Why Crate Train?
Far too many potentially good pets are misunderstood, unfairly punished and
abused, isolated, or simply
by otherwise kind and well meaning owners who are unable to prevent,
control, or live with the common
behavior of puppies and young dogs. The correct use of a dog crate could give
many of these innocent animals the chance they need - and deserve - to spend
their lives as the appreciated pet of a satisfied owner.
You believe your dog deserves
every chance, and that is why you
have invested in his training. Now you must consider changing your
previous concepts and beliefs to best serve your dog.
WHAT IS A DOG CRATE?
A dog crate is a rectangular enclosure with a top and a door, made in a
variety of sizes proportioned to fit any type of dog. Its purpose is to provide
guaranteed confinement for reasons of security, safety, housebreaking,
protection of household goods, travel, illness, or just general control.
The crate has long been
utilized and accepted by veterinarians, groomers and other professionals.
Individual pet owners, however, usually reject the idea of using a crate
because they consider such enforced close confinement unfair, and even harmful,
to the dog.
IS A CRATE CRUEL?
As the pet owner sees it:
"It's like a jail - it's
cruel - I'd never put MY dog in a cage like that"! If this is your first
reaction to using a crate, you are a very typical pet owner. As a reasonable
human being, you value your freedom; and since you consider your pet an
extension of the human family, it's only natural to feel that closing him in a
crate would be mean and inhumane, would probably cause him to resent and even
hate you, and might well result in psychological damage.
BUT YOU ARE NOT A DOG - AND YOUR DOG IS NOT A HUMAN BEING.
"I love having a room/house of my very own; it's my private special place,
and the closed door really doesn't bother me". If your dog could talk,
this is how he might well express his reaction to using a crate! He would tell
you that the crate helps to satisfy the
inherited from his den-dwelling ancestors and relatives, and that he is not
afraid or frustrated when closed in. He would further admit that his is
actually much happier and more secure having his life controlled and structured
by human being - and would far rather be prevented from causing trouble than
have his owner lose his temper and cruelly abuse him later.
WHY USE A CRATE?
A dog crate, correctly and humanely used, can have many advantages for both you
and your pet. With the help of a crate:
can enjoy complete peace of mind when leaving your dog home alone, knowing that
nothing can be soiled or destroyed and that he is confortable, protected, and
not developing any bad habits; can housebreak your dog more quickly by using
the close confinement to encourage control, establish a regular routine for
outdoor elomination, and to prevent
at night or when left alone; can effectively confine your dog at times when he
may be underfoot (meals, family activities), unwelcome (guests, workmen, etc.),
over-excited or bothered by too much confusion or too many children, or ill;
can enjoy the privacy and security of a
of his own to which he can retreat when tired, stressed, or ill; can avoid much
of the fear/confusion/punishment caused by your reaction to problem behavior;
can more easily learn to control his bowels and to associate elimination only
with the outdoors or other designated location; can be spared the loneliness
and frustration of having to be isolated (basement, garage, outside) from
comfortable indoor suroundings when being restricted or left alone.
Since one of the main reasons for using a crate is to confine the dog without
making him feel isolated or banished, it should be placed in, or as close as
possible to, a
area - kitchen, family room etc. However, if your dog whines or barks for
attention, it is necessary that he not be rewarded for such behavior.
Therefore, in specific situations you may find it necessary to keep the crate
in a location in which he cannot disturb you - basement, garage, etc.
CRATING THE PUPPY
A young puppy (up to 16 weeks
of age) should normally have very little problem accepting a crate as his
. Any complaining he might do at first is caused not by the crate, but by his
learning to accept the controls of his unfamiliar new environment. Actually,
the crate will help him to adapt more easily and quickly to his new world.
Place the crate in a
area, in a spot free from drafts and not to close to a direct heat source.
Food or water in the crate should be avoided because the puppy will eat or
drink to excess and then have to potty. Bedding generally gets chewed up. Also
avoid lining the bottom of the crate with newspaper because often its odor will
Make it very clear to children
that the crate is
a playhouse for them, but a
for the puppy, whose rights should be recognized and respected. However,
you should accustom the puppy, from the start, to letting you reach into the
crate at any time, least he become over protective of it.
Learn to recognize when the puppy
out and when he
out. This will vary between puppies, however, the pup that sincerely
out to go potty will often become very active while whining (asking) to go out.
Never let your puppy out when he just
out; if you do he will become a chronic whiner.
Even if things do not go too
smoothly at first,
; be consistent, be firm and be very aware that you are doing your pet a real
favor by preventing him from getting into trouble while left alone.
