The idea of locking dogs in a crate seem outrageous and cruel to some dog-owners. As humans, we associate a closed-off cage with a prison cell, and expect our pets to feel the same way.
But this is not true. While some dogs do not adjust to crates ever, others treat their crates like an island of safety that nobody else can intrude upon. As no human being can ever enter the space, it is entirely their own domain, and they choose to stay inside the crate when they’re feeling lonely, stressed, tired or unwell. A dog’s relationship with his crate is not dependent on age or breed, but his individual preference, and of course, how well he has been crate-trained.
BENEFITS OF CRATING
Travel: When traveling with a dog, a crate-trained one is easier to transport with maximum safety.
Vet Visits: Staying overnight at the vet’s or at a boarding house can feel less frightening if a crate-friendly animal has his own crate to stay inside.
Noise Protection: If a dog is afraid of lightening and stormy weather, or if it’s 4th of July when fireworks are going off with alarming frequency, the crate can become a haven of security, especially if the dog’s human family is not around to provide comfort.
Being Alone: When the handler is out of the house for long hours, the pet may voluntarily choose to stay in the crate until he or she returns.
Destructive Behavior: If a dog is chewing or destroying furniture inside the house, a crate can be useful to contain him when the handler cannot keep an eye on his moment-to-moment activities.
WHAT TO DO WHEN CRATE-TRAINING A DOG
Leave the crate in open view at first with the door left ajar. Allow your pet to sniff and explore it thoroughly. Let him become quite used to its shape, size etc, so it is no longer a strange, unfamiliar thing when you begin training.
Make the crate as comfortable and inviting as possible with bedding, toys and maybe even some article of clothing that smells of you.
Begin acclimation by placing a treat inside and encourage the dog to go get it. Do not put the dog inside though. Let him walk in, so he knows exactly how he got there.
Crate-training will not happen overnight. Have patience and continue associating rewards and positive outcomes with the animal being inside the crate. If your dog loves toys, have a few `special toys’ that is only available for play inside the crate. Take it away afterwards, so the confines of the cage become even more exciting.
Next comes closing the door. This is a big time of test. Use a Kong or some other toy with peanut butter, cheese or yoghurt hidden inside. Let the dog get fully involved in extracting the treat and then gently shut the door. Leave the room for a few minutes and come back to let the dog out. The gap in time should not be so long that the animal begins to stress. As times goes on, increase the period of absence. By doing this, you will gradually desensitize your pet to the fact that the crate door is closed.
WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN CRATE-TRAINING A DOG
In the initial stages of introduction, do not crate the dog unless he is fully exercised and tired out first. In fact, if you’re going to leave your pet in the crate for a significant period of time, it is a good idea to always exercise him beforehand.
Do not leave an animal in the crate for too long. Every dog is different, so be careful to crate for only as long as your pet is amenable to the idea of being closed in.
Never use the crate as punishment. For example, do not lock in the dog if he has misbehaved. His associations with the crate should always be welcome and positive, so he does not learn to fear it.