A TIME FOR PAWS
Crate Training Your Puppy
Thoughts of puppies are dominating my life right now since we have a new puppy in our lives. One of our first concerns was how to address crate training. For those of you who do not know or have forgotten, crate training is essential to protect the puppy (and your favorite shoes and furniture) from harm and to help with house training. There are many aspects to consider when approaching this challenge, so let’s get started.
I know a lot of people hate the idea of crate training, because they feel like they are caging up a puppy and traumatizing it. I can understand this thought when I think about how crate training often starts. Sometimes puppies will cry out in fear or frustration when they are first introduced to a crate and are left alone. If we can avoid the initial negative response, then it will greatly aid the use of the crate. Remember that dogs are pack animals and they want to be with the rest of the pack (your family). So, the key to using a crate is to keep it in a room with you, if you can. This way the puppy feels included in the pack. This is not always possible due to many factors, including how vocal and persistent your puppy is. You always want to make the crate seem very inviting. Placing toys in the crate and a radio close by provides some comfort. I typically recommend keeping the crate door open when not in use and placing treats in the crate, left for the puppy to find on its own. This provides strong reinforcement that the crate is a good place. I have also had clients tell me that they feed their pet exclusively in the crate for the crate to be a highly prized place.
The advantages of a crate are many. The crate can be thought of like a den where a litter of puppies would stay in the wild. It is a comforting area where they feel protected, and it prevents harm from the outside (predators). Another very important aspect is that it prevents the puppies from hurting themselves, for example, by preventing them from chewing on things that could be harmful to them, such as electric cords. It will also prevent lots of frustration by preventing a puppy from chewing on your favorite shoes or your furniture. And finally, it also allows us to build on the fact that they don’t want to soil themselves, so they hold their urine and stools until we can get them outside.
The next article will be on house training, and we’ll go into crates a little more in that discussion.
Dr. Dick Hay is a veterinarian at TotalBond Veterinary Hospital at Davidson and has lived in Davidson since 1989 with his wife Pam, a retired Davidson College biology professor. They raised two wonderful children in Davidson, Sarah and Ben. Dr. Hay is a Davidson College graduate from the Class of 1973 and received his MS and DVM degrees from the University of Georgia. He is active in the community, having served on several nonprofits boards, including many years with the Davidson Housing Coalition.