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Pet Happenings February 2010

Crate Training
by Kaye Davis

We get asked a lot of questions about dogs in the BARKery, and there are a few we get asked a lot. Sharing these answers may help you get along with your best friend even better, and improve the way dogs live in your home. The most common topics are about crate training.

Isn’t crate training cruel?
This is the most common question we get and we can assure you that if you do it right there is nothing cruel about it. Crate training is one of the most effective ways to potty train puppies and help dogs learn to be on their own in your house without eating the couch. There’s only one important rule in crate training - NEVER use a crate for punishment….never ever! You need to see a crate as a positive training tool, and not a cage. How you feel largely determines the success of any tool you are using with a dog. Dogs in the wild live in dens and a crate is basically your dog’s indoor den. Using it for potty training harnesses the natural instincts that a dog will not potty where it sleeps, so using a crate in the home when you’re not there or overnight teaches the dog to hold its bladder. An adult dog (9 months or older) can be in the crate 8-9 hours without stressing the bladder, but puppies when they are young might need a potty break after just a few hours, and especially overnight.

My dog won’t go in the crate or cries constantly when they are in there, what can I do?
The easiest way to introduce your dog to the crate is to begin slowly and use something that motivates them (usually food, and sometimes a toy). If the introduction went bad, it’s time to start over and relax! Try these tips:
1. Don’t force them into the crate. No dragging and no pushing. Let them go in on their own. Stay calm and be patient.
2. Feed them in the crate with the door open until they get used to it (small amounts of food and repeating the step a few times for a meal will teach them faster). Once you’ve used food to get them in, praise them (giving a cue that being in the crate is what you want).
3. Make the crate comfortable with a mat or blanket (unless they are a hard core chewer).
4. Place the crate in an out of the way place like a bedroom or laundry room. The lowest traffic area with less light will help reinforce relaxation.
5. Once they are in shut the door and walk away. If they cry, do not give in. The first time they are in the crate make the duration short like 5 -15 minutes, then build up to longer periods to avoid any trauma. If you let them out because they are crying you only reinforce the crying, and will not teach them patience or the ability to be alone.

Dogs are pack animals and they naturally want to be with you, so learning to be on their own will take some time. Some dogs take to a crate right away and even use it when they are feeling insecure or scared. Other dogs can take a few weeks to adjust. Don’t give up. Be patient with yourself and your dog. Don’t give in to crying and remember you’re teaching your dog to be alone and that can take some time.

My dog goes potty in the crate or chews the bedding?
Every once in a while we get these questions and they are tough to answer. There’s a few easy solution to these problems, but we always recommend working with a licensed trainer if the problem persists or gets worse. First make sure your dog is not in the crate longer than they can handle. Exercise (at least 20 minutes but 30-45 minutes is better) by walking or vigorous playing like fetch before crate time and after can curb any anxiety or bad behavior, so make sure walks or exercise are available to any dog that stays inside during the day. Remember most dogs can handle a whole work day inside, but not all of them (young puppies and older guys may need a break in between long stretches – be realistic).

If your dog is going to the bathroom in the crate make sure they are in a crate that is the proper size. Crates that are too big give the dog room to go and get away from the mess. Rule of thumb for sizing is the crate should only be large enough for the dog to stand, turn around and lay down. So if a Yorkie is in a palace big enough for a Labrador, that’s too big! Often crates come with divider panels so if you have a puppy you are crate training, you can make the crate much shorter and slowly make it bigger to accommodate their size. If the crate is proper size, and they still go in the crate regularly and not an accident, then you have a different problem on your hands and we recommend working with a trainer or even your vet (we have some great resources for special help). If your dog is destroying bedding or blankets in the crate they may be venting their frustrations, so no bedding is best and these dogs should definitely get more exercise before crate time.

When can I stop crating my dog after I started?
There is no wrong or right answer for this. The goal of crate training varies from your level of comfort, trust and your dog’s needs. As a general guideline, crate training for potty training puppies usually needs to happen until they are 6-9 months old, but my own dogs needed more time to get the hang of potty training.

Like parenting, advice about dogs varies widely and each person has a unique situation. There are no black and white answers. Consider your scenario and seek advice of a trusted professional to determine what’s right for you.

This page sponsored by:

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Holistic Pet Grooming

and offering the services of the
Holistic Pet Grooming Studio

25 Years Grooming Experience
Animal Reiki Offered (Certified in levels 1 and 2)
Dog Training
B.S. in Biology in Animal Behavior
Specializing in special needs animals and large breeds

Located inside the Moab BARKery (82 N. Main)
Monday thru Saturday - Call for an appointment (435) 690-9214

To see past articles about animals, pets and their care check our archives.

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