Well you finally brought home the puppy you, and your family, have been wanting! You are having as much fun with him as he is with you. All the good things you ever heard about owning a puppy seem true! He really does make you feel better. You are living proof of all the studies showing how having a dog can reduce stress and make you happier, Did you know there is even a 2009 Japanese university study (Miho Nagasawa, Azabu University) that showed that staring into your dogs eyes can raise the level of oxytocin in your body! Oxytocin is a very powerful hormone which elicits strong feelings of happiness, security, and social bonding. This shouldn’t be confused with the highly addictive pain medication OxyContin but the similarities in reactions is striking. The Japanese study also found that levels of oxtocin increased the longer a participant stared into their dogs’ eyes and if the contact was initiated by the dog. Maybe you didn’t rescue him after all. Maybe he rescued you?
And now, while you are in a state of absolute bliss, your perfect companion squats and takes a pee on your handmaid Persian wool rug! Or perhaps, your St. Laurent suede boots have become his favorite chew toy. Seems you didn’t completely think through what you need to do to make life easier for him and you. And, reluctantly, you realize a dog crate may be the only answer.
Thinking about getting a crate to put him in doesn’t sound exactly nice at first thought. And you’ve heard how inhumane crates are. Writers have questioned “is it ethical to send a dog home with a family if the only way they can keep him is to crate him” ( Dogs Hate Crates – Roy and Emma Lincoln). PETA says “dog crates are substantially smaller than the crates that are used to house dogs in laboratories”.
Hearing all this while looking in the wide eyes of your pup will melt your heart and you may not make the right choice. See, there is nothing wrong with raising your puppy using a crate. Take a moment and think about the basic behavior of every living organism. When we are annoyed or pestered by anything, we usually lock ourselves in a room. The same happens with most wild animals and house pets. They seek a safe space to safeguard themselves from whatever bothers them. Or even just for a plain snooze to get a little rest.
Stanley Coren, PhD wrote for Psychology Today’s Canine Corner that “the major progenitor of dogs was the wolf, and wolves spend a good deal of their day in a den”. He concluded – “I know of no evidence suggesting that the judicious use of kennel crates can cause problems for dogs”. An indoor crate can satisfy your puppy’s instinctive need for his very own room-like space within the family den where he finds safety and sanctuary.
So, you got a crate for your pup. But he’s having none of it. Don’t worry you just have to help him make the connection of the crate with a pleasant space. To make it a familiar space for him you should leave the crate open until he comes inside on his own. Let him get inside on his own, once he’s there feed him a treat. If he chooses to leave, call him back inside and offer another treat. If he insists on staying outside leave the treat inside the crate. Repeat the process until he reaches for the crate by himself. The crate itself should be very comfortable. Sure it may be made of metal, but you can cover the floor with a soft pillow or some bed sheets. Leave a chewing toy, and suddenly it will be very inviting for him.
One of the ways to make the crate work is by relating meals to it. Make it work like a date. Every time when it is feeding time call your pup to the crate. At first, you should place the meals close to the door. A couple of days later you should place the meal inside the crate, close to the door without shutting it down. Place the meal deeper in the crate as days go by until you put it in the back of the crate. Your puppy will learn to appreciate privacy when eating, and he won’t be making a mess in your house. Water or any other liquids should be provided on a bowl just outside the door of the crate or in a bottle specifically designed to be attached to it.
The main goal of this training is making your puppy stay for longer and longer periods of time in the crate. It will make life easier on both of you particularly if you have limited space. And it will help to give him, and you, long nights of rest as he gets used to sleeping in it. But it can be a slow learning process. Begin by making him go inside the crate. You should develop a commanding voice for him to relate it with getting there. Once he is inside, offer him a treat, and close the door. Leave him inside for ten minutes – in your company – to see if he develops any anxiety. If the process is successful, release him. Repeat this process for a few days and increasingly spend more time with him while he is inside the crate with the door closed.
A new phase will begin when you leave. In this phase, you will have to dial back the time again, by making him stay alone a few minutes at first. Gradually, increase these times as each day goes by until your dog is free of anxiety when he is left alone in the crate. Always reward him with a treat for each day he achieves success in this training. Remember that he should relate the crate with something pleasant. You will be done with this phase the moment when your puppy can spend a night alone with no howling or anxiety. Your puppy’s actions can provide a constant source of feedback as to how he is feeling. Al you need to do is interpret what his actions mean. Go here to get a better understanding of your dog behaviors and what they mean.
Your pup should never relate his crate with bowel relief. Crate training your puppy, should go along potty training. This is why the size of the crate is important. It should be big enough for him to lie down, rest and have a meal, but not to soil it. So if you plan on getting an adult-sized crate for your puppy now – make sure it comes with an adjustable and removable divider for best size configuration as your puppy grows. As a rule of thumb, all dogs typically have a need to evacuate after 20 minutes of eating. When feeding your pup wait for that mark of time. And take him outside in the crate if possible so that he can relieve himself. If he doesn’t go at that moment, wait another 20 minutes and take him out again. After he’s done, play with him a little, offer a treat and take him back home. Leave him outside the crate for a couple of hours or until sleep time.
With consistent training, patience, and understanding – you will, above all else, show him love and care. Below are links to four different style crates deigned to accommodate different household requirements for your puppy. In our opinion, each is best in class and a worthy “den” for your trusted companion.