Friday, March 27, 2009

Crate Training and Its Advantages

When I was growing up we had dogs but they were never crate trained. Crates were sold back then; my folks just chose to go without one. At night the dog would spend the night behind gates in the kitchen. Of course there was one Boxer named Jayne, who didn’t realize she wasn’t supposed to jump the gate and did just about every night until they got a taller one. The family knew she could jump it if she really tried, but for some reason she stayed put.
I got my first crate when I got my first AmStaff Nimber, when he was a puppy. While you can buy a crate for the puppy’s size, the puppy will grow and you could be buying several sizes before you reach the size you need for an adult dog. I bought a crate that was 36 inches long, 24 inches wide and 30 inches high; which was the size suggested by the breeder at the time. I put a cardboard box in the back of the crate on its side, with its bottom facing the door. In this way I was able to cut down the size of the crate for the puppy. Dogs do not like to urinate or defecate where they sleep, this is their “den” and they will keep it clean; if you are housebreaking a puppy this is another plus for getting a crate. As my puppy grew, I would cut a bit of the box away, so he gained more space in the crate.
Whatever size crate you buy, it should be at least tall enough for the dog to stand up in. They don’t have to be able to hold up their head, but they do need to have enough room to walk in, turn around and lay down easily. I also suggest using something washable on the bottom for the dog to lie down on. I like to use old quilts, or go the local recycling center to look for old blankets. You can even use old cotton towels; just make sure whatever you use is machine washable because sometimes accidents happen. I have more than one blanket, so in case one needs to be washed there is a clean one ready to use. You can even put a blanket over it to darken it at night to help your dog sleep.
A puppy should never be in a crate for more than three to four hours at a time if you can help it, and six to hours is the limit I use for Skye, as an adult. I try not to leave Skye in her crate for more than about six hours at a time, though she has been crated overnight when I am home. When Skye came to live with me, she was crated when I could not watch her even though she was an adult, as she was into everything. I also started crating her overnight when she began living here because she had been a kennel dog and wasn’t housebroken yet. The crate was also helpful for feeding her in because she had to get medication in her food and I didn’t want the cats getting into it. Now that she is settled into the household routine and the cats are used to her, I don’t crate her to feed her unless I am adding something to her food that the cats might find interesting.
A crate should never be used for punishment, no matter how frustrated you may get. It can be used for a time out when you need a break. It can be used if you need to have the dog out of the way, but in a safe place temporarily; an example of this would be if you are hosting a party, or mopping the floors that the dog just ran across with their muddy paws.
If you follow these easy tips, crate training can be a rewarding experience for the whole family. It worked well for me and I know Skye is happier; now she gets to sleep at the foot of my bed.

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