by Eric BogardHave you ever noticed your dog hunker under a table, bed or chair?
Whether frightened -say by lightning and thunder- or not, dogs are not all that separated from their wild ancestors. Certain ‘in the wild’ instincts and behaviors still remain such as seeking a den for protection, comfort, and psychological satisfaction. If left without a designated place to call his or her own your dog will actively seek shelter wherever deemed appropriate (not by you but by your four legged friend, of course). However, by tapping into your dog’s natural tendencies a crate will provide the very comfort and solitude so very wanted.
But did you know crates are also the most humane and easiest way to house train your puppy and teach him or her right from wrong? That said, a thin line separates success from frustrating failure. To ensure crate training success and a build a stronger relationship with your dog always:
- Exercise patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement! Whether given a favorite toy, a good belly rub, or a treat positive reinforcement is key to all dog training.
- Ensure the crate in a room the family tends to gather around and hang out, say the family room. Your dog is a member of the family who wants to feel like part of the action, whether in the crate or not.
- Keep on schedule. Because puppies will not soil their crate (unless it’s an emergency), your dog will hold it until brought outside to do his or her ‘business’. Accordingly keep to the same potty schedule and understand that accidents are likely to happen, especially with puppies under 6 months who are likely to go every 2-4 hours.
- Ensure the crate is a comfy, cozy place that your dog wants to be in vs. a sterile and uncomfortable ‘cage’. To reinforce the home concept include a soft crate bed, your dogs’ favorite toys, etc.
- Use food to your advantage! Begin feeding your dog near and, once accomplished, in the crate. After your dog has completely finished keep the door closed for a few minutes, working your way up each day.
- Using the crate as punishment. If used as punishment device your dog will quickly associate the crate with fear and something ‘bad’, making the crate training process and uphill battle.
- Excessive crate use. Dogs are social animals who need time with their family -keeping them locked in the crate with little to no human interaction is cruel and will likely lead to doggie depression and anxiety. Rather, with you clearly insight, start using the crate for just a few minutes at a time. Once your dog is comfortable and shows no signs of anxiety slowly and gradually increase the amount of time, remaining out of your dogs’ sight. Once caught on you can begin leaving the house for short periods of time with your dog in the crate.
- Responding to crying and whining. Though it probably sounds completely counterintuitive and may be hard to do, when beginning crate training you should ignore all crying and whining. The last thing you want is for your dog to associate bad behavior (the crying) with attention (you running over to console your pup).
Any kind of pet training presents a great opportunity to bond and establish a strong relationship. By following a few easy steps -and avoiding a few others, rest assured knowing you’re doing what’s in your and your dogs’ best interest.
Eric Bogard writes for Pet Dreams, designers of high quality, affordable crate beds and covers. He is a fan and advocate of everything Pit Bulls, taking care of his adopted clown in black and white clothing named Pepper.