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It's a dog's room

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I enjoy teaching, working with dogs and their handlers. Starting and ending the sessions with an invitation for questions leads to some lively discussions.

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Recently, the purpose of crate training came up. Views ranged from "I won't raise a puppy without a crate" to the applying the label of "Puppy Jail."

Dogs by nature are denning animals. In the wild, canines look for dens (like foxholes) to raise their litters. Crates take the place of the dens for our domestic pets. I highly recommend crate training for all dogs, small to large, puppy to adult.

Introduce your puppy to a crate at an early age. The crate size needs to grow with the puppy. This can be accomplished by purchasing two or three crates as your puppy grows (expensive unless you plan on owning multiple puppies or dogs of various sizes), purchasing a crate that has a divider system, or by blocking off a portion of a crate that is large enough to accommodate your puppy's adult size.

Using an appropriate sized crate makes house training much easier. Most puppies will not eliminate in their bed, however are willing to relieve themselves in a corner of a large crate, and then sleep elsewhere.

A crate really sets your new pet up to succeed. There are often times when you just cannot adequately supervise your puppy.

Rather than allowing him to chew inappropriately, lapse on house training, get into the garbage or more serious situations, put him and a safe chew toy into his crate. Your pup and your house will both be safer and the likely hood of your puppy developing serious, destructive habits is greatly reduced. As your puppy or new dog grows, learns, and becomes more reliable, he earns the privilege of time out of his crate unsupervised.

Puppies and dogs of all sizes benefit from crate training. It is a safe place for your new pet to sleep while you are sleeping. A dog used to sleeping in his crate often will go there for a nap and happily sleep there with the door open. I have found Dozer the Rottie and Angel my Leader Dog pup asleep in the same crate. Very cozy and neither wanted to leave!

A tethered or anchored crate is the safest place for your pet during transportation. Veterinarians, groomers, daycares and trainers all routinely use crates. Your pet will feel much more comfortable at these places if he is already accustomed to being crated.

It is a safe place for a pet that is shy or uncomfortable when company arrives to share your house. The crate is also a calming place for a dog that has become over active or excited and needs time to chill.

There are many types of crates available. Molded plastic are the most durable and easy to clean. They are the best bet for holding older dogs unaccustomed to crating or puppies and dogs given to chewing.

I have several plastic crates throughout my house and find that they also serve well as nightstands and end tables. Collapsible wire crates are open, airy and quite durable for quiet, non-chewing dogs. Soft side collapsible crates are very light and convenient for travel or shows.

However they are easily compromised by even small dogs as the mesh material can be quickly scratched or chewed through.

But what if your dog hates being crated? A woman in one of my classes related the following incident. She had ordered a puppy from out of state and had the dog shipped by air. When the crated puppy arrived, it had peed, pooped and puked in the crate. What a terrifying experience for a pup recently removed from mom and littermates! No wonder that the pup wanted nothing to do with a crate after that experience.

Most puppies and some older dogs accept the crate willingly. If the dog resists, I don't like to force the issue. Using a molded plastic kennel, I will take the door off or at least tie it open. At feeding time, I put the dish just outside the door opening. Most food-motivated dogs will readily eat next to the crate.

As the dog's comfort level increases, I move the dish inside, then deeper into the crate until the dog is eating with his entire body in the crate. Leave the door open. Now I start tossing the occasional treat or toy into the crate. When the dog enters the crate to retrieve the treat, I praise him.

Pick a command that you want your dog to respond to ("kennel up" or similar) and use that term when praising the dog in the kennel.

The first time you shut the crate door, do so for only 10-15 seconds, stay by the crate, then open the door and call the dog to you. Be very generous with your praise and touch. Increase the time and the distance as your dog's comfort level allows. Don't rush the process. This may take several days or even a week or more depending on the dog.

If the dog flat refuses to enter the kennel to eat, I take the kennel apart. Using just the bottom section, I place the dog's blanket or bed in the crate; then I place the food dish just inside the door opening. I have not had a dog that refused to eat within a day using this method.

Once the dog is comfortable entering the half crate, I replace the top and continue the sequence.

Crate training makes house training and so many other training issues easier to manage. The sooner your dog is comfortable in his crate, the more effective your training will be.

Send your comments to me, Linda at lkwiedewitsch@yahoo.com.

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