The Essence of Crate Life
Crate training is meant to benefit both you and your dog and should be used for only comfort, rest and travel throughout your dog’s life. It should never, ever, be used as punishment; lest it be seen as a prison instead of a haven. Furnish your dog’s crate with the necessities of life: toys, treats, bedding and water, if necessary. When we leave Max and Henri during the day, they like to have a lot of toys in their crate, but one must resist the urge to stuff all toys in there, because the dogs will feel crowded and uncomfortable if they have to be in there for any length of time; same goes for snacks. The bedding should be a combination of things: a crate pad, which is essentially a water-resistant covering over a foam pad, our crate pad has a kind of fake fur on the top which they find very comfortable; and a favorite blanket or towel that the dog is used to. Another alternative is putting in a worn t-shirt to give them the comfort of your scent. We throw in of one of my son’s t-shirts and they love to cuddle with it.
Introducing Your Dog to the Crate
To introduce the dog to the crate, first make sure that the crate is located in a place of quiet, where loud noises will not distract the pup from learning more about his crate. Set it up without the door for the first few sessions at least. While playing with your dog in the same area as the crate, begin throwing treats for him to find and eat a little closer to the crate opening with each throw. Finally, toss one in and see if he will go in to find it. If he does, let him spend a little time in there, and wait until he’s ready to come out of it. Dogs, especially puppies, experience the world through the five senses. When they find something new, they will want to explore every inch of it.
At night, repeat this and when he goes inside, say “bedtime”. There are different schools of thought on when to close the crate for the night. We did it right away without a problem. Some believe that it should be closed after a time of “orientation” to what it means to be crated. We were very proactive with the puppies, however; getting them out of the crate during the wee hours of the morning to go outside.
Most crates come with a divider and, when the dogs were very small, we used it to divide the crate in half with both of them on the side of the crate closest to the door. This gave them a more cozy space within which to sleep. As they have gotten bigger, we stopped using the divider at night and even got a second crate, but they still enjoy the comfort of each other’s company.
Once your dog has become accustomed to having his own area in the house, he will quickly learn that the crate means quiet time and he should stay until you come for him. Now, at 6 months old, we are just beginning to embark (no pun intended) on the next step of leaving them for short periods of time with the area secured so they cannot leave the room itself; the crate door stays open so they can come in and out as they please and get used to having the run of a larger space.