Crate Training Tips
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Crate Training

I have to admit, years ago when I first heard about Crate training, I didn't like the thoughts of it.  But I witnessed first hand the positive effects of it (my mom was given a crate trained adult dog) and I decided that the next indoor dog that I had, I'd give crate training a try.  Blackfoot was that dog.  I am convinced now that it is the best housebreaking tool available when used correctly.  Black was an exceptional student, becoming housebroke in 2 days.  I was unemployed due to cutbacks at the time I got Black so I was able to spend a great deal of time with him.  This certainly made things easier.

Crate training is not a foolproof method.  Improper use of a crate can be inhumane and may even result in extreme behavioral problems.  If you decide to crate train, there is a proper and improper way to do it.  Most dogs do not like to soil (urinate or defecate) in their home.  

Crate training should all be done positively with no negative associations. When you first bring the puppy home from the breeder, have the crate ready and comfortable for the puppy.  It is not a good for the puppy to be shut up in the crate at an early stage for long periods of time. 

I get a small yummy treat (I use my liver treats) and allow the puppy to sniff it and then lure the puppy into the crate with the treat. When the puppy goes into the crate to get the treat and explore the new area I just leave the door open and let him come out as he wishes. I don't force the pup into the crate and I don't make him stay in there the first several times.  I then repeat putting a treat in the crate, allowing the puppy to go in on his own for the treat. I do this several times and praise the puppy gently while it's in the crate and associate a word or phrase for going in the crate. My word association is "bed". I use the word association AS I'm putting the treat into the crate and the puppy is following it in. Do this about five times and then quit for awhile. Repeat this procedure several times the first day. 

When the puppy is going in after the treat comfortably and when the puppy has just finished playing and piddling and is tired, lure the puppy into the crate with the treat as you have before only this time close the door. I also put a new toy in the crate at this time. Something the puppy hasn't seen before and something that is interesting and will keep his attention for a few minutes. 

After I close the door, I sit on the floor in front of the crate and talk to the puppy if necessary. If the puppy cries or whines, I put my fingers through the grate in the door to reassure the puppy that I am still there. Usually, they will only whine for a short while and may even fall asleep if they are tired. I stay there until the whining subsides and the puppy calms down - 5-10 minutes usually. If the puppy happens to fall asleep, great! I let him sleep in the crate until he wakes up and then it's right outside to go potty. 

I do not let the puppy out of the crate until he is quiet for at least 30 seconds and has calmed down if he has been whining. I might try and distract him with another toy to give him a chance to be quiet so I can let him out while he is quiet but I WILL NOT let him out, especially the first time, until he IS quiet.  I don't yell or correct in any negative way. I just make up my mind that I will calmly wait the puppy out no matter what. 

Puppies urinate immediately after waking up from a nap and defecate after every meal.  Once they begin to mature, the length of time between urges "to go" become longer in length. (Usually around 10-14 weeks).  At this stage they become ready to stay in their crates all day while you are at work and all night while you sleep.  I will keep a toy or two in the crate but I don't keep food or water as this will create a huge mess.  As soon as they eat and drink they will need "to go" and if you are not home to let them out they will make a mess.  It will also teach them "to go" in the crate.  If the puppy is fed and watered and taken outside before being crated you will have a much cleaner and happier puppy.

It can be viewed as being expensive, but I buy a crate for each stage of a puppy's size.  You do NOT want a large crate for a small puppy because it will give him room "to go" away from where he sleeps.  This will defeat the purpose of the whole training exercise.  The dog is a den animal and when the wolf tunnels out a den, he will only make it large enough to sleep in.   The crate should be just big enough for the dog to fit inside.

I prefer to buy a crate that is not made of wire, so that the dog has privacy.  If you do use a wire crate, I would cover it with towels around 3 sides.  The dog views the crate as 'his den' and small children and 'other dogs' should not be allowed to disturb this den. 

I have individual outside dog lots (10' x 10') for my dogs to stay in during the day.  They are covered to provide shade and there is a doghouse inside these lots for each dog.  Thus I don't have to confine a puppy to a crate during the day.  I have always fed my dogs in their outside dog lots thus they are eager to go in the lot each morning before I go to work.

The crate should be in a room that you occupy so that the dog can see you and not be isolated.  [I have my crates in my bedroom now because my dogs are housebroken and only crated at night].   When you sleep, your puppy should be in his crate with the door closed. He will wake you when the urge strikes. You need to take him out right then to further the crate training purpose. Your puppy will learn what you teach him. If you ignore the persistent crying to go out to relieve himself you will defeat the purpose of crating your puppy altogether. Puppies mature quickly and he will not have to get up in the middle of the night forever.  A puppy cannot be expected to go longer than four hours without a potty break and it is very hard to retrain a puppy that is used to soiling his crate. 

NEVER scold your puppy for soiling his crate. You should have taken him out when he asked!!  Dogs are clean by nature and left to their own devices would leave the den to relieve themselves. Always, Always praise your puppy EVERY time he "goes" outside. IF he does soil the crate, just get the puppy outside to finish his business, give him LOTS of praise, clean the crate and go back to sleep.  REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOR and good behavior is pottying outside.  

Once your puppy has matured and is past the house-breaking period you may start to leave him out for longer periods. But you will want to continue the crating when you are away or cannot watch everything that he is doing for a while longer. Teething can be dangerous as well as costly if the puppy is allowed to be loose all the time. 

My dogs are crated until they are totally trustworthy and understand what is allowed and what is not. This might be 6 months or it might be 2 years. Each dog is an individual and requires individual training. Once I am SURE the dog is trustworthy then I start leaving them out when I am away for short periods at a time.  Eventually your dog will be able to be loose in the house all the time if you so desire.

If you have decided on crate training, please heed these guidelines: 

---NEVER use the crate as a form of punishment or reprimand for your puppy or dog. This simply causes the dog to fear and resent the crate. If correctly introduced to his crate, your puppy should be happy to go into his crate at any time. You may however use the crate as a brief time-out for your puppy as a way of discouraging nipping or excessive rowdiness.

---A puppy should never be confined to a crate for longer than 2 hours 

---A puppy will use a crate to go potty if she is scared or left in too long 

---Keep the crate near you, giving your puppy a sense of security 

---Do get a new pup used to his home gradually. Never put a pup in the crate and leave the room for a long time. Remember, dogs are social creatures and pack animals. They survive in the wild because of their pack. You are now the dog’s pack leader. When you leave, it represents stress. A kennel will foster the security a dog has when in his den. But he still must have you to interact and socialize with.

---Do provide soft, washable bedding in the home so it is comfortable and warm. Make the inside of the home as cozy as you can. Keep it clean and flea free. 

---Do supervise your pup ANYTIME he is free in your home. This supervision is what allows you to direct behavior.

---If you see him begin to sniff, circle, or crouch as if he is ready to urinate or defecate, quickly tell him "no", then guide him to the door, praise him at the door, and guide him outside to his "elimination spot". When he finishes his elimination outside, praise him lavishly! 

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