If you have a new dog (puppy or full grown) the BEST way to bring him into your home is through the use of a crate. You can gradually introduce your dog to your house, room by room, while establishing the rules of the house. Crates can also be a good way to transport your dog safely in your car, plane, or while staying in a pet friendly hotel.
Crates are also excellent ways to keep your dog S-A-F-E! When my dog Tia was a puppy, she would have backyard time while I was at work. I started to discover all kinds of items that were buried or very dangerous. One day she chewed on electrical wires, thank god they weren’t connected to anything. Puppies will chew anything and you have to be careful, because these items can get lodged in their throats or tummies and cause severe health issues.
As a general rule, dogs don’t potty where they sleep. If it is well established that the crate is their bed they will learn to hold it, and wait until released to expel in the backyard or designated potty place.
How to pick the right crate:
There are 2 types of crates/kennels. One is plastic and one is metal. The metal crates seem to be a bit less expensive. However if you have an escape artist dog, the plastic crates are more secure. As far as size, the crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand up in and turn around. Personally I prefer the plastic crates. I think they’re more “Home-y” and less “cage-y”. I imagine them to be more comfortable for the dogs.
Introducing the crate:
Step 1: If your dog already has a blanket or soft bed that will fit inside the crate, then PERFECT. Put this item that smells like him/her inside and your already half way there to making this a positive experience for your dog. If you do not already have some bedlike item, get an old towel or blanket and rub it all over your dog to thoroughly get the scent in the blanket. Then throw it in.
Step 2: Put in the crate some treats or a favorite toy. (helpful tip: If that doesn’t work create a Hansel and Gretel, treat crumb trail into the crate.)
Step 3: Don’t focus on the crate, let the dog explore it at his own pace. When he/she is ready she’ll step inside and have a sniff around.
Step 4: Feed your dogs meals around or near the crate. The whole idea is to make the crate a positive experience!
Now some people stretch out the acclimation to the crate process to lengths that some people deem unnecessary. In my experience with crate training, the energy you emit about the crate is what your dog picks up upon. I had started training with a bully breed specialist, because I was determined that my dog wouldn’t be another statistic. The trainer started us on crate training. At first, I felt that crating an animal was “imprisoning them” and “mean” and all kinds of things, so I was projecting that to my dog and she was constantly whining and crying to be let out. I did research on crating and discovered that it is the BEST thing I could be doing for her, and all the sudden my attitude changed. That was the only factor that was altered, and all the sudden she stopped whining.
Why crate training is good for your dog:
When dogs are out in the wild they live in den like enclosures. They are enclosed spaces, which makes them feel innately secure. Having too much space can create anxiety and all the bad behaviors we are trying to stop.
When to crate:
When you leave the house
When you go to sleep at night
While in training
Do not leave your adult dog in a crate longer than 4-5 hours or puppy for 3-4 hours (even that might be too long for a puppy depending on age). Crating too long can cause urinary tract infections or other issues. Also, do not use a crate for punishment. It should always be a positive, safe place for your dog.
I love that I learned how to crate train because it comes in VERY handy now later in life. I live alone and when I have service people come over I keep them in their kennels. They are the friendliest dogs on earth, but I don’t want the service people to know that and come back and rob me. I also keep them crated when I have guests enter the house. When they are calm, they come out and visit with us. Or if there are children over, I keep one my dogs in his crate because he’s scared. There are a million benefits to having a dog that is comfortable with a crate.
By volunteer Andrea Bossenmeyer