Your Pet's Health

Give your dog a den

If you’re putting the crate before the dog, then you’re one of the happiest puppy owners around because your best friend is probably already housebroken. If you’re thinking that crate is just a nice name for C-A-G-E, you’re right again. But to your puppy, the crate is a den and a natural way of life.

By nature, dogs are pack animals that live in dens. They take great comfort in having their own secure area. The most common den-like areas in your home are underneath a table, under a bed, or in a closet. You might already be finding your puppy holed up in one of these places each afternoon when she needs a secure place to rest. Offering your dog its own crate meets your pet’s instinctive needs and allows you some control in housebreaking endeavors.

Crate Selection

The best crate is one that is just big enough so your dog can lie, stand and turn around. Giving your dog too much space destroys the den concept, allowing your pet the option of soiling half of its crate and still having an unsoiled area in which to rest.

Crates are made of a variety of materials. Those made of molded plastic are easy to clean, draft-free, and generally are more like dens as they have limited visibility. Wire crates provide a better view if car traveling is frequent. In the home, a wire crate may need to be covered to keep out drafts and make it more den-like. Slide-out flooring can make a wire crate just as convenient to clean as a molded plastic model. Aluminum and wooden pet crates are not practical for the typical pet owner, and are best left for use by professional dog handlers.

Bring on the Crate

Once you have purchased a crate you will want to give your puppy or dog time to investigate. Just leave the crate on the floor with the door open for a few days until your dog becomes comfortable with it. Placing dog treats and towel inside may help get a cautious dog to explore the crate. The next step is to close you dog in the crate for 10 to 15 minutes. Then open the door. This procedure should be repeated several times a day. The crate should never be used to punish your dog. Crate time should be enjoyable time. Toys and treats can help establish this setting.

Setting Up a Routine

Dogs will make every attempt not to soil their den. It is where they sleep. They want to keep it clean. You can help them do that by starting a housebreaking routine and sticking to it. No matter how much a puppy wants not to soil its den you can force it to do so by leaving it crated too long. Puppies have small bladders with undeveloped muscles. They can only hold the water they drink for a couple of hours. You will learn your puppy’s limits as you establish your housebreaking routine.

A morning routine might go something like this: Don’t stop for a cup of coffee. Don’t read the morning headlines. Carry your puppy outdoors as soon as it awakens. Let the puppy go in a small area of the yard. Verbally praise the dog for appropriate behavior. Return indoors and offer you puppy its breakfast. After breakfast return outside to the same spot. Return indoors and allow the puppy some playtime, then place it and some toys back in the crate. A routine like this will need to be repeated every couple of hours throughout the day and night.

Making it Work

To make crate training effective for your pet, you should:

  • Never respond with attention to your pet’s in-crate whining or barking. If the behavior goes unnoticed, it will stop.
  • Never punish you pet for making a mistake in its crate or on the floor. You should merely clean up the mess and shorten the time away so your pet can be successful in holding off until you get home.
  • Never deny your pet access to its crate. This is home base and a source of year-round security so keep the door open.