What’s a crate?
A crate is a safety confined small space where your pup should feel safe and relaxed.
In nature this would be the same thing as their “Den”. This is where they can crash and feel safe. A Den in nature is small, cosy and usually there’s only on entrance or doorway. Danger can only come from one place so its easy to protect.
When living with humans dogs usually find their own little corner maybe underneath a bed or furniture to snuggle up. This is kind of their domestic dens.
Crate training means that you train your dog to feel safe and relaxed in the crate. Basically you want to think of the crate as their ¨den¨.
A crate is not a place to punish your pup or a place for your pup to hide. If your pup is in a fearful state of mind close the crate before he or she gets in and use it when he or she is relaxed.
When should we use it?
Crate training is basically used for three reasons:
1 – Potty training and house training: The crate is a great tool to create a schedule for your pup. Because dogs don’t pee or poop where they sleep you can use the crate when you can’t supervise him or her to avoid ¨accidents¨ in your house.
2 – Destructive behavior: A crate or a pen that is puppy proofed allows you to have a space in your house where your pup doest have access to chew on your furniture, shoes or more importantly things that can actually kill them or injure them such as electric cables, medicine etc.
3 – In certain cases for separation anxiety: Crate training can come pretty handy to prevent or to fix separation anxiety. It teaches your pup to be left alone and sleeping.
How to Crate train.
The first thing you should work is on letting your pup in and out of the crate. You can do this by simply luring your dog with treats or a desirable toy into the crate. Do it several times during the day. Don not close the gate when doing this. Other things that can help is to hide treats or food crumbs in the crate so your pup spends some time there looking for them with the door open.This will create a positive association with the crate.
IMPORTANT note: While you do this don’t put a lot of excitement, keep it low key and do it in silence. The reason why is because a crate should be a relaxed place where your puppy is going to sleep or simply relax and calm down. It´s counter productive to get your dog all excited to go to the crate and then shut the door and expect him or her to relax and calm down. This is a very common mistake.
Once you’ve created a positive association with the crate, you also want to practice leading your dog to the crate with a leash and making him or her wait before leaving the crate. Do not force or push your pup into the crate, just lead him or her gently and confidently. This is a good practice because food creates excitement and excitement is what your are trying to avoid when you are crate training your pup. You want your dog to go calmly to the crate, remain calm and get out of it calmly too.
If you leave an excited dog in a crate this becomes a jail not a den.
The second step is to leave your pup for a while with the door close. The best way to do this is after a long walk or a good session of training when your pup is tired and ready to crash. Leave your dog in the crate while he or she is calm and take him or her out of the crate while he or she is still calm. Don’t wait until they start baking! If not your dog will learn that barking gets him or her out of the crate.
Do this in silence and don’t say good bye or talk to your dog. Engaging with your dog and creating excitement before leaving him or her in the crate gets your pup confused. Dogs don’t understand what good bye means because they don’t understand English. Good bye is not a command and is not good manners its just a tease.
So to recap a little bit and avoid confusions: Use treats or toys to create a positive association with the crate, but once your are going to close the door be calm and avoid excitement.
© Gabriel Riesco, NYC, November 2017