CRATE TRAINING YOUR DOG

To crate, or not to crate, is no longer the question. The question is HOW to crate train. We who breed Welsh Terriers owe it to our pet puppies and their new owners to give correct and adequate instruction in the use of the crate, including the extra uses and abuses. My pups are crate trained at eight weeks, so by the time they leave for new homes at ten or twelve weeks, a good start has been made. Leaving nothing to chance, however, each new pet owner is send off the with the following guide which seems to answer most of the common questions. (Okay, those of you who know me are laughing because I send the new owner off with enough mimeographed material to keep him up all night reading while the pup sleeps soundly in his crate.) Here it is:

Most people feel they don't want to put the new family member into a crate and perhaps that is the very reason why breeders and dog show exhibitors refer to these special dog beds as "crates". It helps, too, to accept the use of the crate if you first realize that dogs are den animals, so the enclosed crate gives your puppy an instinctive feeling of safety, comfort and security. They like it covered (except for the front) especially at night and the crate can be made into a "built in" end table in the family room.

Use the crate for a young puppy as a safe bed and as an aid in housbreaking. A healthy pup that has been raised in clean quarters won't want to soil his bed. Left loose, even in the kitchen, he will select an area of his own choosing to eliminate - establiishing a bad habit which you will have to break. On the other hand, if he is confined to his crate overnight, he will whine and fuss when he wakes up in the morning. Take him out of the crate and carry him outside. This way, there's no chance of a mistake while you are opening the door. The pup will have learned two things: 1) When he asks to elimiate away from his crate, you assist him, and 2) That you prefer and approve his use of an area outdoors.

He may get you up very early the first few mornings, but when he's ready to come in he can be put back into his crate with a toy or a piece of biscuit while the family catches a few more winks. Each morning he'll sleep a bit later until he is in harmoney with the family's schedule.

Always be certain the dog has "emptied out" (urninated and defecated) before putting him in the crate at night before you go to bed, or at any other time when you will leave him crated for a long period of time. Use the crate during the day when you are too busy to watch him, first giving him the opportunity to eliminate outside. Use the crate, too, as a place to let a wet dog dry out (after toweling the worst of it). Use the crate to restrict him until your kitchen floor is dry, to keep him safe when painters, or the kids, are going in and out of the house etc. The list could be endless. As he matures, he will PREFER to sleep in his crate (it's his bed) so be sure the door is always open when he is not being confined.

Sometimes a housebroken puppy will take a step backwards. He spends his time outdoors sniffing and playing and then returns to the house only to realize he forgot "to go". Rather than let him have an accident, put him into his crate when his outdoor trip has been nonproductive (if it is at the time when he normally eliminates). Take him outside again when he indicates he is ready. This housebreaking does take a little of your time, but remember, each accident YOU let happen is a relapse for you both. "Prevention" is the key word in reinforcing good habits. Careful, friendly supervision when the puppy is not crated will help him establish good habits. Most Welsh live to be twelve to fifteen years old, so the first few months of training is a long term investment.

If the puppy has an accident in his crate, don't punish. Instead, figure it is very likely your fault, not his, and what he needs is consolation (misery does love company) and reassurance. "Oh dear, Poor puppy. What happened to my little Taff?" etc. In the crate, several thicknesses of folded newspapers will give insulation and absorption in case of accidents. Newer crates have a grate that fits into the bottom of the crate to prevent the puppy from laying in wet. The best possible bedding in the crate is a big cotton towel. It's a natural fiber and can't injure the dog if he chews it. Some Welsh are allergic to nylon and other man made fibers. A couple of old bath towels can easily be washed and the dog's bed is fresh and clean.

It's "have pet, can travel" when that pet travels safely in his crate bed to motel, grandma's or camp site. A crated dog won't lick the wondows, chew upholstery, bite the man in the toll booth, or jump around causing accidents. Windows can be safely rolled down for people comfort and left down if the dog must be left in a parked car during warm weather. (No matter where you leave your car, check frequently as a dog can die from heat prostration in a matter of minutes and the sun does move). In the case of an accident (even a minor one where only a door springs open) a crated dog can't escape to be lost or killed on the highway. Anyone coming to your aid can easily remove the dog in his crate to be put somewhere safe.

A final word, and probably the most important NEVER..... truly, NEVER, EVER.. put your dog into his crate as a punishment. If you are angy with him (the day will come - we're all human) put him in his outdoor run or close him in the bathroom, or in the cellar, or in the garage. But never, NEVER slam him into that crate when he's done something to make you angry. That crate is his haven and should be strictly out of bounds to his people. He may escape into his crate (and spread himself like wallpaper on the back of it) to avoid punnishment, and if so, at least he knows he has erred and that is three quarters of the battle in training. He can't undo whatever he's done wrong, but chances are good that he will remember not to do it again. As a very young puppy every period in the crate should be accompanied by a biscuit or toy. A crate is a HAPPY place - ask any dog who owns one.

Bardi McLennan

Reprinted with Bardi's permission


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