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Crate Training Your Puppy

Crate training takes some time and effort, but it is a proven way to help train dogs who act inappropriately without knowing any better. If you have a new dog or puppy, you can use the crate to limit his access to the house until he learns all the house rules—like what he can and can’t chew on and where he can and can’t eliminate. A crate is also a safe way of transporting your dog in the car or taking him places where he may not be welcome to run freely. If you properly train your dog to use the crate, he’ll think of it as his safe place and will be happy to spend time there when needed.

Selecting a Crate
Crates may be plastic (often called “flight kennels”) or collapsible, metal pens. They come in different sizes and can be purchased at most pet supply stores. Your dog’s crate should be just large enough for him to stand up and turn around in. If your dog is still growing, choose a crate size that will accommodate his adult size. Block off the excess crate space so your dog can’t eliminate at one end and retreat to the other.

The Crate Training Process
Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog’s age, temperament, and past experiences. It’s important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant, and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don’t go too fast.

Step 1: Introducing Your Dog to the Crate
Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Bring your dog over to the crate and talk to him in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won’t hit your dog and frighten him.
To encourage your dog to enter the crate, drop some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If he refuses to go all the way in at first, that’s okay; don’t force him to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If he isn’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days.

Step 2: Feeding Your Dog His Meals in the Crate
After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding him his regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If instead your dog remains reluctant to enter the crate, put the dish only as far inside as he will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed him, place the dish a little further back in the crate.
Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat his meal, you can close the door while he’s eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as he finishes his meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until he’s staying in the crate for ten minutes or so after eating. If he begins to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving him in the crate for a shorter time period. If he does whine or cry in the crate, it’s imperative that you not let him out until he stops. Otherwise, he’ll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so he’ll keep doing it.

Step 3: Conditioning Your Dog to the Crate for Longer Time Periods
After your dog is eating his regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine him there for short time periods while you’re home. Call him over to the crate and give him a treat. Give him a command to enter, such as “kennel.” Encourage him by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise him, give him the treat, and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to ten minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time, then let him out of the crate.
Repeat this process several times a day. With each repetition, gradually increase the length of time you leave him in the crate and the length of time you’re out of his sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you out of sight the majority of the time, you can begin leaving him crated when you’re gone for short time periods and/or letting him sleep there at night. This may take several days or several weeks.

Step 4, Part A: Crating Your Dog When Left Alone
After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving him crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put him in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave him with a few safe toys in the crate. You’ll want to vary at what point in your “getting ready to leave” routine you put your dog in the crate. Although he shouldn’t be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate him anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving.
Don’t make your departures emotional and prolonged, but matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give him a treat for entering the crate, and then leave quietly. When you return home, don’t reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to him in an excited, enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low key to avoid increasing his anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you’re home so he doesn’t associate crating with being left alone.

Step 4, Part B: Crating Your Dog at Night
Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night, and you’ll want to be able to hear your puppy when he whines to be let outside.
Older dogs, too, should initially be kept nearby so that they don’t associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with his crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

Potential Problems
Too Much Time In The Crate.

A crate isn’t a magical solution. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated. For example, if your dog is crated all day while you’re at work and then crated again all night, he’s spending too much time in too small a space. Other arrangements should be made to meet his physical and emotional needs. Also remember that puppies under six months of age shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can’t control their bladders and bowels for longer periods.

Whining.

If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether he’s whining to be let out of the crate, or whether he needs to be let outside to eliminate. If you’ve followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn’t been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from his crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, he’ll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at him or pounding on the crate will only make things worse.
If the whining continues after you’ve ignored him for several minutes, use the phrase he associates with going outside to eliminate. If he responds and becomes excited, take him outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you’re convinced that your dog doesn’t need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore him until he stops whining. Don’t give in; if you do, you’ll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what he wants. If you’ve progressed gradually through the training steps and haven’t done too much too fast, you’ll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.

