By Gary Walker
Crate training is the process of teaching your dog to stay in a dog crate, which is basically a wooden, plastic or wire kennel. Some dog owners consider this inhumane when it is quite the opposite, most dogs actually enjoy being in the crate.
The crate simulates the den environment of a wolf, so not only is crate training humane, it actually draws on natural canine behavior.
When should you start crate training? On the first night you bring your pup home. You should of course have already bought a crate, and hopefully you got one with a sliding panel. Adjust the panel so that you give the puppy just enough space to lie down and turn around. Don’t be tempted to give the pup more space than that.
Put in a soft towel, rather than a blanket, for the puppy to sleep on. If the pup then ‘has an accident’ in the crate, the towel will absorb any messes. If you got your pup from a breeder, ask if he has a strip of bedding which has her mother’s scent on it. The scent will help the pup relax and settle in quicker.
Often dog owners put the crate in some secluded corner of the house – this is a mistake. Remember that dogs are social animals and thrive on interaction. Pick a spot where there are plenty of comings and goings, so the puppy doesn’t feel left out.
At night you should put the crate in your bedroom – at least in the early weeks. The puppy will kick up a fuss at first. This is only to be expected, as she’ll be frightened by her new surroundings and most likely missing her mom and littermates.
Don’t feel you have to respond to every whimper though. Do this and she’ll soon figure out how to get you to come running.
Within a couple of days she’ll be happily sleeping in her crate. After a few weeks you can move her to other part of the house at night. One again, she’ll probably whine and howl, but provided you don’t come running she’ll soon accept her new accomodations.
Soon the crate will be her favorite spot in to whole house, and you’ll find it’s where she prefers sleeping.
An often overlooked benefit of crate training is that it makes house training a breeze. Dogs are, by nature, clean animals, so if your puppy needs to go while she’s in the crate she’ll learn to keep it in.
Remember though that a puppy does not have the control of an adult dog, so give her regular toilet breaks every hour or so.
When she starts barking and whining, take her outdoors immediately. Praise her when she does her business outside and she’ll virtually house train herself.