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Crate Training Your Puppy

~Deb Stover





During puppyhood, a dog must learn to feel secure in his environment. An insecure dog leads to problems with house training, a dog that cowers, digs, chews and barks needlessly. Adult dog behavior is shaped suring the early stages of puppyhood. Many dogs are placed in shelters or end up on the streets as a result of poor training on the owner's part. Dogs need proper training and direction. Most problems with dogs can be prevented if proper direction is taken from the beginning. Invest a little of your time now and and it will result in a lifetime of enjoyment for you and your canine companion.

Dogs are pack animals by nature and prefer a dark, small, den-like atmosphere to a huge open room that we humans would enjoy.

Dog crates are simply a rectangular structure just big enough for the dog to lay down in. They should NOT be large enough for the dog to play in. The natural tendency to stay clean is basic instinct. The crate becomes the den that humans took away when we domesticated dogs thousands of years ago.

Crates are primarily used for house breaking puppies. But may also be used to train/re-train adult dogs as well. Crates are not cruel by any stretch of the imagination. It's like an indoor den for you companion.

Crates should NOT be used for long term confinement. More than 10 hours for any dog is too long to remain in a crate without being able to relieve themself. Once a schedule is set, dogs usually have a admirable ability to "hold it". This must be gradualy worked up to through proper training from puppy hood.

THE FIRST STEP

When you bring your new pupster home, you should already have his/her crate set up with newspapers or a soft rug or towel. If your new pupster is younger than 10 weeks when you bring him home I suggest placing an exercise pen around the crate. This will give him the advantage of not being shut up in the crate at an early stage for long periods of time. Puppies urinate immediately after waking up from a nap and defecate after every meal. This is EVERY time! Once they begin to mature, the length of time between urges "to go" become longer in length. (Usually around 10-14 weeks). At this stage they become ready to stay in their crates all day while you are at work and all night while you sleep. I will keep a toy or two in the crate but I don't keep food or water as this will create a huge mess. As soon as they eat and drink they will need "to go" and if you are not home to let them out you'll be real sorry and they will be real upset. It will also inadvertantly teach them "to go" in the crate.

Puppies learn quickly not to relieve themselves in their den/crate. I keep thick layers of newspapers in the crate for the first month or so. Depending on how young the puppy is, it will more than likely urinate in the crate because he just can't "hold it" as long as an older dog. If the puppy is fed and watered and taken outside before being crated you will have a much cleaner and happier puppy when you return home. Puppies grow very fast and usually within a month you can remove the papers from the crate and replace it with a soft rug or towel.

I usually have two crates per new puppy. One in the family room and one in my bedroom. Puppies should NOT be isolated just because they are in a crate. During the day when you can't watch every move the new puppy makes he can be in the crate in the family room. But at night he will want to be with you for a secure feeling. And when he awakes in the night and needs to go out you will hear him if he's in your bedroom.

When you sleep, your puppy should be in his crate with the door closed. He will wake you when the urge strikes. You need to take him out right then and there to further the crate training purpose. Your puppy will learn what you teach him. If you ignore the persistent crying to go out to relieve himself you will defeat the purpose of crating your puppy altogether. Puppies mature quickly and he will not have to get up in the middle of the night forever.

NEVER scold your pupster for soiling his crate. Shame on you for not getting him out when he asked!! Again, dogs are clean by nature and left to their own devices would leave the den to relieve themselves. Always, Always praise your puppy EVERY time he "goes" outside. IF he does soil the crate, just get the puppy outside to finish his business, give him LOTS of praise, clean the crate and go back to sleep.

Once your puppy has matured and is past the house-breaking period you may start to leave him out for longer periods. But you will want to continue the crating when you are away or cannot watch everything your puppy is doing for a while longer. Teething can be dangerous as well as costly if the puppy is allowed to be loose all the time. My new puppies are crated until they are totally trustworthy and understand what is allowed and what is not. This might be 6 months or it might be 2 years. Each dog is an individual and requires individual training. Once I am SURE the dog is trustworthy then I start leaving them out when I am away for short periods at a time. As long as everything is in tact when I return the next time will be a little longer. Eventually your dog will be able to be loose in the house all the time if you so desire.

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