MY DOG IN A CAGE – HOW CRUEL IS THAT!
Let’s look at the reasons for enclosing our dogs in a crate. Dogs have a natural instinct that they inherited from their ancestors and that is to hide or rest in a den (dark place). Puppies innately seek out a dark warm space and hide within the comfort of mum. Often people buy lovely open beds for their dogs or pups and observe that their dog actually prefers sleeping under the under the bed! As far as your dog is concerned, offering a warm and comfortable enclosed space to rest is a comfort.
WHY CRATE TRAIN?
Crate training is the process of conditioning (training) your dog to accept resting in a crate for a period of time. Although crating is most often used for house training, correctly introduced, a crate can become your dog’s safe haven and place of rest for the rest of its life. Crating can be used for short periods for management (so your dog won’t destroy things while unsupervised), safe transportation via car or plane, for keeping a dog calm when ill or recovering from surgery and as a bedroom each night….or a “playpen” during the day (remember during the day to set up the crate in the area where you will also be spending the most time.)
A crate also makes it easier to teach small children to stay away from the puppy or dog who needs rest. Crate training is not just for puppies — it works for adult dogs as well.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Crate training works because dogs have:
Innate behaviour (instinct) that tells them to go to a dark enclosed place for comfort and rest
Normal dogs instinctively will not soil in their “den” . (This is what a good mother teaches her pups from around the age of 2 weeks)
The crate should be just large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in. If your dog is a puppy, it is preferable to buy him a small crate first. If you buy a large one for when he grows up, you either need dividers or pack it with a box so that he still only has just enough space to turn and lie down.
For new pups, it can help to bring home a blanket with the whelping box smell on it, or use your old sweatshirt with your scent on. Place it in the crate and also spray some Adaptil ® (dog appeasement pheromone ) . ..alternatively- for the initial transition time for your new puppy, you can fit an Adaptil collar (they last a month). This will help to make your puppy feel more comfortable and secure. Cover half the crate with a blanket or light cloth depending on weather conditions as this provides him with a warm dark place and he can see the world through the other half. If using this for toilet and good sleep pattern forming habits ensure you keep the crate close by so you can get up quickly to take your puppy out to the preferred toilet area – usually a grassy area of your garden.
Leave the crate door open to allow your dog or puppy to have access to the crate during the day so that they have a safe haven in which to sleep or play.
When you first introduce the crate, follow the golden rules:
Be sure the door is propped open so as not to swing shut by accident.
If your dog doesn’t go in to explore on his own, place a few treats or his meal inside…in fact you can exclusively feed him inside the crate.
Do not force your dog into the crate.
Progress gradually to shutting your dog in the crate with a stuffed Kong or chew bone for
short intervals – while you are there watching TV or reading/ working on the computer
In the evening move the crate next to your bed and quietly shut the door. For very young pups (less than 12wks) you will hear them stir part way through the night. Pick up your puppy- take him out to his toilet area and wait quietly for a few minutes – praise him when he “goes”, and then both of you can calmly return to your respective beds. If nothing happens, just quickly take your pup back to bed and shut his crate door.
It is perfectly normal for your dog to whine, bark, or even throw tantrums the first night in a crate… this can be avoided by positioning the crate in your bedroom (initially).
Remember that you need to continue to create a highly positive perception of the crate-so
during the day- move the crate again to your living area- feed him in it, place favoured toys and special treats inside, and a comfortable bed. You should allow your dog or puppy to play in and out of the crate and occasionally quietly close the door while he is busy chewing on something yummy, you will build up time in the crate and it should eliminate the behaviour above. Praise your pup when he enters or settles in the crate- pay attention (quietly reinforce) his choice.
Young pups will have to eliminate during the night. Set your alarm so that you get up every 3 – 4 hours initially and slowly the puppy will learn to hold on- generally, by 12 wks most pups can sleep right through the night without needing to go to the “bathroom”. For younger pups who do need to go out, remember not to play with or overstimulate the puppy. Pick them up or put them on a lead out to the “toilet” and then straight back into bed.
You will quickly come to recognize the difference between a normal whine and a need-to-urinate whine. Puppies and adult dogs get used to this routine very quickly and sleep through the night without interruption.
First thing in the morning, open the crate door and take your dog to the elimination spot. Don’t forget the praise! It is not necessary to use treats to reward elimination, but if you choose to do so, give the treat immediately after your dog eliminates, instead of waiting until you are back in the house.
HOW LONG SHOULD I USE A CRATE?
For a lifetime. Once your dog is used to a crate, they don’t want to be without it. Remember it’s their home away from home. If going away, to visit friends and taking your pet, take your crate with you. Your dog (and your human friends and family will thank you for it. It is highly recommended that any newly adopted adult dog be crate trained until he understands your household rules and has proven to be trustworthy when left alone for short time periods. For most newly acquired adult dogs, plan on using the crate regularly (you may want to use it throughout the day for short periods of time if you can’t leave your dog outside) while you are not home.
Please note do NOT leave a dog alone all day in a crate . It is only for confinement for sleep
purposes or unless unwell or for short periods. Don’t be away for 12 hours and expect him to be in it all that time – that is NOT what crates are for. Dogs need to stretch and get exercise throughout the day UNLESS your vet has recommended day confinement due to illness. When you do go to work set the crate up within a confinement area and leave the door open to allow easy access.
WHAT SIZE SHOULD I GET?
Your dog’s crate should be big enough for him to easily stand up, turn around, and lie down in. If he toilets in one corner of the crate, then just make it smaller by adding cardboard boxes, bricks, or a wire barrier. As he gets the idea that the toilet is outdoors, then you can take the barriers out of crate and let him have a “king sized” room. (Please note that most puppies’ prefer a smaller space – it helps to make them feel secure.
I have tried to crate train my dog and had little success. He hates getting back in the crate.
You need to start your crate training all over again and make it a positive experience. It may take a week or more so be patient. Follow the steps above by ensuring the dog always gets something special in its crate. This means its main meals. Put a blanket in the crate and hide the biscuits under the blanket. Don’t feed the dog any other way and you will see him quickly learn that in this special place is where the food pops out. Once he is comfy in there, use a cue word such as crate or bed and as he runs in, throw in a bone or his kibble. From there you can teach him to run to crate, wait in there patiently while you then go and get his food or just wait before throwing it in. Slowly you can then close the crate door while he eats and then build up on the time.
When I go to open the crate door, my dog throws himself at it and gets very excited, what do I do?
STOP!! If you let your dog out of his crate when he is acting this way, then you are reinforcing this behaviour. Walk up to the crate and turn and walk away if he is carrying on. At different intervals go up to the crate. As long as your pet is quiet, put your hand to the crate and go to open the door. If he jumps or barks and starts again, walk away and do NOT speak to the dog. No reprimanding at all. When he is quiet again re-try. Dogs learn fast that if they are quiet all good things happen to them.
Once your hand is on the crate door and your dog is lying still, reward with several treats –
dropping them at the rear of the crate away from the door. As your dog is looking for the treats, open the door and let them out. Ignore your pup for a few minutes once he is out of the crate. Treatsand attention are given for being within the crate – not for exiting. If this behaviour continues, please ask me for more advice.