Pet crates are an excellent way to train your dog and provide it
with its own sanctuary. There are numerous benefits to crate
training your dog.
- Security for your dog
- Safety for your dog and young children
- Prevents costly damage
- Helps you train proper chewing and elimination
- Easy traveling
- Improved dog/owner relationship
Tips to Remember
- A crate should have enough room for the dog to stand and turn
- Because dogs are social animals, the ideal location for the
crate is in a room full of activity.
- For the crate to remain a positive retreat never use it for
punishment. You can, however, use the crate to avoid potential
problems (e.g. chewing, jumping). If you use social isolation,
or "time-out," place the dog in a separate room
instead of the crate.
Introduce the puppy to the crate as early in the
day as possible. Place a few treats, toys, or food in the crate to
motivate the puppy to enter voluntarily. The first confinement
session should be after a period of play, exercise, and elimination
(e.g., when the puppy is ready to take a nap). Place the puppy in
its crate with a toy and a treat, and close the door. Leave the room
but remain close enough to hear the puppy. Expect some distress at
first. Never reward the pup by letting it out when it cries or
whines. Ignore it until the crying stops, and then release it.
If crying does not subside on its own, a light
scolding may be useful. Avoid any excessive correction- it can
cause fear and anxiety, which could aggravate the whining or cause
elimination. When correcting, remain out-of-sight so that the puppy
does not learn to associate the punishment with your presence. A
squirt from a water gun or a sharp noise (try a shaker can
containing a few coins) can be used to interrupt barking.
Training Adult Dogs
Training an adult dog is similar to training a
puppy, except regarding the initial introduction to the crate.
Introduce the dog to the crate by setting it up in the dog's
feeding area with the door open for a few days. Place food, treats,
and toys in the crate so that the dog enters on its own. Once the
dog is entering the crate freely, it is time to close the door. When
punishing the dog, take the same advice given for puppy training.
Gradually increase the amount of time the dog must remain quietly in
the crate before you release it.
Puppy Housetraining: Part 1
Housetraining your new puppy can be easy and
effective if you dedicate the necessary time and patience. A
successful plan includes supervision, confinement, and
First step: Teach your puppy where you want it to
eliminate, by accompanying it every time it goes outdoors. Choose a
specific location with easy access. The area will soon become a
familiar spot as the pup recognizes odor from previous excursions.
Mildly praise any sniffing or other pre-elimination behaviors. When
the puppy eliminates, praise it heartily.
Controlling your puppy's feeding schedule
provides some control over its elimination schedule. Most will
eliminate within the first hour after eating. Because of this, it is
best to avoid feeding a large meal just before confinement. Offer
food two or three times each day at the same times, and make it
available for no longer than 30 minutes. The last meal should be
finished three to five hours before bedtime.
It is also important to take it outdoors after
playing, drinking, or sleeping. By scheduling feeding times, play
sessions, confinement periods, and trips outside to the
"toilet" area, you will accustom your puppy to a
relatively predictable elimination schedule.
The most challenging part of the housetraining
process is preventing the pup from eliminating indoors. Until the
puppy is housetrained, you will need to provide constant
supervision. When you are unable to supervise, confine the pup to a
relatively small, safe area. Always take your puppy out to eliminate
just before confinement. A wire or plastic crate provides an
excellent area in which to keep the puppy when you cannot observe
it. (See the article on crate training.)
If the puppy is home alone each day for long
periods, restrict it to a larger area such as a small room or
exercise pen. The area should provide enough space for the puppy to
eliminate if necessary and rest several feet away from a mess. Place
paper at the sites where the puppy is likely to eliminate. To
associate good things with the confinement area, spend time in the
area playing with the puppy or simply reading nearby as it rests
Puppy Housetraining: Part 2
Returning to the Scene of the Crime
To discourage the puppy from returning to previously
soiled areas, remove urine and fecal odor with an effective
commercial product. If your puppy begins eliminating in certain
areas of the home, deny access by closing doors to the rooms,
utilizing baby gates, or moving furniture over the soiled areas.
Most pets prefer to avoid eliminating in areas where they eat or
play. Feeding or placing water bowls, bedding, and toys in
previously soiled areas can discourage elimination.
Keeping Your Cool
No puppy has ever been housetrained without
making a mistake or two. Be prepared for the inevitable. Punishment
is the least effective and most overused approach to housetraining.
A correction should involve nothing more than a
mild, startling distraction and should be used only if you catch the
puppy in the act of eliminating indoors. Immediately take the pup to
its elimination area outdoors to finish. A correction that occurs
more than a few seconds after the puppy eliminates is useless
because it will not understand why it is being corrected. If the
punishment is too harsh, your puppy may learn not to eliminate in
front of you, even outdoors, and you run the risk of ruining your
bond with it. And don't even think about rubbing the pup's nose
in a mess. There is absolutely nothing it will learn from this,
except to be afraid of you. Some pets will squat and urinate as they
greet family members. Never scold them. This problem is due
typically to nervousness or excitement, and scolding will always
make the problem worse.
Tattered Love: Help for
Does Spot love you so much that when you leave
she can't stand it? Does she get so upset that your rugs, furniture,
and anything else she can reach or knock down show signs of her
affection? If she is a well-behaved dog when you're home and only
turns into a nut case when she can't be with you, then Spot is
probably suffering from separation anxiety. It is estimated that
10-15 percent of the canine population experiences some type of
separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is tied to a dog's natural
instinct to be part of a pack, which explains why cats do not seem
to suffer from this problem. But there are many things you can do to
help your lonely pooch out. She certainly deserves the help; after
all, she acts out because she's longing for you.
