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You have your new puppy. Being the good dog owner, you are prepared. You have bowls, a leash and collar, a “How to Train Your Puppy” book and an appointment at the veterinarians for a wellness exam 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 pup is tired, he 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 would not 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 our own peace of mind, that you will use the crate as a “time out” device. Not as a punishment but a way to let your pup have some quiet time with a chew toy that is safe and secure. This should not be the primary purpose. The crate should be a positive part of your pup’s day.
To make it a friendly place, try leaving the door open the first few days and using it more as a toy box. When you pick up your pup’s toys, throw them into the crate. She will start going there to pick out something to play with. Also, toss her treats into the crate and use a command, such as, “kennel,” to develop a response that when you say that work she runs and gets in her crate. Initially, feed your pup in the crate but leave the door open, she 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 she 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, not with what he did.
Remember, dogs can be teething up until a year, so to keep your house safe, crate him when you cannot watch him directly. This ensures 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, it is as if he is wearing his seat belt. After raising a crate-trained dog, you will wonder how you ever managed without one.
A well-managed dog is a joy to live with. Enjoy the journey.
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.