Dog Behavior: Crating My Dog is Impossible!
“Crating my dog is impossible!” I hear this a lot from frustrated dog owners. And yes, it can become very frustrating. This is especially true when you consider the alternative, which is not crating your new dog. You go crazy trying to imagine what condition your house will be in when you return from work or from just spending a short time away from the house and your new dog.
You, of course, don’t want to make your dog hate his crate. Or maybe it’s not even your fault, he just came this way. One lady who got a shelter dog, moaned, “My dog will not go in his crate! I’ve tried food, toys and treats and nothing seems to interest him in going in his crate.”
She thinks that since he’d been in a previous home, someone there either did not desensitize him correctly or left him in a crate for hours on end. She is baffled as to just how to get past the damage already done. Not an uncommon problem, trust me.
This brings us to two obvious schools of thought on the subject of crating dogs. One that is against crating dogs and the other favors crating dogs. Let’s have a look at both.
Is Crate Training Bad?
It’s been the belief of some who are against crating a dog that “Dogs are highly social animals who loathe being separated from their human families for any amount of time.
Many people subject their dogs to hours of solitary confinement in a crate every day.” Some think “Keeping a dog jailed in a cage is one of the cruelest punishments possible.”
There are even books that have even been written on the subject hoping to convince dog owners not to crate their dogs.
If you are not going to be home at all and have to work for a living do you just leave your dog in your house?
Even if you gate your new dog in the kitchen, he may jump the doggie gate and go to work on remodeling your home.
What about banished to the elements in the back yard to protect your good stuff inside?
Summer heat can be brutal – even if your dog has some shade and water. I don’t think I could do that to my puppy or dog. But that’s just me.
But again the question- is crating your dog really bad?
Not crating your dog could set him up for a history of punishment for destroying your stuff.
This punishment, usually done after the fact (and the dog won’t associate the punishment with what he did) will create stress, anxiety and tension leading to more behavior problems in your dog and could ruin the possibilities of crate training period.
That scenario places way too much wear and tear on your dog.
Could crating your dog be a good thing?
Dogs in crates can – no should, be a mindset— for both your dog and you.
Most all the experts acknowledge that with all the information out there that’s been written on the use of crates as a valuable tool, it’s sometimes hard to believe that some folks still look at it as inhumane.
It does not have to be this way, especially if your dog is properly introduced to his crate and likes it in spite of all the negative connotations.
Not only is it great for house training but it will keep your stuff from being destroyed in your absence.
No One Said This Is A Forever Thing!
If you do decide to use a crate for your new dog or existing dog, it might also be good to mention that as you go through this introductory process, you should be training your mind to be accepting of the crate as well and that it will only have to be a temporary circumstance.
Once your dog is trained and trusted you could get rid of the crate or leave the door open so your dog has a choice to rest in his “man cave” or somewhere else.
You just need a good introduction
If your dog won’t crate up or if you are just getting started, it’s important to take a slow approach to creating the mindset for you and your dog that crates are good and good things happen in the crate.
Picking a good crate will be part of both your and your dog’s positive mindset. Get one that is easy to clean and gives your dog good visibility – like a wire crate. These usually have bottom tray panels that slide out easily for cleaning.
If you’ve had a crate that your dog won’t go in, buy a new and different crate to “re-start the process.” Sometimes this helps a dog to leave his emotional baggage with the old crate as the new crate now provides new opportunities!
The first thing I would do is to place the crate in a high traffic area and leave the door open. Make it comfy for your dog with a bed or blanket (assuming he’s not a chewer.)
This next part is important.
Place the crate in the chosen location when your dog is not looking. Also put some high value treats in the back of the crate. When your dog comes into the room, he’ll notice the crate and just as “curiosity got the cat,” your dog will discover the treats. Throughout the day, drop a few more treats in the crate when he’s not looking. Do not shut the door. This keeps things all on his terms.
As he gets used to the crate and going in to get the treats, begin to feed mealtimes in the crate as well. The door is to remain open all the time. The crate is just a place where good things happen.
Off and on as you see him getting the treats, praise him for going in and then encourage him to come out (no food when he leaves the crate) and praise him when he does.
Your next step would be to (using food treats) tell him “Kennel up!” in a nice soft voice. Don’t repeat it. End the session if he chooses not to go in. When he finally goes in, give him “extras for excellence!” for doing a good job.
Remember, do not over train this exercise. Stop when you and the dog are ahead.
This type of training is best done on the weekend when you have lots of time. So rent a movie, buy some popcorn and make an afternoon out of it with sporadic training sessions all weekend long.
Once your dog is in the crate, close the door and start your movie. Take time to go to the kitchen to get popcorn or a drink. This puts you out of sight for short bearable lengths of time as you and your dog gets used to him being in the crate.
Open it frequently to let him out.
You’ll be glad you took your time with your dog desensitizing him to his new digs. Now you can begin to reap the benefits of crating your dog.
Good stuff about crate training:
- If used correctly, the crate can keep your dog from having accidents in your home when you cannot watch him. If used correctly, it can speed up the house breaking process.
- In addition to stopping unwanted accidents in your home, crating your dog keeps your stuff safe
- There is also this peace-of-mind that that you get “just knowing” all is well while your dog is in his crate.
- In a house full of kids and chaos, your puppy or dog will have a place to go and get away from the stress. He can seek peace in his own space.
- It also teaches your dog to be confident in being alone when you can’t be with him.
- Another advantage is that your dog learns that you are not available 24/7. You come and you go – but you always come back and let him out!
- Crate training provides your dog with expectations of what to do and when to do it. He will begin to lock on the predictable times he goes in his crate. Having this routine can give your dog a profound sense of security – keeping his stress down.
If you are as busy as are most people, crating your dog frees up your time to get more pressing things done that you couldn’t do because you felt you had to watch your puppy or dog.
More time out of the house is good. You are much less stressed and your dog will pick up on this. He will be less stressed as well – assuming you began your crate training properly from the beginning.
To crate train or not is your decision. But I hope I’ve given you some food for thought so you can make an informed decision. An educated dog owner is a better dog owner.
We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from. So tell me, what’s your take on crate training?
I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinion on this. – I’m here to help.
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs
(c)Jim Burwell Inc.