Crate Training your Dog

When I was a kid, in the 60’s, we got a puppy and did what everyone at the time did. We taught her to sit, and, training complete, threw her outside. She came in again when she was old enough not to mess in the house, but she mostly lived outside. Of course, we kids mostly lived outside as well, in that semi-feral way rural kids sometimes do. We played in the stream and cornfields and our various dogs joined us or not as they pleased. It was idyllic for all – except those who got hit by a car or got lost or got into fights with other dogs.… But we all knew bad things happened and, after all, they were just dogs. (Don’t judge too harshly, remember, this was also in the days before cars had seat belts. It was different then.)

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Today the idea of treating a dog like that horrifies me (as does the image of three rambunctious girls crawling around the back of the VW bug as my mother yelled at us to settle down so she could drive).

When I got a puppy a few months ago I made sure I had a crate, a collar, leash & chew toys. She got her shots, and her vaccines and I enrolled in puppy classes (and I drove home wearing my seat belt).

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How times change. For one thing, Beadle is not going to wander the world (or the house for that matter) while I’m working. And that brings me at long, rambling, last, to crate training.

A crate can be a dog’s safe place, or it can be the nightmare spot where she is locked away for hours.

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You have to work to make it a safe place, especially if she will be locked in it for hours.

First – don’t leave her in the crate too long. If she has to pee or poop in it, not only will it distress her (dogs don’t like to soil the nest), but it will make house training difficult if not impossible later on. Second, make sure the crate is big enough for her to turn around comfortably and is in a quiet spot with plenty of fresh air and water.

Introduce your dog to the crate slowly by playing games. Toss a treat in, then call your pup back to you for another treat. In and right back out. Do this several times, then close the door behind her, open it immediately and call her out. Do that several times. Repeat as often as you can during the day (½ a dozen times, say).

As she gets comfortable in the crate increase the time the door is closed. Close it and toss in treats for a few seconds then let her out. You can also hide treats in the crate so when she goes in randomly she will find something.

When she can be in the crate happily slowly increase the time. Make sure not to let her out when she cries. Wait for her to be quiet. At first you may need to wait until she stops just long enough to catch her breath for the next howl. Quick, jump in and open the door. Do this as a training session. Be deliberate about it – and consistent. Whatever you do make sure you don’t come to her after she has been crying for ten minutes (or 2 hours). You have just taught her that persistence works.

Of course, you also need to be sure she isn’t crying for a reason. If she cries in the night she may need to go out. If she sounds hysterical or is in a panic you should go to her. It’s a hard call sometimes to know the difference between a temper tantrum and a panic attack. Usually it is a temper tantrum, but if she is panicking in her crate you need to start training all over again.

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If you can figure out why she panicked that’s great, but you may not be able to. Was it a scary noise? Is she too hot or cold? Was she just alone too long?  Hopefully, you can find and remedy the cause. However, regardless of the reason, once she has the negative association with the crate you need to start over with your training, going more slowly than before. Use super positive treats, play with her in the crate, give her a massage, whatever works. Slowly, slowly, work your way to closing the door and to longer stays.

Puppies take a lot of time (Beadle wants all of it)! But, it is worth the time and effort to make the crate a safe space. I’m writing this in my room with Beadle in her crate beside me. She was wandering around getting into trouble and I kept getting distracted. So, I chased her around for a while (“stop teasing the cat”, “put that sock down”, “get out of the trash”).

Then I had a brilliant thought! Her crate, just what I’m writing about! (I can be a bit slow sometimes).  I said: “Beadle, go to bed.” She trotted into her crate, whined once in a half hearted way (just for show) and lay down. Ahh, peace and quiet.

The crate isn’t punishment. I put Beadle in because she was out of control,  but I did it matter-of-factly and I tossed in a treat as she went. It has become her safe place, just as I hoped. She often sleeps in her crate while we are around. Don’t get me wrong, she still has to be dragged into it from time to time, but once in she settles right down (usually). Training her to do so was definitely time well spent!

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Thanks for reading,
Kate

 

If you enjoyed this post why not try these:

What is it?
Three things you Must Have Before Getting a Puppy
A Pair of (unrelated) Poems

 

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