To crate or not to crate… In the dog training realm, crate training may appear, on its face, cruel or mean. After all, how can ‘caging’ a dog be beneficial? When used correctly, a crate can positively shape your dog’s view of its world. Your goal is to establish meals, elimination and bed time with this often-misunderstood tool.
Here are a few basic positive crate culture tips:
- It’s a crate, not a cage. In a dog’s world, a healthy crate environment is equivalent to Netflix and chill.
- All good things should happen in a dog’s crate, including each meal and special treats or toys. Introduce it enticingly, leaving the door open with a familiar blanket and toy inside. Some dogs are not readily willing to explore this new area. If so, start your dog’s crate training with meals just outside the door, then just inside the door, and so on until chow time at the back of the crate poses no threat. Follow up with closing the door while eating and opening it immediately afterward, extending the closed-door time incrementally. If whining enters the scenario, wait, even if ever so briefly, for it to subside before you allow exit to avoid building in a whining-equals-freedom association.
- Include crate time in happy hour. Once your dog is spending small amounts of time in the crate in a relaxed state, hang out. Leave the room briefly every 5 minutes or so and quickly return, gradually increasing the time you’re gone. Similarly, wait until opening the door upon your return, slowly extending the exit expectation.
- Avoid exit anticipation by ignoring excitement when approaching the crate. Stand by and wait until the enthusiasm passes. Then open the door and briefly offer praise.
- Do not use the crate for punishment. Never. If your dog needs a time out, it’s likely you do as well. When this occurs, utilize another distraction such as moving to another area with your dog, count to ten, or keep counting until you’re calm and start over.
- A key to effective crate training is to avoid overusing crate time. If you’re prevented from coming home to release your dog to potty, stretch and exercise, employ the services of a friend or dog walker to provide the much-needed relief.
Both you and your dog can reap the rewards of putting in crate training time. The crate, once understood, is one of the best tools available to create and support a mutually nurturing environment.
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