Crate training

“Crate training” is getting your dog accustomed to enjoying the security of a crate, “house training” is teaching your dog that you would like it to relieve itself in a specific area.  Crate training is a useful tool for potty training and for giving your dog a sense of security.  Dogs were originally den creatures and a crate can be used to re-create the den environment.

Many potential behavioral problems associated with anxiety can be avoided by early crate training.

In most cases it is “NEVER too late” to crate train your older dog!  You might need to let the older dog get used to the crate for shorter periods of time and build up to the regular schedule.

Crate trained dogs are more welcomed as visitors, contented as travelers, and safer in cars.

A firm grasp of the concept of crate training might make all the difference to an ambivalent or a ‘no dogs allowed’ landlord.

Used as an aid to potty training, you will be taking advantage of the dog’s natural instinct to not soil its “den.” The dog will be naturally encouraged to ‘hold it’, rather than you frightening the dog by chasing it down or getting into the unproductive habit of scolding the dog for accidents.

Hopefully, your dog came from a good breeder or sensible rescue rep and has already been sleeping in a crate.  This will make the process MUCH easier.

Do feed meals in the crate. This will not only speed up the crate training process it will reinforce the pleasure the the dog will have with his experience with confinement.  It is also useful for dogs that are in the habit of spitting out kibble to eat in other locations of your home. In multiple dog households it can be very stressful, especially for a sensitive breed like the Italian Greyhound, to have to eat their meals in a competitive environment.

Learn the behavior that indicates your dog is about to pee or poop. Most dogs will sniff the floor or ground intently some will do a few circles.  Others, especially puppies can be very fast, so if you see that butt start to descend to the floor be ready to scoop the dog up and get it to the desired area. Watch what leads up to peeing and pooping when it is doing its “business” in the appropriate area. The goal is to not let the new dog make even one mistake in the house, it is either to use its papers or go outside.  This is your responsibility, you need to have your dog confined or under your strict supervision so that it is impossible for it to pee/poop except where you want it too.

Be sure to have your new dog or puppy pee and poop (if it is time) before you allow it “free time” in the house.  Dogs are creatures of habit if you allow them to potty in the house you are creating this as a habit.  Three times is all it takes to create a habit.  If you are unable to watch closely enough to prevent accidents you must confine your dog so that it cannot make a mistake.  The dog isn’t really making a mistake: the owner is, by not being vigilant enough to prevent it.

After a dog is comfortable with its crate and/or pen it may still want to let you know that it would like attention.  If you think it might need to go out then take it out and afterwards return it to its pen/crate.  If you are sure it does not need to go out or to use its papers then ignore it.

You want to make this as easy on the dog as possible but they do need to learn to be in the crate/pen and entertain themselves.  Be sure you are giving them attention, exercise and allowing them to relieve themselves as needed so that if they fuss at other times you can ignore them and allow them to settle down.

When you bring a puppy/dog home all this is new, it has left familiar surroundings and friends/family. Now is the time for it to learn how to be independent, so it might as well get adjusted to what you would like to be its routine in the long run.  This can be stressful and a growing experience, you want to give it what it needs but not coddle it so much that it doesn’t become self-assured and confident while left alone.

Try not to teach your dog that crying will automatically gain freedom by letting the dog out (of its pen or crate) when it cries.  Try to at least wait for a momentary lull of noisy or frantic behavior before releasing the dog.  If you can catch your dog when it is quiet and reward it by praise and a snuggle then put it back, you can speed the process by rewarding for good behavior.  The behavior you desire needs to be encouraged by rewards (attention) and that which you do not want should be discouraged by not giving any attention.  Some dogs will even take negative attention (yelling, spraying, etc.) so the best form of not reinforcing undesirable behaviors is to ignore them.  If you can wait it out until the dog has stopped the period of time that they fuss will get shorter and shorter.  If you reward them by giving in you strengthen their belief that complaining will get them what they want and therefore it will go on for longer next time before they will give up.

Be careful NOT to inadvertently encourage a dog’s crying by “crooning” to the dog, saying “it’s okay” or otherwise express sympathy for its apparent displeasure with confinement.

The best way to deal with barking while the dog is confined is to ignore it.  If it’s really driving you crazy, try telling it “enough” or “hush” then spraying the dog with a squirt gun or spray bottle that contains plain water.  Do this calmly and without emotion and give the dog a chance to obey your verbal command before you spray.

It usually takes less than a week for the dog to get accustomed to the crate.  If you have neighbors, it would be polite and in YOUR best interest to inform them that your dog is being trained and that there will be an adjustment period.  Gifts of earplugs and a show of concern for THEIR well being can go a long way!

During confinement, please consider collar safety!  Dangling tags and regular collars have been known to kill dogs by getting caught on knobs, wire doors, etc.  Only use a breakaway, safety collar when your dog is unsupervised!  Contact info can be written on the outside of the collar with a permanent marker instead of tags.

In multiple-dog households, every dog should have its own crate.  Dogs that aren’t allowed individual space and time with their owners can develop anything from subtle to serious behavioral problems. Dogs always crated together can lead to unnatural dominance/submissive pack dynamics.  My feeling is that they should have at least 1/2-1 hour of quality individual time with the owner (and at least 1 hour of dog time)  If you decide to get a second dog because you don’t have enough time for one dog and are concerned that the one dog is lonely, carefully consider this paragraph.

Remember: What goes in must come out!  Food and water, on schedule, will help you anticipate WHEN your dog will need to relieve itself.  Once your dog is completely house trained and mature, you should then provide fresh water at all times, however, never free-feed your dog. You must schedule and measure your dog’s food so you can get a handle on his/her potty habits. Keeping track of food measurement and intake will not only help you keep your dog in optimum condition but can prevent or cure picky eating habits. Studies have also shown that dogs that are allowed to free-feed tend to develop tartar quicker than those that are fed on schedule.

The ultimate goal of crate training is to have a happy and well-adjusted dog that is trustworthy and anxiety-free when left loose in your home.

“Belly Bands” (Velcro attached, waist/penis covers, AKA”weenie wrappers”) for males are okay for visiting places where they might feel the need to mark territory, but should not be considered a viable alternative to proper house-training or for a dog that is suffering from anxiety.

Once your dog is trained, do not take their crate away from them!  Most dogs enjoy having their own safe haven.  You can remove the crate door or keep it open with a bungee cord.  At the very minimum, your dog should continue to eat it’s meals in it’s crate and have some quite time after each meal. It can be very useful if you ever need to travel with your dog or you dog needs confinement because of illness or injury.

If your dog is still having accidents, and you are sure that you are utilizing the schedules properly: CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN.

Any sudden lapse in potty training or change in frequency of urination is a matter to be taken up with your veterinarian.

If there are no health problems, try to figure out if there is a new source of anxiety. This could be something quite subtle, like a new mail carrier or a new cat in the neighborhood.

DO NOT allow your dog to continue to pee/poop in the crate.  This will ruin its instinct to keep the den clean and make house training very difficult. If you cannot figure out and correct the reason or are not being able to religiously honor the schedule switch to an ex-pen or go back to a previous schedule immediately at least until you can resolve the situation.

Once your dog is potty trained, DO NOT rely on your dog signaling to you that it needs to go out.  Do watch for signals, but be sure that you get the dog to a potty area on schedule.  Even if there is a dog door or available papers, you should still be responsible for reminding the dog to go potty on schedule, especially if the potty training is a new accomplishment.