This is the latest column from North Bend resident and pet trainer at Miss Lola’s Academy for Wayward Dogs. Late last summer Melissa brought home her new puppy, Bee, and is bringing you along for the journey when it comes to all things “puppy training.” This month it’s crate training. Read on…
Crate training is a new concept for many and a controversial subject for others, but it is a great training tool for adult dogs and puppies. If you have a new dog or puppy a crate can be a great way to keep your dog (and belongings) safe, teach boundaries and with a new puppy aid in potty training. When I brought my new puppy home the crate was one of the first things she experienced.
I had never crated a dog until my last dog, Lola. It was a new concept for me. Some people think it’s mean or unfair to keep a dog in a crate – that it’s basically a cage. I say unless you can be watching your dog 24 hours a day, it’s the best way to train a new dog or puppy. We give a child a room, an infant a crib, why shouldn’t we give our canine friends their own room with a view?
The first thing to consider is the crate itself. Crates come in many different sizes, materials, colors and styles. The most common are the molded plastic suitable for airline travel and the open wire type with a tray in the bottom but you can get crates that look like furniture or crates made out of nylon (not suitable for teething puppies).
You size the crate according to the size of your dog. When potty training a puppy, the crate should only be big enough for the dog to stand up and turn around. If the crate is too big a puppy may pee at one end and curl up and sleep in the other. Most wire crates come with a divider so you can size the crate up as your new dog grows. If the crate is too small, your dog won’t be comfortable for any length of time.
A good rule of thumb for crate training is the dog can be left in the crate for one hour for every month they are. So if you have a two-month old dog the longest they can be expected to stay in a crate is 2 hours. Be sure that exercise and pottying precedes any stay in the crate. You may get longer stays at night but likely one potty break per night is to be expected. After all this is a baby! Don’t expect that kind of bladder control during the day.
You can’t just pop a dog who is unused to the crate into a crate for long period of time at first. You don’t want your dog to panic and damage the crate or himself. Do not crate a dog wearing any kind of correction collar they could easily get it caught on the wire and injure themselves. Be sure not to rely too heavily on the crate and give your dog a lot of social interaction in those early months. That is an important part of socialization.
I was fortunate Bee was easy to crate train. Our first night at home she slept 8 hours in the crate (admittedly on an end table right next to the bed). The next day she rode happily in the car, soon was walking in to take naps on her own and inviting her dog friends to join her. I have three crates. One in the car; one centrally located in the living room; and one in the bedroom. Keeping the crate in the room we live in made it easy to reward her for investigating it.
Make sure you vary when you crate your dog and for how long, don’t ever be too predictable. Feed your dog her meals in the crate, give treats in the crate and reward with good chew toys only in the crate. Don’t reward whining by allowing the dog to come out of the kennel. Wait for quiet and then let her out.
I plan on using the crate until Bee is out of adolescence – at about 18 months. At that point I will start to leave her out and alone for short periods of time. I will always crate her in the car and periodically at night. Crating is a great skill for a dog to have for travel and boarding and I want her to enjoy her house well into adulthood.
By following these steps you’ll have a dog who not only willingly kennels up but comes to love their crate as a safe haven. The crate will be a quiet restful safe space for your dog to relax and unwind after a long day of squirrel chasing, barking and sniffing.
Good Luck and Woof!