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You have your new puppy. Being the good dog owner, you are prepared for this day. You have bowls, a leash and collar, a “How to Train Your Puppy” book, and an appointment at your veterinarian for a well puppy check and vaccines. What else do you need? Well, be sure you are not forgetting the most important piece of equipment — a crate. Some people think of crates as cages, but regardless of what you call it, a crate/cage is priceless when it comes to raising a well-adjusted and healthy dog.
Most people when first exposed to crates for dogs are offended. They picture themselves incarcerated. Dogs on the other hand, are den dwellers by nature. They prefer to sleep in small confined and safe areas. You have probably noticed when your puppy is tired: she selects a quiet, out of the way place to sleep. You will find her under a table or behind a chair. Our busy and hectic life is exhausting for a pup. A puppy needs her own space.
A crate provides a safe and secure place for your puppy when you cannot watch him. Remember he is like a toddler, and you wouldn’t let a toddler have free reign, unsupervised in your home. Not only is it not safe for your pup but your house is unprotected. You need to come home to a healthy, happy pet and an intact house.
As with all training tools, a crate can be misused. There will be times, for your own peace of mind, that you will use the crate as a “time out” device. This should not be the primary purpose. The crate should be a positive part of your pups’ day. To make it a “friendly” place, you should leave the door open the first few days and use it more as a toy box. When you pick up your pups’ toys, throw them into the crate. He will start going there to pick out something to play with. Also, toss his treat into the crate and use a command such as “kennel” to develop a response that when you say that word he runs and gets in his crate. Initially, feed your pup in the crate, but leave the door open. He will begin to associate this “place” with good things.
After the first few days, then start shutting the door for short periods of time, preferably when he is tired and ready for a nap. It will be important that you don’t let him out whenever he cries or barks. This teaches him how to get out of his crate. Be patient, when he is quiet, even if only for a moment, then tell him what a good boy he is and let him out of his crate.
Dogs, by nature, are very clean and do not like to “soil” where they sleep. The crate needs to be just large enough for him to lie down, yet not so large that he can “potty” at one end and sleep at the other. With a proper sized crate, he will be more inclined to wait until he is taken outside to “take care of business”. Don’t scold a pup if he “potties” in his crate, he will associate the scolding with being in his crate and not with what he did.
Remember, dogs can be teething up until a year, so to keep your house safe, crate your puppy when you cannot watch him directly. This insures your home is safe and that he cannot eat something harmful.
For the rest of your dog’s life, he will consider his crate his home and when you travel, he will have the security and safety of taking his home along with him. If you have a vehicle where he can ride in his crate and that crate is secured, it is as if he is wearing his seat belt. How your dog perceives his crate has a lot to do with how you see it. Remember, a crate is a GOOD thing. After raising a crate trained dog, you will wonder how you ever managed without one.
Dr. Nancy Schenck, D.V.M., of Four Loving Paws Veterinary Services, Inc., can be reached at 812-448-1415. If you have a question or pet-related topic for Dr. Schenck to discuss in an upcoming article, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.