TO CRATE OR NOT TO CRATE? THAT IS THE QUESTION…
There is some debate in the doggy world whether a crate is a good or a bad thing for a dog. If used wrongly it is an awful device that will cause physical and mental abnormalities. However, the majority agree that if used correctly it is a sanctuary, a doggy bedroom that your pooch can retreat to when feeling scared, tired or just needs a break from all those humans.
Size - The first starting point is the crate size itself. The dog must be able to stand straight with his/her head up in a normal position, be able to turn around and also lay down fully outstretched. If you have a puppy or a young dog with growing room, it is essential the crate as the dog grows is changed to fit his/her size at that point
Bedding - This must be kept clean at all times. So maybe think about old towels, vet bedding etc until you are sure your pooch is not a shredder. If they are not you can move onto doggy cushions/beds.
Water Bowl - There should always be a fresh supply of water inside the crate the ones that can attach to the bars above floor level is best
Cover - This part is totally up to you, but many place a lightweight sheet over the top of the crate so it kind of creates a doggy cave, blocking out visual stimulus from the sides. This does not have to be anything fancy, can be an old sheet. As long as airflow is not restricted
Placement - Think about where you are going to place the crate. You want somewhere that is safe, out of the way but still giving your dog the ability to see you. Make sure is not near an open door or window , away from lots of activity or feet walking by. Make sure there are no electrical cables etc that your pooch can drag into the crate or reach from the crate, or curtains etc.
When your dog first sees the crate he/she will usually go towards it to sniff and generally investigate. Placing a treat inside will encourage them to step into the crate to retrieve. If the dog sits/lays down and starts to eat the treat inside reward this behavior with positive words and maybe another little treat. Do not suddenly shut the door on your dog, at that point the crate will be seen as a prison and that is no good for anyone. Make the crate a fun place, a safe place, a chill out zone for your dog. Toys, treats , soft blankets, things that will be inviting for your dog, to encourage them to use the crate.
It is so important that your dog associates the crate, to understand that it can come and go as it pleases, therefore reinforcing it as a good place to be rather than a punishment.
“( your dogs name) Breakfast time”, “( your dogs name) treat time”, “( your dogs name) dinner time”, say these words to trigger your dog to react and get use to going inside his/her crate to eat.
Again do not close the door at this point. As your dog becomes use to the crate and comfortable you can introduce closing the door. Start by closing the door as your dog eats his/her breakfast etc . But ensure the door is opened before your dog finishes his/her meal. Slowly you can progress to the door being closed for longer lengths of time. If your dog starts to bark, scratch or protest; ignore the behaviour but when quiet reward with a treat of positive words.
NIGHT TIME/ SNOOZE TIME
Once your dog is happy spending time in the crate with you around, you can introduce it to being crated overnight. Make sure your dog has toys or treat-dispensing toys with it to initially settle it into the routine. Keep the crate in a familiar, central area so the dog feels comfortable and settled. Yes they will bark and howl at first, but by creating that safe place, a routine can be established. As soon as you let your dog out in the morning, carry/lead them straight away to do their business outside. They may make a few mistakes during the night until a routine is established.
Just put yourself in their place, before you go to bed you will go to the toilet, in the morning when you awake you will go to the toilet. If you do not apply this thinking to your dog then YOU are setting your dog up to fail.
CRATES AND KIDS
We can not stress the importance of when you are crate training your dog at the same time crate train your kids. When we say crate train your kids what we mean is teach them that the crate is the dogs bedroom and if the dog goes in there to leave him/her alone whether the door is closed or open. To never ever poke anything through the bars. That basically the dogs crate is a no kid zone and it is your responsibility as the parent to ensure those rules are NEVER broken. We all would love to think our children are angels, in reality they are not. They learn responsibility and kindness from you. So utilise the crate to teach your children kindness and consideration for others.