© Copyright January, 2005 - 2005
Per kind permission Vivian Bregman
Why use a crate?? I certainly wouldn't want to spend hours locked up in area barely big enough to stand up and turn around in. BUT --- I am not a dog, and neither are you. A dog is a den animal. If you look at where your dog chooses to spend his sleeping time, you will most likely find that it is behind a chair, under a table, or in a secluded corner. He wants and needs a bed of his own, a den, someplace where he can be alone.
A crate is by far the best and easiest way to prevent most of the problems that cause many people to get rid of their dogs. You need a crate for your dog if he has housebreaking accidents, if he destroys things when left alone, if you have small children who don't understand that a dog needs time alone, if you have company who is afraid of dogs, if you travel with your dog and want to reassure the motel or your host that the dog will not get into trouble when left alone, and, most important of all, you need a crate for your dog if you want the very best trained dog possible.
When do you want to start use of the crate? The best time is when you first bring the puppy home. If you have bought the puppy from a breeder there is an excellent probability that he is already used to a crate. If he is under four months old he should have no problem accepting the crate as his "home". If he is older it will not be as easy, but it can and should be done.
Where does the crate go? My crate sits in the corner of the dining room, away from the heat and away from drafts. Yours can be in the corner of the kitchen or the playroom or someplace similar. That is, a people oriented place. Do not use newspaper in the crate. Instead use a piece of blanket, towel or some kind of matting that can be washed in case of accident.
A dog crate is a rectangular enclosure with a top and a door, made in a variety of sizes proportioned to fit any size dog. Constructed of wire, wood, metal, or molded fiberglass/plastic, its purpose is to provide guaranteed confinement for reasons of secu-rity, safety, housebreaking, protection of household goods, travel, illness, or just general control. The dog crate has long been accepted, trusted, and taken for granted by dog show exhibitors, obedience and field trial competitors, trainers, breeders, groomers, vet-erinarians, and anyone else who handles dogs regularly. Individual pet owners usually re-ject the idea of using a crate because they consider such enforced close confinement unfair and even harmful to the dog.
The dog, however, sees it as having a room of his own: it's his own private special place, a "security blanket". A Playpen. The crate helps to satisfy the "den instinct" inherited from his den-dwelling ancestors and relatives, and he is not afraid or frustrated when closed in. He is actually much happier and more secure having his life controlled and structured by human beings -- and would far rather be prevented from causing trouble than be punished for it later.
A dog crate, correctly and humanely used, can have many advantages for both you and your dog.
With the help of a crate you can enjoy complete peace of mind when leaving your dog home alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed and that he is comfortable, protected, and not developing any bad habits. You can housebreak your dog more quickly by using the close confinement to encourage control, establish a regular routine for outdoor elimination, and to prevent "accidents" at night or when left alone. You can effectively confine your dog at times when he may be underfoot (meals, family activities), unwelcome (guests, workmen etc.), over-excited, bothered by too much confusion such as too many children, or ill. You can travel with your dog without risk of the driver being dangerously distracted or the dog getting loose and helplessly lost, together with the assurance that he can easily adapt to any strange surroundings as long as he has his familiar "security blanket" along. He is also more welcome in motels and in other people's homes when the host is told that the dog will be crated in the room and therefore unable to make problems.
The crate should be large enough to permit the dog to stretch out flat on his side without being cramped and to sit up without hitting his head on the top. Remember that a crate too large defeats the purpose of providing security and promoting bowel control.
New crates can be purchased in retail pet shops and discount pet food and supply outlets, through catalog sales firms such as Sears, at the larger dog shows, from dog equipment catalogs, from a crate manufacturer, or from an obedience instructor. Even the most expensive dog crate is a bargain when compared to the cost of repairing or replacing a sofa, chair, woodwork, wallpaper, or carpeting. Make it very clear to children that the crate is NOT a playhouse for them, but a "special room" for the puppy, whose rights should be recognized and respected. However, you should accustom the puppy from the start to letting YOU reach into the crate at any time, lest he become overprotective of it.
