by Tracy Baldwin (ABCDT) for Rebound Hounds
Crates are one of the most important and beneficial tools we, as dog guardians, have at our disposal. Crates are useful for management of our dogs when we are house training them and for keeping our dogs safe when we can’t watch them. Crates are a useful tool when we have a dog who is experiencing behavioral issues such as; nervousness, territorial issues, pacing, separation anxiety and if they are not yet trustworthy to be left free without chewing inappropriate items. Dogs are den dwelling animals and crates are the modern alternative to the dens they would have in the wild. When introduced properly, our dogs will view the crate as a safe, cozy place to be calm and relax. A place that is free from stress where they can retire to when they begin to feel overwhelmed.
As with any and all training, the keys to success are; PATIENCE, CONSISTENCY AND CLEAR COMMUNICATION.
Set up a crate in a corner of the kitchen or living room. We want our dogs to be able to observe us but not be in the middle of all the foot traffic through our house. Avoid having the crate in an area of the house where he is isolated.
Put soft bedding in the crate and cover all sides but the door with a dark blanket … creating a den-like feel.
Leash and collar the dog, toss some treats into the crate, guide the dog in saying the word “crate” as he is walking in. When he eats the treat, use the leash to guide him out. Repeat 5-10 times. This exercise is just to give an initial positive association to simply entering the crate.
With the dog still leashed, toss treats in the crate, gently guide the dog in while saying “crate” and when he is all the way in, close the door. Wait 3-5min. Open the door and using the leash guide him out. Don’t allow him to barge out, during this exercise, you, the human, control the entering and exiting of the crate. Repeat gradually increasing the time the dog is in the crate.
Leave the door to the crate open and allow the dog to go in and out on their own. Most dogs will explore a crate that looks inviting, one that is dark and comfy. Put some appropriate chew toys, like Kongs and Nylabones, in the crate to further encourage the dog to relax and spend time in the crate.
Practice entering and exiting the crate several times and add in longer stays with the door closed.
If the dog has a tantrum, barks, cries or whines … IGNORE THEM. Don’t talk to them, don’t yell at them, don’t look at them or engage in anyway. As soon as they quiet down, walk over to the crate, say “good boy/girl” in a light tone, not over the top excitement and guide the dog out. Being quiet in the crate is simply a non-negotiable rule. Be careful not to put too much emotion into it. Repeat, slowly adding time in the crate.
Crate your new dog at night. You should have had the opportunity to practice the above exercises so the crate should be a familiar place for the dog. Have a night time routine something like this;
Pick up water 2-3 hours before bed.
Take the dog out to potty one last time 10-20 min before bed.
Turn off the lights, leave on a white noise machine or radio on classical music.
Cover the door to the crate half way with a blanket (increasing the den-like feel)
Say “good night” in an even toned, non-emotional way and leave the room.
Remember to ignore any shenanigans. Most dogs will settle down quickly once they realize they will not get any attention for acting up.
If you have a dog who throws tantrums of epic proportions, zip tie all sides of the crate, the bottom of the crate where the pan slides out and put Carabineer style clips (available at hardware stores) along the door. But still IGNORE ALL MELT DOWNS. Any attention they get, even scolding (which only encourages the barking and nonsense) is all attention.
For the small percentage of manic, crazy dogs, push the crate against a wall (side and back), place a piece of furniture on the exposed side and place something heavy on top. Once the dog realizes his attempts of escape are futile, he will give up and settle down.
When you wake up, wait 10-15 min BEFORE you let the dog out of the crate. You want to avoid the dog expecting for you to open his kennel first thing. The same goes for when you get home from work. Wait 10-15 min for them to calm down BEFORE they are allowed to exit the crate.
It’s crucial that ALL entering and exiting of the crate is done when the dog is calm. If this is done consistently from the beginning you will decrease the possibility of future issues.
Crating your new dog during the day, when you are at work, is necessary to ensure they stay safe. If you work from home, it’s important to schedule blocks of crate time for the dog. Dogs who NEVER leave their guardians’ side NEVER learn to be independent and are prime dogs for developing Separation Anxiety.
All of you comings and goings, when you are crating your dog must be non-emotional. Remember, crating a dog is not a punishment. When trained correctly your dog views his crate a safe place. A den. A sanctuary, away from our hectic world.
NEW FOSTERS AND ADOPTERS
The crate needs to be one of the first things your new dog is introduced to.
The order of events when your new dog arrives should be something like this:
A short walk.
Lead the dog into the house using the dogs’ leash. NO FREE ROAM. NO COUCH. NO BED.
Start the crate training exercises.
Hand feed a small meal, offer water.
Another short walk.
More crate exercises.
Allow the dog to walk around a small area of the house. Still wearing his collar and dragging his leash. NO FREE ROAM.
Another short walk.
More crate exercises …. Progressing at this point to closing the door on the crate.
If the crate is incorporated into the regular routine of the dog straight away, the easier it will be for the dog to understand what is being asked of him.