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How Dogs Learn

People often attribute complex emotions and motivations to their dog’s behavior.   But their brains are much more simple than that.  Here are some tips to keep in mind:

HOW DOGS LEARN

  • Dogs repeat behaviors that are rewarding and avoid behaviors that are not
    Dogs don’t generalize – you need to re-teach in new places with new distractions
    Dogs learn by the consequences of their actions – ie, reward vs. ignore
    You have control of everything your dog likes/wants
    You can use that power to train your dog
    Training = controlling the consequences of your dog’s actions
    Rewards, timing and consistency are the keys to learning
    Dogs must be allowed to succeed = getting the reward
    This requires observation and judgment for ‘rewardable’ behavior
    This requires patience and increasing difficulty in small increments

REMEMBER

Whatever you reward/train now will be the behavior you get when your puppy grows up
You get what you pet. You raise what you praise.

ORDER OF TRAINING

  • First GET the behavior – no English!
    Use luring, capturing or shaping to get the behavior
    Quickly remove lure but consistently reward
    Then add the cue as the behavior happens (when you know it WILL happen)
    Eventually use the cue to ‘get’ the behavior
    Train ‘no reward’ with “uh-uh” or “too bad”

LEVELS OF DIFFICULTY FOR YOUR DOG

  • Inside with nothing much going on
    Outside in yard with nothing much going on
    Inside with low level distractions
    Outside with low level distractions
    Inside with medium level distractions
    Outside with medium level distractions
    Inside with high level distractions
    Outside with high level distractions
    In a pet store when busy or crowded
    When you have guests over

 

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Socializing Your Dog or Puppy

Ongoing socialization is extremely important to prevent behavior problems. Socialization is especially important before the age of 3 months, but should also be done throughout your dog’s lifetime. Gentle socialization plays a huge role in preventing aggression and fearful behavior.

Lack of socialization can lead to hyperactive behavior, barking, shyness and aggression. The younger you begin socializing your dog, the better, but all dogs can be gradually brought into new and even initially fearful situations and learn to enjoy them.

Socialization is a lifelong process. For example, if your dog does not see any dogs for months or years at a time, you would expect his behavior to change around them when he does finally see them again.

How to expose your dog to something new or something he is wary of:

Make sure that you remain calm, and up-beat and keep his leash loose, if he is wearing one.
Expose him gradually to what he is fearful of, never forcing him. Allow him to retreat if he wants to.
Reward him for being calm or for exploring the new situation.

Try to expose your dog regularly to all of the things and situations you would like him to able to cope with calmly in the future. Progress slowly enough so that it is easy for your dog to enjoy the sessions. It will seem like a lot of time to spend at first but it will pay off with a well-behaved dog.

Below are some examples, but this is just a start:

-Meeting new people of all types, including children, men, crowds, people wearing hats, in wheelchairs, etc.
-Meeting new dogs (do not bring your pup to areas with lots of dogs until after 4 months)
-Exposure to other pets such as cats, horse, birds
-Teach him to enjoy his crate
-Riding in the car (be sure to restrain him using a crate or seatbelt for safety)
-Being held, touched all over and in different ways, being bathed and groomed
-Visiting the Vet’s office, groomer, daycare, boarding kennel
-Exposure to loud noises and strange objects (example – umbrella opening)
-Exposure to traffic, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, joggers
-Getting him used to being left alone for a few hours at a time

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Rules for Children and Dogs

Here are some rules that you can share with your children around puppies and dogs:

1. I promise to always treat dogs with respect, love and care

2. I promise to always ask permission of an adult before going near or petting a dog

3. I promise outside to only pet dogs that are attached to a leash and a person

4. I promise inside to only pet dogs that are near their adult person

5. I promise to wait and let a dog come towards me before petting it

6. I promise to hold my fist out knuckles down and let a dog sniff me before petting them

7. I promise to pet dogs under the chin and never on top of their head

8. I promise to call for an adult if there is a dog running loose who I do not know

9. I promise to not run, make loud noises or in any other way frighten a dog

10. I promise not to stare at any dog – I can look at them from the side or stare at my shoes if I don’t know the dog

11. I promise to leave all dogs alone if they are eating or sleeping

12. I promise to offer a dog a treat if it is ok with their person from my open palm or on the ground

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