Crate Training Your Dog
The humble dog crate, once used primarily for transporting dogs on airplanes, has come into its own. Dog crates are incredibly versatile and are now widely used in a variety of situations. Crate training your dog using these modern-day "wolf dens" has become the norm for most dog owners.
Crate training your dog will take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on his age, temperament and past experiences. Just remember that when you're crate training your dog, you should always associate the crate with something pleasant. And don't try to crate train your dog too quickly. Small steps and intermediate successes should be the rule.
The first step in crate training your dog is to introduce your dog to the crate. What you want to accomplish at this point is to have your dog associate his crate with comfort, security and enjoyment. Start by dropping a few bits of dog kibble or biscuits in the crate from time to time. When your dog investigates the crate, he'll discover these little treasures and begin building positive associations with the crate.
It also helps to feed him in or near the crate. Start by feeding him in front of the crate, then just inside the door, and finally in the back. Once your dog is willing to eat his food in the back of the crate, close the crate door while he's eating. At first, you can re-open the door as soon as he finishes. Gradually, wait a little longer each time to open the door. If your dog whines to be let out, you've moved ahead too quickly. Back up a little and move forward again. By the way, be sure not to let him out while he's whining--that's a behavior you don't want to encourage.
The next step in crate training your dog is to put him in the crate for short periods of time between meals. Stay close by for a bit, then leave the room. Once your dog stays comfortably in the crate for at least 30 minutes, you can try leaving home for a short time. You should leave a few dog toys in the crate along with a treat.
A milestone in crate training your dog is leaving him in the crate overnight. Sometimes it helps to have the crate near your own sleeping quarters. Then you can gradually move the crate to your desired location.
A crate should never be used as a tool for punishing your dog. Using a crate for punishment will result in fear and resentment of the crate. Your dog should see the crate as "his" space, a place he will be happy to go anytime. Having said that, you can occasionally use the crate as a place for "time-out" to discourage unwanted behavior.
If you ever intend to use your crate to transport your dog, you should know that not all crates are made for this. Most crates fit for travel duty are constructed of fiberglass or plastic. The collapsible metal crates, wicker crates or soft-side crates are not intended for travel use.
The crate you buy for your dog should be just big enough for him to stand up and turn around in. If you're buying a crate for a puppy, go ahead and buy a crate based on the size he'll eventually be. You should cut down the size using a panel or piece of cardboard. Otherwise, the large area may tempt your puppy to eliminate in one end of the crate and then retreat to the other.
Crates can be bought through most pet supply outlets, through pet mail order catalogs and through most professional breeders. You can often pick up great crates at bargain prices by shopping garage sales or scouring the classified ads. The cost of a crate will vary depending on size, type, and where you buy it. Generally, prices range from $35 to $150. But the peace of mind and the enhanced dog safety that crate training your dog will provide is priceless. And your household goods will thank you.
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