When you adopt a new dog or puppy, the crate (also known as an airline kennel) can be an invaluable tool. The crate is great for teaching a dog how to behave appropriately inside the house and is one of the quickest ways to house train.
Dogs enjoy being with their family, that is why it is so important to teach your dog how to behave inside. Dogs that are outside all the time may become destructive due to boredom. Digging, chewing and barking are all fun activities for dogs. It is extremely important that dogs have appropriate items to chew, know when it is okay to bark, and dig when at the beach or in a designated area. Left to their own devices, dogs will get into mischief, especially if they are under the age of two.
A crate can provide a safe den for your dog when you need to be away from the house, or are too busy to supervise your dog. Until your dog is trained or over the teenage period, (between 6 months and two years) it is better to set boundaries for your dog and allow them to succeed, not fail.
The crate is meant for short term use. It is not a location to keep your dog in for hours on end while you are at work. A long term confinement area can be easily created if you are working all day. Keep your puppy confined to a fairly small playroom. For example, in the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or section of the room cornered off by an exercise pen. In your dog’s area should be a bed, a bowl of clean water, plenty of chew toys (Kong products and sterilized bones stuffed with dog food), and a doggy toilet in the farthest corner from his bed. A dog toilet can be a large litter box with a pee pad inside.
An adult dog should not be left in a crate for more than four to five hours at a time. Puppies should not be left in the crate longer than they can hold their bladder, which depending on their age and breed may be only an hour or two. Remember, the crate is a short term confinement area. Most dogs do not need to even use their crates when they have learned the rules and are over the age of two. Also, make sure you are giving your dog plenty of exercise, mental and physical.
If you are consistent, an adult dog can usually be house trained within three to five days using a crate. Puppies will take longer due to their smaller bladder capability. A dog is not reliably house trained until he is at least 8 months old. The more consistent you are, the more you will see a difference.
Your new dog should be kept in the crate or tethered to you any time that you cannot watch it 100% of the time. This means that you are able move him quickly outside if he starts to eliminate. By tethering your dog to you, use the dog’s leash to tie the dog to you. Remember, this is temporary until you have house trained your dog.
For puppies, let them out of the crate approximately once every hour or so. You can go for longer but the more opportunities you give the puppy to be reinforced for going outside, the quicker they will learn. Take them outside immediately from the crate. Do not even give them an opportunity to eliminate inside. Have some good treats with you. When you are outside, try to stand in one general area and give your dog the cue (Hurry up, go potty, etc.). Most puppies will eliminate within five minutes of taking them outside.
If the puppy eliminates, give him some of the treats, praise him calmly and happily, and take him back inside. It is ok to let the puppy run loose in the house, as long as he is supervised by you 100%. After about an hour, you can put him back in the crate, and restart the whole process again within the hour.
If the puppy does not eliminate, take him back inside and put him in the crate for another 10 min. Say nothing to him and do not give him treats. Then take him back outside to the same place and try again.
If you are consistent with this pattern, your puppy will quickly learn that he will be rewarded for eliminating in the appropriate place.
As your dog starts to demonstrate an understanding of the new rules, you can begin to phase out the food treats and replace with praise.
Always make the crate a comfortable place for your dog to be. Set him up in the crate with some toys and then set the crate near where you will be. If you planning on watching a TV show, set the crate up near the couch. Be sure that it is in a cool location, or have a fan available if it is warm. There are even fans that are made for crates. If your dog is already housetrained and your dog is not a chewer, you can add some soft bedding, such as towels, blankets, or a dog bed inside the crate.
Another way to help your dog to enjoy the crate is through the use of toys that you can stuff with food such as the Kong, Busy Buddy or Buster Cube, among others. You can stuff the hollow rubber toys with food treats and then give the toy to your dog when he goes in the crate. Most dogs will become very fixated on getting the food out of the toy and will forget about the fact that they are in the crate. You can stuff these toys with a little bit of peanut butter and their kibble, cream cheese, plain yogurt, dog biscuits, etc. Be creative! You may even try to freeze it, as this makes it harder for the dog to get the food out and increases the time his attention will be occupied. Make sure that the toy is a sturdy one that will not break or be digested by the dog while he is in the crate with it and you are unable to supervise him.
The crate should be big enough for the dog to stretch on his side, and get up and turn around without his head hitting the top. A crate that is too big is better than one that is too small. For an adult dog, you can measure from the tip of the dog’s nose to the base of his tail for the proper crate length, and from the ground to the top of his skull for height. For puppies, do the same, and add about 12” for his anticipated adult height. With puppies, you may want to block out the extra area of the crate so that he does not eliminate in the far corner. You can buy a smaller crate and buy a new, larger one when he becomes an adult.
Most dogs take about two days to acclimate to the crate. Do not release your dog from the crate when he is barking or whining. Wait until he is quiet. Don’t leave your dog’s collar on when he is crated. A collar can catch on the metal grating and accidentally injure him. Don’t put the crate in a high traffic area of your house. Find a nice, quiet area for your dog so he will not be overly stimulated by noise and activity passing by him. Don’t let children, adults or other animals in the home tease your dog when he is in his crate.
Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety should not be crate trained. If you think your dog may have separation anxiety you should consult a professional.
Once you have successfully trained your dog to accept the crate, you can leave the crate open in your house. You may find that your dog will go into the crate and lie down there on his own with the door open, as dogs are “den” animals and instinctively enjoy a nice cozy place to escape.
Be consistent and your dog will quickly learn that the crate is a safe place to be.
