by: Kathy Pierson
As dog owners, we have a responsibility to keep our dogs safe at all times. A few helpful tools that are effective in doing so are crates and vehicle restraints.
One of the first questions new dog owners want to know is why should I crate my dog? Sometimes the new dog owner believes that a crate is punishment and will not allow the new member of the household to be free and mingle with the family. But, a crate will be your tool for his safety and his den to rest and enjoy.
You will use a crate as a management tool only and your dog should be free to mingle when his behavior is good.
When purchasing a crate, you will see several options. Some are metal, some a flexible materials that are light to carry around, and some are plastic. You will choose a crate that is best suited for your needs. A crate enclosure should fit your dog so that he can completely stand up, lie down and stretch out and turn around. The crate should not be too big so that your dog can go to potty in the crate and move to another corner of the crate. There are crates that are designed with a panel fixture so that you can change the size of the crate as your dog grows.
Crate training will facilitate housebreaking, it can prevent your dog from unsafe activities , it can prevent unruly house behavior, and it can provide a save haven for your dog who, in nature, is a den animal.
Steps to Crate Train
1. Set up your crate where you want your dog to rest at night or rest when you are gone during the day.
2. Your dog has been able to investigate the crate without entering it because it is set up but he has not yet entered it. After a few days of sniffing it and generally getting used to it, begin tossing treats or his favorite toys into the crate. If he enters the crate, praise him in a happy voice but do not yet close the door. Let him enter and exit the crate on his own desire. After a few days of desensitizing him to the crate, use the same method to get him into the crate and slowly close the door. At that point, praise and treat him and walk away.
3. If your dog barks and makes a fuss, do not talk to him. Do not look at him and generally ignore him. Whatever you do, do not let him out of the crate because he is making a fuss. This will only reward his poor behavior and will encourage him to act up inside the crate.
4. When your dog is not inside the crate, always leave the door open so that your dog will feel free to enter it whenever he wants to.
5. After taking your dog for a walk or after a good round of fetch, bring your dog into the house and give him a drink. Then call him to go into the crate to rest. Throw treats and toys in there and as soon as he enters, praise him and close the door slowly. In a few minutes, open the door and he may or may not remain in the crate. The important point is that he has been placed in the crate for a very short period just to encourage him to use it.
Follow these steps and soon you will see that your dog will enter the crate when he wants to rest or just chill out. He will begin to feel that he can enter on his own and he is not forced to go into the crate. This is a key point for your success.
Avoid the Following:
1. Never use the crate as punishment. If your dog makes mistakes during the day, do not yell at him and put him into the crate. If you do that, the crate will be understood as a bad place and he will not willing to enter it or enjoy it.
2. When returning home and your dog is in the crate, immediately let him out of the crate and take him out to go potty. Always leave the door open.
3. Never leave your dog in the crate longer than is healthy for him. Do not crate your dog all day long. Do not go away for long periods of time and leave him in the crate. This could actually cause other serious behavior and health issues.
4. When you have a puppy, the crating length of time in hours that is acceptable is as follows:
Your pup’s age in months + 1
Example: My pup is 4 months old so MAXIMUM length of time in the crate is 5 hours.
Always crate your dog when traveling in the car for his safety and yours. If you cannot crate your dog, use a canine vehicle restraint to keep him safe inside your automobile. Your dog should always be in the back seat and in either a crate or a restraint. A favorite restraint is a harness which allows you to put a seat belt onto the harness and you can still have your leash and collar on your dog for his safe retrieval from the auto.
These items are management tools that can enhance your dog’s good behavior and his safety. Crates and vehicle restraints are available online and in pet stores.