A common complaint about puppies (and older dogs) concerns the mischief created while the dog is alone in the house. From the young dog’s view, being alone may be stressful. It’s at this time that household damage may occur.
An excellent way to avoid the damage that can result from this stress is to confine the dog to a comfortable den-like enclosure. A good devise to use as his den is a collapsible wire crate.
Some people feel it is cruel to confine a dog to a crate. It would be cruel to throw a puppy in a crate and leave for eight hours. But if you take the time to properly introduce him to his den, you’ll find that he’ll come to prefer to be in it for sleeping and having a quiet place to call his own and be alone.
When you chose a crate, be sure that it is the right size. The crate must be large enough for the adult dog to stand up straight, turn around and lie down in a stretched position. Introducing your dog to the crate should be positive and fun. Never place your dog in his crate after disciplining him. Your dog needs to feel that his crate is a happy, secure place.
Select a command such as “in your house” and encourage him to enter by tossing a treat/toy into the crate. Leave the door open at first, and keep it positive by doing things such as meal times in his crate. Once your dog enters readily, close the door for a few minutes and praise him with a cheerful, positive voice.
Scheduling and creating a consistent routine for your dog is very important. Small puppies should not be left in their crates for more than a couple of hours at a time. They cannot be expected to hold their small bowels and bladders for more than a short period of time. Letting them out of their crates very frequently at first to go outside and learn appropriate elimination behaviours is important to help them learn how to “hold it”, and use the washroom in the appropriate place and time. The older the puppy gets, the longer he can “hold it”, and therefore the longer he is able to stay in the crate.
Remember that a crate is not intended as a place to leave your dog and ignore him, but rather as a tool to help the dog develop structure and learn the routine in a home. No dog should be left crated for long periods of time on a routine basis as this can create both mental and physical damage. Keeping your dog well exercised and mentally stimulated is important for the dog’s mental and physical health. If you must leave your dog for long periods of time on a regular basis, there are many options for you to keep your dog happy and healthy; keeping the dog confined to a small room with his crate’s door opened enables him to go in and out of the crate allowing the dog to stretch his legs and move around while keeping him safe and secure at the same time; calling a dog walker, or contacting a doggy daycare facility to take your dog for a walk and allow him/her to relieve themselves during the day.
Your dog’s crate is a tool which should allow you to have a smoother, happier relationship with your dog. Although crate training is a very effective method of training your dog, it may not be the answer to every behaviour problem your dog might exhibit.
For this reason it is a good idea to contact your veterinarian for advice. You may also contact one of our Animal Behaviour Counsellors at 613-725-3166 ext. 245.