Monday, March 8, 2010


I got a call the other day from a person that owns a Pit Bull male puppy that’s about four months old. I have seen the puppy and he is gorgeous and BIG! The head on him alone makes him look older than he is. But he’s a friendly, fun loving puppy. I absolutely fell in love with him. Anyway, they wanted to know about crate training the puppy because every time they eat something, there he is begging for a handout. I told them, “Well he’s a puppy and that’s what puppy’s do.” I told them that they will have to train him to sit or lie down quietly while they are eating. I told them if he really is a nuisance than they can crate train him until he knows what they expect from him.

I think owning a crate when you own a dog is probably one of your best investments you can make. I start to crate train my puppies at eight weeks old. I’ve never had a problem with this method at this young age. The German Shepherd Dog is very smart and they learn very easily with lots of persistence on the owner’s part.

Some pet people will question the use of crates. Many times a breeder will hear them say that they think putting a dog and especially a puppy in a crate is cruel. They don’t think that a puppy should be locked away in a crate like they are in some sort of jail!

There are many reasons to use a crate for a dog. The number one reason probably would be for the safety of your animals. Then the number two reason could be for the safety of your household items and valuables. Puppies and some dogs are notorious chewers. Anything they can find to put in their mouths, they will. You don’t want them chewing on dangerous electrical cords. You don’t want them chewing on your furniture or getting into your collectible items. You don’t want them getting and eating the garbage.

Many people don’t realize that a dog is a pack animal. If he were in the wild he would look for a den to get out of the elements with the changing of the weather. He would look for a warm, safe haven to rest in. The crate if introduced properly would represent to the dog a safe haven to rest in. The key word here is PROPERLY. A crate should be used and viewed to the dog as something positive, no negative.

A crate should not be used as a means to punish the dog. If it is, the dog will grow to hate it and you will have your hands full putting him in it and leaving him in it without a fight or a lot of ruckus. You want the dog to view the crate as a safe place for him to go to when he wants to rest and relax. You want the dog to treat his crate as his den. Like anything else when training a dog, this should be a positive experience for him.

I always train my dogs to go into the crate and they’ll get a treat when they cooperate. So at bed time, I get the box of dog biscuits, give it a shake and my dogs run in front of me to get to their “den.” They go in it and they are rewarded with the dog biscuit. I tell them they are good dogs. They swallow their treat and then it’s “Lights out time!” They have been trained like this since they were little eight week old puppies. Sure the puppy will complain the first few nights, but better than him destroying your house and going “potty” anywhere they chose. The crate is an excellent house training tool!

If however, on the other hand, if you use the crate as a punishment for when the dog is doing something bad, he will hate the crate. By yelling and screaming at the dog telling him he’s a bad dog and putting him in the crate, he’s just associated the crate with something bad. He’s associated it with a place that he goes to when he’s being punished. Association is very important to a dog when you are training him. You want the dog to associate the crate with something good, not bad.

Also when you are training your dog to get used to the crate, don’t expect him to love it if you leave him in it all day long. The dog needs and wants to be exercised. The crate should represent a place for him when he goes to bed or if you can’t trust him alone in the house, then this is a place he can “wait” until you return. Just don’t make it an all day event because then it will feel like a jail to the dog.

When a dog has a negative feeling about the crate, he can try to do everything in his power to escape from it. Most crates are secure enough that he won’t be able to do this. However, there are those few that are escape artists and somehow have figured out how to get out of his crate. Don’t ask me how they do it, but some of them can. I’ve personally never dealt with a dog that could do this, but I’ve heard about it.

When you first train the puppy to stay in the crate over night, it’s wise to take him outside to go to the bathroom before you put him to bed. The later, the better. Also plan on getting up earlier in the morning than you normally would as the puppy won’t be able to hold his need to “potty” for excess lengths of time. Gradually, you can increase the time he stays in bed in the morning as he gets a little older. Most puppies and dogs will not go “potty” in the place that they sleep, so if he does have an accident, he probably was in the crate too long.

Sometimes an indication that a dog has been in a crate for the majority of his life is how he reacts when he’s out of the crate. If you buy a dog from someone and the dog spins around and around a lot of the time, it MAY be an indication that the dog was crated for too long of a time. I have experienced this with two dogs that I bought with different bloodlines. Both of these animals were left in crates for long periods of time.

Many times you will notice that your dog that is in the house with you may disappear occasionally. If you go to take a look, you might be surprised to find that she went to take a snooze in her crate. I always leave the crate doors open for my dogs if they feel they want a place to go away from the rest of the family.

If you must leave a puppy in a crate for a short period of time while you do an errand, it’s a good idea to leave a radio on so she doesn’t feel alone. If you leave toys for her to chew on while you’re gone, make sure there is nothing that she can choke on. Sometimes you will get a dog like one of mine that is a “chow hound” and this means everything that she can get her mouth on she has to eat. I’ve learned this lesson when I’ve put big beach towels in for her to lie on. She would shred them time and time again. So she no longer lies on anything but the crate floor. This is for her safety so she doesn’t swallow big hunks of the towel and end up choking. Every dog is an individual and should be treated as such.

Getting a dog used to a crate in the house is a great idea because when you take her for a ride, you can put her in a crate in the car and she’ll feel safe and secure without giving you any problems.

Make sure that the crate is large enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in comfortably. His needs as a puppy will be different as he grows. I like using the plastic shipping crates for my dogs and puppies. I don’t change the size of crate that the puppy sleeps in. Right from the beginning he sleeps in a large crate and this is the crate that he will grow in and sleep in as an adult.

So as you can see, the crate can be a place for peace and solitude for a dog or a place they view as solitary confinement. Make it a pleasant experience for the both of you. A happy dog is a quiet and peaceful dog. This makes for a very happy and content owner.

From the book: "Don't Dump the Dog: Good advice—"Dear Abby" style—for bad dog owners. Do you want to dump your dog because he tries to escape your yard? Barks too much? You-know-whats in the house? Doesn’t play well with others? Chewed up your favorite pair of shoes? You wouldn’t be the first person asking to “return” your pet. And dog rescuer Randy Grim has heard every reason under the sun. But before you load Fido into the back of your car, read this book. In it, Randy addresses the concerns of dog guardians everywhere by responding to letters that he’s actually received. With humor, and from his vast experiences with abandoned dogs, he reveals exactly what you can do to remain calm and fix every bad behavior problem. (Even if it means dumping your husband instead of the dog.)

My rating: crates: (4), used as punishment: (1)!

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