Probably the most important piece of equipment you will ever buy is a dog crate. The dog crate is accepted, trusted, and taken for granted by dog show exhibitors, obedience and field trial competitors, trainers, breeders, groomers, vets and anyone else who regularly handles dogs. Individual pet owners, however, often reject the idea of a ‘cage’ for their pet because they feel enforced confinement is ‘cruel’ or a punishment. However, the dog does not feel confinement is punishment when the crate is properly utilized.
The dog is a den animal (like a wolf or a fox) and the safe, enclosed shelter of the dog crate becomes a haven, a ‘security blanket’ for the dog, in the often bewildering world of humans. The dog is much happier and secure with its life controlled by a human ‘pack leader’ and benefits by the prevention from causing trouble, rather than punished for the trouble later.
The crate is a rectangular enclosure with a top and a bottom and a door, made in variety of sizes proportioned to fit any type of dog. Constructed of wire, aluminum, or molded fiberglass/plastic , its purpose is to provide guaranteed confinement for reasons of security, safety, housebreaking, protection of household goods, travel, illness, or just general control. It is escape proof, non-chewable, easy to clean, and well-ventilated. A good quality crate will last almost indefinitely.
WHY USE A CRATE?
When correctly and humanely used, a dog crate has many advantages for both you and your dog.
1. You can enjoy complete piece of mind when leaving your dog in the house alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed and the dog is comfortable, protected and not developing any bad habits.
2. You can housebreak your dog much quicker by using the close confinement to encourage control of its bladder, establishing a regular routine for outdoor elimination, and to prevent ‘accidents’ at night or when left alone, since the dog will avoid soiling its ‘den’ if at all possible.
3. You can effectively confine your dog at times when it might be underfoot (meals, for instance), or unwelcome (workmen), or ill.
4. You can travel with your dog without risk of distraction to the driver or the dog getting loose and lost, and with the assurance that your dog will more easily adapt to any strange surroundings as long as its familiar ‘den’ is along. It can retreat to it when it is tired or stressed.
5. Avoid much of the fear/stress/punishment caused by your reaction to problem behavior.
6. The dog is spared the frustration and isolation (basement, pen or boarding kennel) when the whole family is together or gone on a family outing.
USE, BUT DO NOT ABUSE!
The use of a dog crate is not recommended for a dog which is frequently and regularly left alone for extended periods of time, such as all day or much of the day when the owner is away at work or school. In these instances, a secure outdoor kennel run is much preferred, but if a crate must be used, arrangements should be made to take the dog out for exercise at midday.
In the case of the puppy, the crate is used strictly as a playpen for general confinement and for housebreaking. DO NOT ever use the crate for punishment.
House-breaking Your Puppy
A young puppy (7-16 weeks) will normally have no problem accepting a crate as his own place. The puppy will likely ‘carry on’ for awhile for the first few times it is crated, but do not give in. As with all other training, it takes patience, understanding and a firm hand. Remember, it is not the crate the puppy is protesting, but the separation from you. Sooner or later the puppy will settle down.
To help you both adjust to the crate, try feeding it inside the crate a couple of times, or toss in a biscuit before closing the door and saying, ‘Good puppy!’. If the puppy is crated where you can see him, it will not feel quite so lonesome. Ignore the wails and whines and never take it from the crate while it is carrying on.
Puppies like babies have little bladder control and will need to relieve themselves many times during the day. Sometimes as often as every hour or so. Take puppy outside after he awakes from a nap, right after eating/drinking, after active play or any time it looks as though it is looking for ‘that spot’. The numerous trips outside will become fewer as the puppy gains control of its bladder. Proper use of the crate/den method sometimes has a normal, healthy dog mostly trained in about four weeks.
1. Place the crate in a convenient location, out of the mainstream of activity, but where you can watch the puppy awaken from its nap and needs to go out. Also, the puppy can see you and not feel abandoned and isolated.
2. Establish a routine that takes the puppies need into account. If the puppy goes out every morning at 6:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, he should go out at the same time on the weekend mornings as well. Establish a regular feeding schedule so that the need to eliminate will be more regular and perhaps, anticipated. Pick up the water dish and hour or two before bedtime so the puppy will not need to urinate as frequently during the night.
3. Establish a ‘crate’ routine for the puppy, crating him at regular intervals during the day. The puppies normal nap time is a good time and at nighttime. The very young puppy will have to go outside hourly and once or twice at night.
4. Crate the puppy when you are not actively playing with or watching him. Allowing a puppy to roam the house before he is trustworthy is counterproductive and unfair. Not only will it make it impossible for you to be consistent in training, but the puppy may get into real trouble. Chewing on electrical cords or eating poisonous houseplants are just two examples of trouble.
5. When the puppy has to go outside, pick him up and take him out (otherwise, he might go as soon as he outside the crate); praise him profusely when the puppy does as you expect. Always go out with the puppy (he may run out and back without eliminating), even if it is inconvenient. The idea is to establish a consistent and expected behavior.
6. NEVER discipline your puppy for an accident in the house unless you catch him in the act, if so, scold him, scoop him up, and take him out to the proper place. Punishing a puppy or dog after the fact is useless; the only thing you accomplish is confusion and fear, as the dog does not associate the past action with your present anger. NEVER, even in the most trying circumstances, strike your puppy or rub his nose in the mess!