The difference between separation anxiety and
just plain bad behavior is easy to spot: pets with separation
anxiety only act out when they are unable to get to their owners. In
severe cases, anxious pooches will act out even when their owner is
simply in another room with the door shut. Common ways of acting out
include destructive behavior, excessive barking, house soiling,
attempts to escape, loss of appetite, inactivity, sadness or
depression, and psychosomatic disorders such as diarrhea, vomiting,
and excessive coat licking. Also, a dog suffering from separation
anxiety will often closely shadow her owner when they're together.
Why does your dog suffer from separation anxiety while your
neighbor's dog is fine? The possibilities abound. Some dogs simply
do not ever gain enough confidence in themselves to be on their own.
For some, it's because they were left alone for too long when they
were puppies. Others have had the misfortune of being abused or
neglected. Then there are the poor pups who are pushed from home to
home until they finally end up in an animal shelter; needless to
say, they might be afraid of being left again.
Often a beloved pet is fine for years, then
suddenly begins to act out. If her behavior seems inexplicable, take
a look at the changes in your lifestyle that occurred around the
same time Spot decided she loved the taste of your favorite chair.
Maybe Mom went back to work, or the kids left for college. Or maybe
you got a new job requiring longer hours. Whatever the reason, Spot
is spending more time alone, and she doesn't know what to do with
herself. She worries: "What if they don't come back?" When
the stress is more than she can take, she acts out.
Taming the trauma
Dealing with separation anxiety is different than dealing with just
the problem behaviors. First, you must learn to check your anger at
the door. Punishing Spot will not fix the problem--it will create a
bigger problem. Once she associates your absence and return with
punishment, her anxiety will increase. There are many different ways
you can help your dog deal with her fear. Your number one goal is to
teach Spot that you can be trusted to come back. One of the first
exercises to practice is sit and stay. This will prepare your
panicky pet for practice departures. Make Spot sit and stay while
you move from one place to another. If she obeys, give her a treat.
If she couldn't stand it and didn't stay, try it again for a shorter
time and distance. Once you find something that works, even if it's
just moving from the living room to the dining room, you can slowly
increase the time and distance.
The next step is to change your habits. Think
about your routine. Do you do the same things every time you walk
out the door? Kissing your spouse, grabbing your bag, closing your
briefcase, or even picking up your keys can tell Spot that you're
leaving. She associates your preparations to leave with her
destructive behavior. Your goal is to change your pattern, teaching
her new cues that let her know that you're always coming back and
help disassociate her learned, destructive behavior from your
absence. Do something unusual and different from your normal
routine: turn on the radio or television, or give Spot a treat.
There are many toys and treats designed to entertain your pet while
you're out. A Kong toy stuffed with food is a popular option--she
will spend many distracted hours working to get the food out.
New cue review
Begin using your new cue when you start doing practice departures.
The key here is to take baby steps. When you first give Spot the new
cue, leave the house for just a minute or two--a time short enough
that you know Spot will be all right. When you come back, avoid a
big fuss and simply go about your business. The expectation of a big
to-do when you come home only increases her anxiety level. The
principle behind practice departures is the same as that of sit and
stay; you're teaching Spot that when you leave you will come back.
Slowly, you will increase her confidence in you and in herself.
Continue to practice your departures all day long for increasingly
longer amounts of time. Stay away a couple of minutes longer each
time, but remember to take it slow. If Spot becomes upset at a
certain point, cut the time in half and be patient. For example, if
Spot acts out after two hours, then decrease the time to one hour
and work your way back up from there. Repeat the cycle over and over
again, until Spot is confident that you will always return.
Ideally you will be able to spend at least a week
gradually easing Spot into a new level of self-confidence. If you
don't have that much time, try to begin early on a Friday evening
and continue the practice departures throughout the weekend.
Clomicalm(R), a new anxiety drug from Novartis, can help calm your
anxious pup if you don't have enough consecutive hours to work on
correcting Spot's behavior. Clomicalm is not a sedative; instead, it
is designed especially for dogs with separation anxiety. Dogs take a
daily dose to relieve some of their anxiety, making it easier for
them to learn new, better behavior. Once the new behavior is
learned, the medication can be discontinued. As with any drug, be
sure to visit your veterinarian to ensure the medication is
appropriate for your specific pet.
Another strategy to help you deal with the
problem is to take Spot out for a good walk before you leave the
house. Not only will you spend some quality time together, it will
also help tucker her out, making it more likely she will spend her
time away from you sleeping. Another benefit to the long walk is
that once Spot sees the pattern, she will have something to look
forward to when you leave. And the exercise will be great for both
With these tools, you should be well on your way
to boosting Spot's self-confidence. With enough time and patience
you can teach Spot that you love her just as much as she loves you.
Eventually she will realize that you won't leave her, and that
destroying your house may not be the best way to tell you she misses
you. Don't be afraid to seek professional help. Ask your
veterinarian for suggestions, or if the problem persists, ask your
veterinarian to recommend a behavior specialist. Chances are both
you and your dog will benefit from some one-on-one guidance.
Together, you can transform her anxious love and your tattered home
into a secure peace you both can enjoy.