Establish a "crate routine" as soon as you bring the puppy home, or as soon there-after as possible. Close the puppy in it at regular one to two hour intervals during the day (his own chosen nap times will guide you) and whenever he must be left alone for up to three or four hours. Give him a chew toy for distraction and be sure to remove collar and tags which could become caught in an opening.
If things do not go too smoothly at first, do not weaken and do not worry -- just be consistent, firm and aware that you are doing your pet a real favor by preventing him from getting into trouble while left alone. Make sure that you do not let the dog out of the crate while he is barking or he will think that barking is the key to opening the door to the crate.
Start by making the crate smaller, and then increase the space inside the crate as the puppy grows so that he remains comfortable. Plan to use the crate until the puppy is ten or twelve months old -- well past the chewing stage.
Most people feel that a chewing puppy is normal, and that he will "grow out of it". Be aware that dogs do not grow out of problems. While puppy chewing is normal teething, it very quickly becomes a habit which can be easily prevented with the use of a crate together with his "chew toy".
In order to housebreak a dog, take him out of the crate on a six foot lead (carrying him if he is small enough) to the "potty" spot. Stand still so that the dog cannot wander. This spot should be close enough to the house so that you can get to it when the weather is bad, and to clean it up, but far enough from the house to avoid odors. Say "Potty" or "Business" or whatever word you want to use, and praise him for the act, and give him a small treat if he does what you want.
Once he has relieved himself, take him for a walk of at least fifteen minutes. The mistake that many people make when house training their dog is to walk the dog until the dog relieves himself and then take him into the house. The dog, in order to get a longer walk, puts off relieving himself, sometimes miscalculating and waiting too long. This leads the owner to say that the dog is "spiteful" and waiting until he is inside to "do it on the carpet on purpose".
Once your dog has relieved himself outside in the potty spot, and has gotten his treat and his walk, take him into the house and let him loose for about one hour. Although the chances are the dog will not relieve himself in the house, he must be watched. If he starts to do something you don't want him to do, you can catch him in the act and teach him that it is wrong. After an hour or so loose in the house, take him out again. If he does his "Business" you can reward him and take him for a walk. Continue this system all day long, putting him in the crate when he cannot be supervised. Since he does not want to soil his bed, he will wait for his walk. This may not work as well or as quickly with a "pet shop" puppy because they spend so much time in a crate and use the crate for their "business".
When your dog has an accident do not rub his nose in it or hit him.
a. If you catch him in the act of eliminating, startle him with your voice, scold him and immediately take him to his toilet area. Praise him there if he finishes eliminating. Praise him mildly even if he only sniffs the area.
b. If you didn't catch him in the act, don't scold him when you find the mess, just clean it up and vow to watch him more closely. Punishing after the fact doesn't work. Your dog simply can't understand and connect your punishment with the act of eliminating which he did sometime before. If this punishment method worked, all dogs would be housebroken! He may look submissive ("guilty") because he knows you are angry at him - he can easily tell by your body posture and tone of voice - but this has no bearing on the act of elimina-tion he did earlier.
c. Clean accidents thoroughly as the scent will draw him back to use the area again. Don't use ammonia as there is ammonia in urine.
d. If your dog consistently house soils in one area try feeding him there or keep his water bowl there.
e. If accidents are frequent he needs to be watched much more closely and taken out more often. Don't be in a hurry to allow your pup unsupervised freedom. Housebreaking will be done long before he learns what not to chew. The crate will protect him and your belongings!
Housebreaking is an all-or-nothing procedure. If your dog eliminates occasionally in the house, he's not housebroken! It does not mean "tell me when you have to go out" as some dogs will ask you to play doorman many times a day. Housebreaking eventually should mean "hold it and wait until I take you out."
The key to housebreaking is really simple: Prevent accidents and praise correct performance!