while he is vocalizing. If you do that, he may make the connection between vocalizing and getting what he wants.
- Puppies under four months cannot physically hold urine in their bladders for eight hours. If you’re crate training a young puppy, make arrangements for someone to let him out every four hours.
- Refrain from placing blankets or towels in the crate until your dog is completely house trained. Dogs can learn to urinate on blanket and push them in the corner so they don’t have to sit on there urine. This makes house training more difficult.
- Don’t leave food and water in the crate when you are gone. Remember: what goes in, must come out. If your dog has free assess to food and water the entire time you’re gone, but doesn’t have the ability to eliminate until you get home, he may be forced to eliminate in the crate.
- It is important to crate your dog while you are home as well as while you are gone. If your dog is in a high activity room, he can be with the family and in his crate at the same time. That way he won’t associate the crate with being alone.
- Watch for signs of separation anxiety. Some dogs “over” bond with their owners and panic when left alone. These dogs should not be crated. Here are a few signs to look for:
- Urinating or defecating only when you are gone.
- Destruction focused around windows/doors.
- Excessive vocalizing
- Self mutilation (raw nose or broken nails)
- Excessive salivating
Information provided by Michigan Humane Society Rochester Hills, Michigan
Behavior Help Line (248)650-0127