Crate Training Your Dog is Not Cruel Pt. I

Every dog owner knows that an untrained dog can reek havoc on your house and home.  From excessive barking to destructive chewing, a dog that has no manners can turn tranquility into hostility in minutes.  The more you admonish your dog, the worse the problem becomes.  He just doesn’t listen, right? You end up wondering how you managed to get the world’s most stubborn dog that never listens to anything you say!  Despite what many may say, crate training your dog is not cruel and if done correctly, can be used with other training methods to help your dog learn the boundaries he was meant to have in your life.

Boundaries

Just as people need boundaries, so do our pets.  Domesticated dogs bring inherent instincts such as pack behavior.  Dogs are social animals, learning from those around them.  Every family has a leader and if there are no boundaries established, they will establish their own within their own pack.  Dogs living among humans will see us as part of their pack.  They will protect us as one of their own, sleep in our home as one of us and play with us.  Without clear boundaries as to who the leader of our pack truly is – the Alpha – there can be serious issues.  Let me share a couple of true stories.

This story is from a person who shared it with us several years ago.  Bob owned two dogs.  They got along wonderfully without any issues.  When one of them passed, his family waited about 6 months or so until they brought in a new puppy.  During the puppy phase, they thought things were going well.  Their previous two puppies were instinctual learners and never needed heavy training so Bob was able to do training himself.  This puppy seemed the same.  Soon, however, this puppy was jumping on the bed and didn’t understand “no” or “down” like his other dog.  Bob couldn’t understand why this method had not worked like it in his others.  Bob went back to the drawing board and started basic training over but this puppy seemed to have a lack of understanding.  He did fine during training but later his lessons were all lost.  What was going wrong?

Consistency

What Bob did not realize is that his entire family was sabotaging all of the training efforts.  That wasn’t their intention.  They were allowing the new puppy to break all of the rules when Bob wasn’t around.  The puppy was “so cute” that all of the rules went out the window so Bob’s hard work was never sticking.  As a result, the puppy had already learned to “work the system”.  Dogs do not understand that the rule is only for Bob and only for this couch, but they are certainly smart enough to learn to play us with our behaviors.  They know how to use barks, whining, the sad eyes and other methods to achieve their goals.

When we train a dog, consistency among everyone and everything is key.  If he is trained to stay off the bed, he should not be allowed on the bed at all.  Not during the day, at night with anyone.   That means we have to be consistent with rules each and every time.  This is difficult if we have other family members spending time with our dogs.  Make sure

Here is a list of common rules that dogs often break and where crate training can assist in training:

  • House breaking
  • Excessive barking
  • destructive chewing
  • digging in yard
  • jumping on furniture
  • scratching or biting at furniture
  • growling or biting at others

Crate Training

Crate training should begin when your dog is young if at all possible.  It should NEVER be treated as a punishment but should be seen as a place for your dog to go to rest and be safe.  It should be his or her safe refuge and to go with a treat or other encouragement.  Many dogs will eventually begin to treat the crate as his or her bed and go to this place on their own when he or she is tired, feels to retreat or other.  I want to make a note here to say that there are some dogs that absolutely refuse crates and some that love them.  I have owned both types of these dogs.  Having rescued a number of dogs over the years, I have had dogs that, after they came to live with us, either hated the crate and refused to go in it again to the point of aggression or I had to work with them to coax them out regularly.  When working with your new puppy, it helps to identify if he has strong feelings at either end of the crate spectrum.  This may sound silly but it can save you countless hours of frustration and save you from destroying the trust building relationship with your new puppy, who is just learning about you.

Where did you get your pup?

Before we dive into how to crate train, we need to understand your pup first.  If your pup came from a rescue environment, chances are, she was placed in a crate, possibly with other dogs, and shuffled around until she was adopted by you.  If this is the case, she may be nervous, jumpy and unwilling to go to a crate that reminds her of those awful days again.  With that in mind, you want to make the crate a loving, inviting home to her where she can be safe in your home.   A place where she has a safe chew toy (be sure it is one she can chew without supervision such as a Kong), and where she isn’t too cold or too hot.  We always put the new puppies in a crate in our room.  This gives her a chance to get to know us and always feel our presence.

Next article: Crate Training Your Dog is Not Cruel Pt 2: House Breaking