At some point, you’ll have to be apart from your best friend, but as a dog-owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your pup safe even when you aren’t there to supervise his every decision. For some dogs, free roam of the house is safe. Most days you’ll come home to some extra fur on the couch, and your bedsheets will be ruffled, but other than that, little damage is done. But for many dogs, some extra boundaries are needed to keep them (and your belongings) safe.
It’s true that dogs sleep 60% of the day or more, but they are still predators by nature, and as such can be awakened by any new sound that might require their attention – a truck passing on the street, an acorn falling on the roof, or certainly a knock at the front door. A crated dog may be roused by these sounds, then quickly grow bored again and settle back to sleep. A dog free in the house may bark at windows, jump or scratch at the door, pull at the window blinds, or even turn his frustrations loose on your couch or furniture. In addition, a dog’s nature tells him not to eliminate where he sleeps, so a crated dog is more likely to “hold it” where a dog with free range of the house can find a place to potty far from his preferred napping spot.
So, yes, lots of reasons to crate a dog. But then how do we do it? The short answer is “make your dog want to go in the crate”. Is that a case of easier-said-than-done? Maybe. Really, it’s all about the introduction. Here’s how you can start: Ideally, you should start your training on a weekend or vacation when you have a few days to devote to this without long periods away from home, and you’ll want to prep with a variety of quick-to-eat treats and some longer lasting goodies like stuffed kongs and marrow bones. When you first set up the crate in your home, put it in a place not too far from the family comfortable areas (a bedroom ideally, but a living room is also fine) so that Rover doesn’t feel excluded and abandoned. Open the crate and toss some treats or cookies inside. Then let your pup discover them. Casually toss some more in, but carry on your day normally for an hour or so, reloading the crate with small snacks until your pup is checking inside regularly to see what treasures are hidden inside. Never try to push or force the dog inside; that will only teach the dog that the crate is scary or a place of punishment. After about an hour, toss some treats in, and when your dog heads in to get them, close the door calmly, feed a higher value treat (like a bit of hot dog or cheese) through the bars of the door, then immediately open it up and let him out. What does he learn from that? Going into the crate is fine, having the door close is awesome! Repeat this step about ten times, leaving the door closed only a few seconds at a time. If after these rehearsals your pup is still happily going in the crate, you’re on the right track!
Now you’ll toss the treats in, and when Fido goes to get them, give him a bone or kong, close the door, feed him a small bit of hot dog, then leave the room. Immediately come back in and let him out! It’s possible he doesn’t want to come out. That’s fine – close the door again, offer the bit of hot dog or cheese, leave the room again, count to three, then return and open the crate. Gradually you’ll increase this time, a second at a time, until you’re able to be out of sight of the crate for long enough to head out for a meal or a movie. By this time, your dog has had so much rehearsal with the process that he thinks his crate is the place where super goodies happen, and he’ll barely bat an eye when it’s time for you to leave him for a while. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to rest assured that your best buddy is safe and sound and not getting into any trouble.
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