A crate is a sort of playpen for your dog - a place where she can be safe and secure (and out of trouble) when you can't watch her. Crates are useful in a number of ways. They can be used for training, traveling, and for confinement when you are unable to supervise.
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- Puppy Training - Use it for housetraining. Dogs don't like to soil where they sleep; you can confine your dog to prevent accidents when you can't supervise. Use the crate to prevent destructive chewing. All puppies chew; they chew when they are teething, when they are bored, when they are in need of exercise, and just because they like to!
- Traveling - A crate trained dog can travel with you because you can always bring her "room" along! If your dog ever has to travel on an airplane where she must be crated, it will be much easier if she is already used to it. A crate is also the safest place for your dog to be when riding in the car.
- Problem Solving - A crate can help solve behavior problems such as destructive chewing or separation anxiety. In a crate, your dog will feel secure and cannot get into trouble.
Will My Dog Like Being in a Crate?
Because dogs are instinctively den animals, they get used to and actually like having a crate. You may have noticed that when your dog is frightened or doesn't feel well, she seeks out a closed in space, like under the coffee table, behind the couch or under the bed. A crate serves as your dog's room - her own place of security.
How Big Should the Crate Be?
The crate should be big enough for your dog to be able to stand up, lie down and turn around. Puppies should have this much room and no more. Given too much room, they will soil at one end and sleep in the other. When you buy a crate for your puppy, you may want to buy the size she'll need as an adult and block off the excess space. Give her more space as she grows and becomes housetrained. Many animal shelters, veterinarians and pet stores rent crates.
How Do I Get My Dog Used to the Crate?
The crate should represent something positive to your dog, so begin with a happy voice and lots of food. With the crate door open and secured in place, throw a piece of food or a toy in the crate as you verbally encourage your dog to go in. Many people like to give their dog a command like "go to bed", "kennel", or "go in your house." Whatever you choose, be consistent and your dog will catch on quickly. Once your dog is used to going into the crate to get the food, begin shutting the door behind her. Tell her to get in, throw the food in, and shut the door. Make sure to praise her every time she goes into the crate. Gradually increase the length of time she stays in the crate with the door closed. Once she is comfortable staying in the crate for several minutes, begin to leave the room for short periods. Then increase the length of time from there. To speed up the process, feed your dog her meals in the crate. Always make sure going in the crate is a positive experience for your dog.
What if My Dog Barks in Her Crate?
If your dogs barks or whines in the crate, completely ignore this until there is a lull in the noise and you can then let her out. Only let your dog out of the crate when she is quiet (unless it is likely to be a toileting emergency). Using Kong Toys and other long-lasting chew toys can often help entertain your dog while she is in the crate and can help eliminate these noisy outbursts.
Sometimes dogs will bark out of protest, boredom or loneliness. It is very important to never let your dog out of her crate when she is barking or whining! If you do, she will learn very quickly that this is the key to being let out of the crate. If your dog barks or whines in the crate, give her the command "quiet." Only let her out when she is quiet. If your dog sleeps in the crate, have it in your bedroom or nearby. Dogs are social animals and don't like to be isolated. She will be less likely to bark out of loneliness if she is near you. This is especially true for young puppies.
How Long Can I Leave My Dog in the Crate?
Puppies under 3 months of age can be crated for an hour or two; older pups can be confined for 3 to 4 hours. When necessary, adult dogs can stay in a crate for up to 8 hours at a time, provided they are otherwise given ample exercise and attention. Always make sure your dog has had a chance to relieve herself before being crated for an extended period of time.
Will I Have to Use the Crate Forever?
When used properly, in conjunction with basic training, the crate can eventually become an option for most dogs and their owners. You will probably find, however, that it is a very handy thing to have around well after your dog is trained. Some dogs will always need to be confined when left alone. Every dog is different and common sense will tell you if and when your dog can be left unattended in the house.