By Liz Palika
Adding a puppy to the household can be a wonderful experience, but the relationship can sour before it even begins if the puppy is ruining carpets and chewing up furniture. There is, however, a training tool that will enable you to train your new companion and avoid disasters – a crate.
Two types of crates are available. The first type is often made of heavy molded plastic or fiberglass and was originally used by airlines to transport animals. Plastic crates usually come in two parts, top and bottom, and are easy to disassemble and clean. Wire crates, which provide good ventilation, are also available; they do not provide the privacy and seclusion puppies need when they retreat to their crates for naps. However, a cover can be placed over a wire crate at times when privacy is more important than circulation.
It’s important that you, the new puppy owner, understand that the crate is not a cage or jail. A crate is your puppy’s own place: its bed or den, its place to hide special toys or bones and a refuge in times of stress. Puppies like to sleep in small, close places. That’s why they curl up under the bed or under a chair, or crawl under the back porch. A crate allows you to use this instinct as a training tool.
Begin by choosing a crate size to suit your dog. The crate should be large enough for the puppy to stand up, stretch, turn around and lie down comfortably – with a little growing room. Don’t get a crate that would fit an adult St. Bernard for a Springer pup. If the crate is too large, the pup can relieve itself in a far corner and still have a clean bed. Remember, the purpose behind using a crate is to house-train the pup is to utilize the pup’s instinct to keep its bed clean.
INTRODUCING THE CRATE
Introduce the pup to the crate by tossing a treat inside while the pup is watching. Say “(Name), crate!” and urge the puppy inside. Let the pup grab the treat and come back out. Repeat the action a couple of times; later, place the puppy’s dinner inside the crate. Let the puppy eat with the door open, coming and going as it pleases. When the puppy is comfortable going in and out, toss a treat inside the crate, then close the door after the pup goes inside. Wait a couple of minutes, and then open the door. Gradually increase the time until the puppy is comfortable with the door being closed.
If your puppy throws a temper tantrum when you close the door, do not let the pup out until it is quite. If you let the pup out when it screams, it will have learned temper tantrums work. Instead, tell the pup, “No, Quiet!” in a sharp tone of voice. Put the crate in your bedroom at night so the puppy can feel your presence and be reassured that you are near. It is eight hours that the puppy can be near you, even though you are sleeping. If the pup is restless, you will be able to hear it and take it outside. If the puppy decides it wants to play, just reach over; tap the crate and say, “No! Quiet”. During the day, place the crate near people, in the family room or kitchen. Let your pup see and hear the normal sights and sounds of the household.
When house-training a puppy, set up a schedule for the puppy’s meals, playtime, crate time and trips outside, and follow it closely. The puppy should be taken outside to eliminate after waking up from a nap, after eating, after playtime and about every three hours in between.
If you are a working dog owner, don’t plan on leaving the puppy alone in its crate from 9 AM to 6 PM. That is entirely too long for the puppy to be crated without a chance to eliminate and play. Confine the puppy with its crate to an easy-to-clean area, such as the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room, or hire a neighbor to come play with the puppy and take it outside.
Puppies don’t intentionally get into trouble: It’s just that our belongings are so alluring, at least in a puppy’s eyes. After all, a couch cushion that has been slightly chewed is a lot of fun when it’s shaken and the stuffing goes flying everywhere! Leather shoes and rawhide chews are very similar to many puppies; in fact, the shoes probably smell more attractive.
A crate provides the puppy with security away from home. If the dog needs to be boarded, send its crate with it. The dog will be much more secure with its familiar place of refuge. Teaching the pup to ride in the crate in the car may save its life someday. Thousands of dogs are injured or killed annually when they are thrown from cars or trucks. Crating the dog in the car will also prevent it from interfering with the driver. By bringing the crate when you travel, your dog can be crated in the motel room and you needn’t worry about it getting into trouble when you go out to dinner.
AS AN ADULT
As your dog matures, it can be given more freedom, but if it does make a mistake, crate it again. The dog must prove its reliability by not having accidents in the house and by not getting into trouble. Too much freedom too soon will result in problems.
Your dog will still use its crate on its own, even when full-grown. Because the crate is your dogs special place, it will retreat there when the family is busy and it needs to sleep. Your dog will go there when it is feeling low or sick. Your dog will hide bones it wants to keep away from the new baby or puppy in its crate. An again, it’s a safe, secure place.