Grouchiness in dogs can be related to several different factors. When evaluating a dog, we look at age, temperament and health. The first thing we rule out are health issue. Make sure your dog has regular check ups with their veterinarian. Health issues can make dogs grouchy, just like with humans.
After your dog gets a clean bill of health, then we look at behavior. How often do guests come over to the house? How often is your dog out in public? What happens during these events?
An important thing to look for in our dogs are signs of stress. Often we miss these signals. Some signs of stress include lip licking, excessive panting, and yawing.
Making your dog feel comfortable with other people begins when no one else is around. Then, slowly we start by desensitizing them to others using positive reinforcement.
Spend eight to twelve months reinforcing your dog's behavior with treats, praise and toys. You'll be amazed at how your dog responds and remembers the commands.
If you spend twelve months punishing your dog's behavior with overuse of an electronic collars, scruff shakes and harsh tones, you'll be amazed at how grouchy your dog becomes.
It is also important to look at your dog's age. Senior dogs often has less tolerance for young children. If you know your guests have young children, set your dog up to succeed by keeping them in a quiet bedroom while your company is visiting.
If you know your dog does not do well with strangers, quiet bedrooms are a good alternative. Especially if you enjoy having company visit. After all, you don't want people to avoid you because of they are afraid of your “mean little dog”.
Remember, a tired dog is a well behaved dog. Don't forget to make sure your dog gets plenty of mental and physical exercise before your company comes over.
There are many misconceptions about positive reinforcement training methods. Many people seem to be hung up with the dominance theory. An article I read recently stated that dogs are not trying to achieve world domination. I couldn’t agree more. Dogs are not trying to conquer the world or even your homes. Dogs do what work for them. In many cases, dogs are very effective about training the human they live with. Positive reinforcement methods are successful not only for obedience training, but also for behavior problems such as aggression and fear.
Let’s talk about food rewards. Food is a powerful motivator, which is why we use it. However, praise, toys, and life rewards are also part of positive reinforcement training. If you went to work for two weeks and your boss told you that you did a great job, but did not give you a paycheck, you would be very disappointed. You probably wouldn’t show up for work the next day either. With our dogs, if we do not make their work pay off, they quit too. Food is a great training tool. Remember, it can also be their own food, not just treats. Make them work for it. A reward that motivates a dog to learn is a great training tool because learning not only makes a dog more confident, but able to live a successful life in his home. When a dog sees that there are benefits for a certain behavior, then he is more likely to repeat the behavior. That is not bribery.
Dog training should be fun for you and your dog. That is why you should not train your dog using force and punishment. Make your relationship with your dog built on trust, not on fear. Food is incompatible with fear and is therefore valuable in modifying fearful behavior, stress and anxiety in dogs.
Any reward that is used to motivate your dog to learn has to be of high value until your dog is doing the behavior reliably. This is why when dogs are first learning we give them more treats. Remember, dogs do not speak English. As the dog starts to learn, we phase out the treats or give them intermittently. Treats are like a slot machine, not a soda machine. The promise is that you could win the jack pot, so you keep playing.
There is also a misconception that positive trainers do not use discipline. This could not be farther from the truth. The form of discipline is different than dominance training. Positive trainers do not use alpha rolls (where the dog is forcibly laid on its back and held down until submission), jerks, shocks, hanging, ear pinches, stepping on paws, or any other reprimand that causes pain. Positive discipline uses constructive discipline to help the dog make better choices. These include techniques such as removal, time outs, ignoring behavior or interrupting the behavior with a verbal correction (which is very effective) as well as taking something of value away. Dogs learn as much from constructive discipline as they do from rewards. It is much easier to influence your dog’s behavior without using force, which is why positive reinforcement is a better alternative to the dominance theory.
Did your new year’s resolutions include playing with your dog more? How about training your dog?
Dog training should be fun; it is about a relationship built on trust between you and your dog. Dogs are never too old to learn new tricks. They also need a healthy balance of physical and mental exercise. Dogs do not speak English, Spanish, Japanese or Hawaiian, but they can be taught to understand what we expect from them. They can learn our vocabulary, no matter what language you speak, but we must teach them. Most dogs fail because they do not understand what we want them to do. First we teach dogs what we want them to do, and then we teach them to want to do what we want them to do. Why? Because they are rewarded for good behavior, either through food, attention or other life rewards.
I recommend puppy kindergarten for pups ages 2 to 5 months, that gets your canine companion off on the right paw. Dogs that young are not too young to start learning, and it is essential, if not critical for dogs to make positive associations with the world around them.
For dogs over 5 months old, I recommend the Family Dog 1 class which is given upcountry as well as at the Humane Society. This class focuses on basic obedience and manners. Think of it like and English as a second language class for your dog.
Once your dog has completed that class, there are other opportunities, such as the Family Dog 2 and 3 classes which build on basics and help your dog become a Canine Good Citizen.
Group classes are not appropriate for dogs that are overly shy, fearful, or aggressive. In these situations, we recommend private lessons.
A dog is a teenager from 6 months until he is 2 years old. That is often the most difficult time for dogs. Hundreds of thousands of dogs are turned in annually to animal shelters because their owners did not know how to deal with their behavior problems and couldn’t find a reliable resource to help them.
Dog training for the first two years of your dog’s life is critical. Set your dog up to succeed, not fail by making sure you have the tools to raise your dog. Using force or what is referred to as compulsion training is not necessary. There are much more effective ways to train your dog.