Crate Training 101
The right way to look at a crate
First and foremost crate training should not a punishment, and to look at it as such would be very detrimental to you and your dog. You can and should be utilizing your crate as a safe space. Think of it like wolves to a den. A comfortable space that is safe and secure to be able to relax and block out the outside world.
The set up
Creating the wolf-den like space. If you have a wire crate (which I recommend) I would suggest starting your crate training by covering it with something light and breathable like an old sheet. Leave part of the front open and make sure there is enough airflow for ventilation, especially if the temperature is warmer. You can put a dog bed or towels inside the crate, but if your pup is a chewer they should loose blanket privilege. You can always try adding a rubber mat if they need something but can't handle soft and fluffy. Putting your crate in a quieter space, against a wall or near a corner will always help with that new den feeling!
When to use it
This will largely depend on your circumstances. Puppies should be utilizing a crate quite often and be sleeping in a crate until they are fully housebroken. Puppies and dogs that need to be kept under a watchful eye for whatever reason should be put in a crate whenever you are not able to watch them fully. Dogs that struggle with separation anxiety should be put in a crate at least a few times through out the day while you ARE home, to help baby step them into being ok by themselves. Do not be afraid of it, and definitely don't only use it while you are away. They will quickly learn that every time they go in the crate something bad happens (you leaving). The best way to combat that is to put them in a crate and nothing bad happens, in fact, you aren't even leaving the house!
The SECRET TRICK for stopping barking in a crate
Ok. This is a game changer folks. If you have a dog that barks a lot in the crate, you have probably tried yelling (which doesn't work), walking over and telling them it's ok/giving them a treat or toy to occupy them (which is actually reinforcing their bad behavior!) or letting them out because you can't take it anymore (definitely reinforcing bad behavior!) As a bonus this also teaches them that they just have to try harder and be louder and EVENTUALLY you will let them out. First, make sure your crate is covered with a sheet or something similar at least 90-95% so they can't see you. For some dogs, even popping your head around the corner or looking at them (even if it's to yell) is allowing their barking to 'win' your attention. With the crate pretty much fully covered, when they start barking or whining, tell them "Quiet" in a firm tone and toss a tennis ball, dog toy or something similar at the crate. This will make a noise. This is a good thing, this allows your cue "Quiet" to be tied to a consequence (a more-surprising-than-anything-else-noise). This snaps them out of the panic mode, and puts you in ultimate stealth-mode. You’re far away, but also seem to have the power to make a loud noise that seems very close. Definitely dark magic! It will completely reset their brain ever time, but you must wait until they are actually barking, then 1. say ‘no’ 2. toss the ball 3. mind blown puppy.
This gives them the opportunity to experience that being alone and being in a crate is actually nice and peaceful, they just have to sit still long enough to see it! It doesn’t take long to realize everything is ok, and you are not going to come running because they are having a tantrum. You can't reason with a screaming kid with his fingers in his ears the same as you can't just yell at a dog barking its head off. Be consistent, and no matter what, never let them out for whining or barking under any circumstances. You should have at least a 2 minute window of silence before opening the door. Doing this consistently you will see an almost immediate effect. Within a few days they should not be barking at all. Enjoy your independence, and know you are reinforcing theirs!
For more stories, tips and tricks on training or if you have any questions please visit our website at www.dogtrainingredefined.com or email Andrea at Andrea@theanimaldept.com