Often when people adopt a new canine friend they will have trials in getting the dog acclimated to its new environment. The dog will often chew your favorite pair of shoes, eat your couch, get into your garbage can, and possibly use your family room as its own personal potty. Many of these problems can be resolved by crate training your dog. This is not a cruel punishment if you follow a few basic guidelines when getting your dog acclimated to its crate. The end result will be a happy human and a happy dog.
Crate Types and Sizes
When purchasing a crate you need to make sure to purchase the right type and size of crate for the dog that will be using it. The crate should be large enough that your dog can comfortably lay down, sit, fully stand and easily turn around inside. Getting a crate that is too large also has drawbacks if you are using the crate to help house train the dog. In house training, if the crate is too large, the dog will use one end of it as the potty area, while laying at the other end. If you are buying a puppy and want a crate that will accommodate him as a small pup as well as a larger adult, most crates have inserts that can be used as an extra wall and can be moved as needed to provide a smaller or larger area.
There are a couple of different types of crates available. Some have solid walls with a cage door and barred vents in the sides and others are completely made of bars. Solid walled crates are more often used for traveling, but they will also work as indoor crates. Just be sure the area you are placing the crate gets enough air flow. We prefer the wired crates for several reason. They are collapsible if they need to be stored or moved; they provide plenty of air flow and they are easy to clean in case of accidents. If the crate is in a drafty area or if your house stays cool in the winter time, simply placing a blanket over the crate will suffice. (Do be sure this is a blanket that you aren’t fond of in case your dog decides to pull it through the bars and chew it up while in his cage). Our dogs tend to prefer the cage covered at all times. We believe it gives them a greater sense of security.
Crate Training Your Dog
First things first, NEVER and I mean NEVER put your dog in its crate while saying “bad dog”! Do not ever associate the crate as a bad thing at any time! The crate should ALWAYS be a positive experience for the dog. The crate is a wonderful tool for you and your dog, however the dog should not be left in the crate all the time to only be let out on occasion. The crate should be used when you are not at home to watch the dog and the dog should be let out as soon as you return home. When you are home and your dog is roaming free in the house you should always leave the crate door open. Your dog will begin to learn that this is his space and will often go lay in it even when you are at home.
Now it’s time to train your dog to go into his crate. Take your time with this and work with him. Crate training can take some time if the dog is not accustomed to crates. If at all possible, when adopting a new dog try to bring him home on a Friday or another day that you will not have to go to work for a couple of days. This will allow you more time to work with the animal to get him or her used to the crate. Make sure there is a soft blanket or towels in the bottom of the crate for the dog to lay on. You want to make the crate a comfortable environment. Take some toys that the dog loves and leave them in the crate. This will make him feel more like it’s his room rather than a prison you are trying to force him into. You can get a hollow bone and fill it with peanut butter or you can purchase cheese in a can made for dogs from your local pet store that you can fill the bone with. This will give your dog something to do while you are away so he isn’t bored and it also creates a positive environment. Remember to never force the dog into the cage as this says to the dog that it is not a positive experience and will make him reluctant to go into it on command. Be sure to speak to your dog in a calm, low key and be very sweet to him while you are trying to get him into the cage. If things are not going well and you get angry it is best to get up and walk away and cool off, while giving the dog a break. Getting angry will NOT help you or your dog! Try to think of it as someone is trying to force you into going somewhere that is unknown and frightening.
After you have successfully gotten your new pal to accept his cage, always reward him with a treat when he goes in the cage and pet him goodbye. We keep a tub of treats right on top of the cage so it’s always remembered to reward our friend for doing what he is told. Always use the same one word command such as “cage” or “crate” when asking him to go into the crate. This will help to not confuse him and soon when you say “Blue, crate!” he will happily go into his crate, await his treat and a pet from his best friend, and lay patiently awaiting your return from work.