If you do not choose, or are not able, to use a crate permanently, plan to use
it for at least five or six months or until the dog is well past the teething
phase, then start leaving the crate door open at night, when someone is at home
during the day, or when he is briefly left alone. If all goes well for a week
or two, and the dog seems reliable when left alone, remove the upper half of
the crate (it makes into a bed!). He will probably miss the crate enclosure,
but the bottom will still remain
. Should any problem behavior occur at a future time, however, the
decision whether or not to use a crate longer, or perhaps permanently, will
have been made for you!
Once on a trip to Germany to
show my dog Voss, I felt guilty about him enduring the long air travel in the
crate and decided to reward him by folding up the crate and letting him ride in
the car and live in the hotel rooms like a person! Voss seemed disoriented.
Then one evening it became necessary to assemble his crate. Voss watched on
with intense interest. As soon as he could, he darted into the still not -
completely - assembled crate and signed with relief. Surprised by his interest
in his crate I decided to put a bowl of food inside and see if he might eat.
Voss ate for the first time in five days! With his crate as his security he
continued the trip without further problem.
CRATING THE ADULT DOG
Much of the usual problem behavior of an older dog is caused by the lack of
feeling secure when left alone. Although a crate can fulfill this need, and
hence hopefully solve the problems, it must still be introduced gradually, with
every possible effort made to be sure that the dog's first association with it
is very positive and pleasant.
Encourage the dog to investigate this new object thoroughly, luring him inside
by feeding him in it over a period of days. When he begins to enter the crate
confidently, praise him. Then begin briefly shutting the door as he eats
inside. When the time comes to shut him inside without food, you can expect
some resistance. Do not hesitate to meet resistance with consistent firmness
and authority so that the dog is clearly aware of the behavior you desire; your
goal may have to be acceptance, not contentment.
As soon as you feel confident that the dog will remain quietly in the closed
crate (which could be from the beginning!), you may safely leave him alone. If
you are still uncertain or anxious, leave him at first for only a brief period
(1/2 to 1 hour) until he has proved that he will not resist the confinement. In
due time it may even be possible to wean him gradually off the crate without
his resuming any problem behavior.
DOES THE CRATE ALWAYS WORK?
Unfortunately, no. Although the crate can indeed be used successfully by most
pet owners, there are always those (owners!) which simply humanize
(anthroporphism) their pets to the extent that the dog learns to take advantage
of his owners weakness.
Another case in which the crate fails is with the smart
(dog who was purchased [acquired] as an adult) who took advantage of his
previous owners as above. This dog naturally assumes that his new owners can
also be pushed around and does exactly that. Once again this concludes with the
unfortunate dog being offered
"free to a good home"
The majority of all dogs adapt very easily to the dog crate, however, and
actually enjoy the privacy and isolation it provides.
WHAT AGE TO START?
Training should begin as soon as one obtains their dog. The sooner the better.
Training the young puppy is really guided development rather than the learning
of tricks or obedience routines. Tricks and obedience routines will come at
their right time, but just as a building requires planning and then beginning
from the ground up so must we wait to put the windows and roof on only after we
have created the right basic structure. For this reason, the puppy should be
removed from the litter immediately after weaning (no later then eight weeks).
This seemingly barbaric act will prevent litter generated submission, and
create human rather than dog orientation for the young animal. Prolonged
interaction with the litter mates, allows the litter to become a mini-pack with
its dominant and submissive members. This canine pecking order can then only
serve to hinder the development of confidence in our potential canine
companion's future interaction with human beings. As the litter ages together
which simply means that they discover their best friends and playmates,
as well as enemies to be other dogs. Occasionally, if exposed to the dam
(mother) of the litter for an excessive period of time they will actually
become fearful of their own mother, as well as other grown dogs. Dog
orientation fosters dog aggression, and submission to humans. Your pet may
share its home with another older dog, this will definately interfere with the
confident personality development of the new puppy. This is uncomfortable
knowledge for many pet owners. And, even though it makes training more
difficult, most owners will refuse to separate their dogs during the formative
period up to eight (8) months of age.
(Belgian Malinois are highly owner (human) oriented. If the time is taken to
build the proper foundation between birth and 24 weeks of age; a foundation
that targets you as the center around which everything else revolves; food,
play, companionship, total seperation of the young dog, from adult dogs in the
family, is probably unnecessary. During this indoctrination
should be on building confidence in the young puppy and
socialization. Monitored interaction with other dogs, to insure that the young
dog does not become overly tired, mauled or submissive IS essential. LH)
The puppy removed from the litter now has a new universe. As the puppy's
will be the center of that universe, and become the favorite playmate, mother,
father, best friend, sun, moon, and all the planets.
PUPPIES, PLANNING AND CHILDREN
Now that you have the cute little guy it's time to get serious. My first
training lesson is provided to help you to plan your program. Set aside
for play periods, know exactly what you plan to do in each period and why.
