YOUR DOG'S DEN IS HIS CASTLE
Wouldn't it be nice to come home after a hard day at work to find your house and your dog just as you left them? If you'd like to happy to see your dog, instead of wondering what kind of mess he's made this time, this article is for you!
If your dog is in the process of house training, gets into things when left alone, or is just plain destructive, for your peace of mind and his safety, the answer may be a private "den" of his own: a crate or airline kennel.
Airline kennels, or dog crates, are safe, escape proof, water proof and portable. While it may look like a cage to you, to your dog (whose natural instincts tell him to seek a "den" for privacy and safety) it's a dog house with a door, a bedroom of his own, a "home away from home" when you travel. (Many hotels that might not otherwise allow dogs will, if you have a crate.)
Help your dog love his crate.
Don't just stuff him in there and close the door! It will take time for your dog to become accustomed to his new crate, especially if he's older. Start by feeding him there, with the door open. Use plenty of verbal praise. Teach him to "go in" by tossing a treat inside. Tell him "O.K." as he comes out. Next, tell him "go in" and then tell him to "wait" as he gets to the doorway. Quickly, before he comes out, give him a treat while he stands inside the crate. Release him with the command, "O.K." Now that he will "go in" on command and "wait" until given the "O.K." to come out, close the door as he goes in, tell him "wait" as he turns around, and feed him a biscuit through the door. Slowly open the door, give him another treat while he "waits" inside and then give him the "O.K." to come out. Extend the time gradually. Once he's used to his den, he will probably go there on his own. Once he's trustworthy in the house, you may leave the door open or remove it completely.
Change the association. Another tip to help your dog enjoy going into his crate: Fill a food puzzle toy like a Kong with the best stuff you can find. A little peanut butter, cream cheese or squeeze cheese, some canned food and biscuits frozen inside of the Kong will keep your dog occupied for quite awhile inside his new den. Show him the amazing goodness and let him lick it and then toss it into the crate and close the door - with the dog on the OUTSIDE. When he is suitably frustrated and really wants to go in, let him go inside to enjoy the Kong for just a few minutes with the door closed. Snap his leash on before you release him to go inside. Close the door and stay close by so he doesn't fret because you've left. Let him get pretty engrossed in working on the Kong. Before he has a chance to finish it, open the door, pick up his leash and take him out, leaving the Kong still full of goodies inside. Close the door and wait a bit. He may actually ask you to let him back in and after a few repetitions over several days, he may pace around hoping it's time for you to put him in and close the door so he can enjoy his special crate treat AND that you will stay away long enough so he can finish it!
What if he's barking when I get home?
Remember, it's natural for your dog to complain when he's on the inside and you're on the outside. He wants to be where you are! Do not open the door until the dog is quiet inside. Ask for a quiet sit and only release him when he does. You must not release the dog in response to fussing, or you will reward this unwanted behavior!
How big should the crate be?
Just large enough for the dog to stand and lie down in comfortably. The most common mistake is buying one that is too large. Crate manufacturers usually provide a list of breeds and the suggested sizes. If you have a mixed breed, measure his height at the shoulder and his length from nose to rear and buy the next size larger. For growing puppies, buy one big enough for his adult size and partition the back with a piece of board that can be removed as he grows.
What kind of crate should I get?
There are a wide variety of crates available. If you plan to travel with your dog by plane, be sure to choose one that is airline approved. There are plastic, metal, wire and wooden crates. Some even collapse for easy storage. Choose one that is easy to clean, chew-proof, and has a secure door latch. You may even build one yourself. Be sure it has adequate ventilation. Wooden or plastic crates do hold body heat, which is great in winter, but can be uncomfortable in summer, especially for flat-nosed or long coated breeds.
I don't know how I'd have survived his puppyhood without one!
Once you've housetrained via the crate method, come home to all your family heirlooms safe from "Chewing Charlie" and kept your puppy safe from the dangers of poisonous plants and chewed electrical cords, you may wonder how you ever got along without one! And the money you invest in the purchase of a crate could save you money otherwise spent on repeated rug shampoos and replacement of belongings.
Use it, don't abuse it!
Now that you have your crate and your dog has adjusted to spending time there while you're away at work or at school, don't abuse it! He can't be expected to spend unreasonably long hours there. He needs to relieve himself and he needs time to exercise, to get some fresh air and most of all - spend time with you! After all, he's not a canary, he's a dog, and dogs need lots of love and attention!
This handout may be reprinted in its entirety for distribution free of charge and with full credit given:
© CAROL A. BYRNES "DIAMONDS IN THE RUFF" Training for Dogs & Their People
ditr_training @ hotmail.com - http://www.diamondsintheruff.com