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Crate Training

by Geoffrey English

Often clients ask, "What do you think about crate training?" My standard answer, "Crate training is the most misunderstood training technique a new dog owner faces today. Like most things in life, people often criticize what they don’t understand. Personally, I crate train all my dogs that live in the house. Many people have a misconception about what crate training is or what it is not." In this month’s article I will attempt to dispel some of the myths about crate training and give you some simple techniques that you can begin using today to make the process of crate training easy and create a "domestic den" for your dog.

When done properly, crate training offers dog owners two valuable benefits. First, the crate becomes the place your dog can call home. Second, crate training can considerably speed up the housebreak process.

A Place Your Dog Can Call Home

If you step back in time and look at the canine before man’s domestication - the wolf, you would find a "denning animal" that naturally made himself or herself a home in small burrows on the side of hills and underneath blow downs. These burrows or "dens" were constructed to escape from predators. The early canine quickly realized that a small den just large enough to turn around in would offer shelter from the elements and allow them to efficiently conserve on body heat during the winter months.

Have you ever noticed where your dog goes to escape the hustle and bustle of family life? Inevitably, you will find him or her out of the traffic area and lying under a table or a chair. These areas offer you’re dog the solitude he so desperately seeks. Dogs feel more secure in "denning" environments. If he wishes to get away from the kids or the active of your family you will find that he will retreat to his crate / domestic den. Employing the use of a crate in your home will provide your dog with a place he can call home.

A Home Away From Home

Whether you’re on the road in competition or on vacation, the crate provides a convenient portable den that offers dogs and owners a safe and stress-free way to travel. I have found dogs that are crate trained will experience much less stress on overnight trips than dogs that are not crate trained. This can often be the factor that makes for a successful day in the field.

Crate Training and Housebreaking

Dealing with a crying puppy is often the first problem a new puppy owner must face when crate training. Start by placing your puppy in his new crate for very short intervals. Sometimes beginning with sessions measured in seconds rather than minutes or hours is the best approach. Even better yet, try feeding your puppy in a crate. This will help your young dog establish a positive association towards the crate.

Try placing an garment or blanket with the mother’s scent on it in the crate with the puppy. Additionally, placing a ticking alarm clock outside the kennel can be comforting to your new puppy for the first few nights away from his littermates.

During the first night a puppy is separated from the rest of the litter he will often whine and fuss. This behavior is a very natural survival skill learned early in life. Whether in the whelping box or in the wild, a puppy learns very quickly that when separated from the pack, calls for help will allow other members of the pack to quickly located him, thus reuniting him with his peers. To that extent, many animal behaviorists recommend allowing a new puppy to sleep in the same room with you to reduce this separation anxiety.
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