Sunday, June 8, 2008

Crate Training Buzz

North Shore Animal League America

Ok, so at first we thought keeping the puppy confined in a small cage was cruel. We wouldn’t want to be confined to a small area. We call that jail, correct?

With puppies it is different I found out. My vet was giving us the “Hey, you got a new puppy!” talk when he mentioned, “I bet she goes under the coffee table...” I was like yeah she loves it down there. Well, he said that is because they actually like small places. They feel safe in small places with their backs to the wall; they can look forward and see what’s coming without worry of what is behind them. It is also the safest place for them to be when you are not around to check on them. Chewing on the wrong thing is not only going to upset you because your property has been destroyed but it might end up costing you a lot of money! If they swallow the wrong bit of things, surgery may be required to dislodge this from their intestines. Not any fun for you or your puppy. This advice totally changed my view on crates. It is not about me and my guilt; it is about her comfort and her safety.

One of the prime reasons crates are most recommended is for housetraining. Puppies don’t poop where they sleep. She shouldn’t be in there for a prolonged period of time and be careful what you put her in there with. We put in a few of her favorite ‘safe’ toys and that is it. No food. If she eats freely you will not have any control of her elimination schedule, which can lead to accidents. She comes out of the crate and she is taken immediately outdoors to eliminate. Really important is that you do not use the crate for punishment. The crate should be her safe place, kind of like the den feeling. Place the crate somewhere close to the family. Isolation is not what you want to reinforce. Do not let the puppy out if she whines or barks. Have her calm down before opening the door and reward her with a treat when she does.

It is not cruel, it is highly recommended by vets and many other sources, I would recommend one extra precaution and that is to place stickers on your doors and some windows that say something like “please rescue my pets”. They usually have a place for you to specify what kind and how many pets you have. They can be found at many pet stores. I have used them for years, even when it was just my cat running around free in the house. Running around or in a crate the danger is the same. Unfortunately, I confirmed this when the house across the street burned down a few months ago. Attempts were made to rescue the dog, but it was not possible. Very sad indeed.

We keep the door open for her all the time and she goes in and out all day. After she got used to the crate we started to actually close the door for about only 15mins a day once a day. Next week I will start her on twice a day for 15mins and gently up the time. If I have to run an errand I know the puppy is safe and happy.

Seek advice from your vet for your particular situation. There is a lot of work to training a new puppy. It is well worth it! A well behaved dog is a happy dog!

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