Don't be lazy. The kids want a playmate, and their attraction to the young
puppy is so natural that denying or impeding it would seem to be out of the
realm of common sense. Common sense, however, is really not so common and
cannot be expected from the interspecies play of the young animals, human or
otherwise. Unsupervised play by children precludes your control as the adult
trainer of what the young dog will learn. This is not to say that a child
cannot have a puppy, but rather to accept his possession of a puppy will, for
the most part, permit a development that does not go hand in hand with the
learning that makes a competitive champion. Little children frequently do not
know their own strength or dominance and can quickly extinguish the spark of
confidence in a puppy and sometimes in a more serious manner do it more
physical harm. Children then should only interact with the puppy during these
months under your careful supervision and not be allowed to wrestle it, play
keep away, drop it, beat on it with sticks, or feed it in a random manner as
these are fun but counter productive activities for its later development in
training. Somtimes these poor unsupervised unfortunate puppies must show some
aggression to protect themselves and are then labeled as
. This is a severe problem which often results in
"disposing of the young monster"
GAMES AND CONFIDENCE
Play games that are natural for the puppy such as tug-o-war with a burlap sack,
have been suggested by some as activities that should be avoided. Quite the
contrary, tug of war does not make a vicious dog any more than chasing a
rollling ball, or stealing a sock. What does matter, however, is how the game
is played. For retrieval development it is preferable to have the puppy on a
line so that capture of the ball is gently but persistently associated with its
return. The tug of war will end when the puppy wins. Biting of the hand or
person rather then the object will be corrected. Correction will be
accomplished by redirectly the puppy back to the object of tug of war, after
pressing its lips firmly against its teeth causing the puppy discomfort.
In some types of training the dog must act both independently of the trainer
and protectively. These dogs require in their early upbringing the greatest
attention to the development of outgoing, confident behavior. No training
program is without its pitfalls. One such pitfall is that the extremely
confident puppy which has been developed by routines will require a great deal
of our energy to control. They will act rambunctious, head strong, and vigorous
in play. They will not necessarily be optimal for the most exacting obedience
routines but they are more of a generalist which can track through heat or
snow, retrieve over obstacles, and stand up to the threatening helper on a
Schutzhund field, or the intruder at your window.
The difference in raising dogs for different purposes, is a difference in
emphasis rather than different methods of confidence and trainability
conditioning. Individualization will be dependent both upon the type of dog we
are working with and what our ultimate intentions are for the animal. as much
as we wish to stress training in the ultimate development of the dog we cannot
ignore the variation in breeds used for different types of competition. Thus
the development of subordinance to its owner, confidence, avoidance of
submission (response correction), and outgoing attitude will be an interplay
between these genetic tendencies, and our reinforcing techniques.
The advanced trainer knows specifically the type of animal he wishes to
develop. It is for that reason he chooses from a breed, or even a line within
that breed with genetic tendencies in behavior that he knows will be required
of his competitive dog. But for most folks the breed of dog selected is a
matter of appearance: size, color, length of hair etc... Therefore the average
dog owner has little or no understanding of waht to expect from their
particular type (breed) of dog. Again this is where the professional trainer is
invaluable. In private lessons specific time will be devoted to this subject.
And in group classes the early lessons will investigate the dog's individual
character and tendencies.
After recognition of the dog's individual character, we can tailor its
upbringing (training) to create a close approoximation of our ideal. We must
accept that there are limits to training. We want to develop the most trainable
mature dog. The differences in training are one of
not of different techniques. The dog which has had early roughhousing and
pulling on a burlap sack will have beginnings of a sense of winning and zest
for entering into these new experiences. It does not follow that your house dog
will be running out of control happily destroying your home. Instead, it means
that it will not slink when commanded and then stand there, tail between its
legs, shaking when you yell at the kids.
Despite our best intentions and sincere efforts in training our young dog, we
must be candid with ourselves about poor results. If our attempts at
conditioning our puppy to stange noises, winning tug of war games, running
after a ball, are consistently met with failure then perhaps we have chosen the
wrong puppy, or waited too long to begin. Be honest with yourself because it is
unfair to demand something from your dog that is not possible. Of course it is
also unfair to demand something from your dog that is not possible. Of course
it is also unfair to the family for you to have a pet that for them is
inconvenient, destructive, frustrating, and most of all
(excert from "The Dog House Training Guide" by Tom Rose)
For many years a copy of this article has been part of my puppy pack with the
full permission of Tom Rose. I in turn received it with my very first Malinois.
I have added one paragraph, clearly indicated in the text, based on observation
of my own Malinois. I thank Tom Rose for allowing me to use this article over
the years for I could never have stated the case for crating as clearly nor as
fully as this article does.
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