Sunday, January 30, 2011

Crate Training

So sweet and innocent looking when sleeping!
I decided I should put a post in here about crate training.  It is easy to make the assumption that everyone understands the importance of crate training and does it with their puppy.  But in reality, I have worked with a lot of people that don't do this with their pups.  Crate training is a valuable management tool that you will use for the rest of your dog's life.  Some people think crating a dog  is cruel, so I always tell people this saying that I got from somewhere  - don't remember who said it, but , "When the human treats the dog like a human, the dog treats the human like a dog."  'Nuff said.

Here are the reasons you should crate train your puppy.  It  helps with potty training.  It is a great tool for general manners training.  When your dog needs to go to the vet they will be used to being confined and will have less stress about being there.   If you travel and need to stay in a motel or friends house your dog will be happy to be confined.  If  you board your dog they will understand and be content with confinement. Crating your puppy will get them used to being alone - very important!  If you are going to show your dog they need to learn to wait in their crates during the day so they can rest.  And most importantly, when your dog rides in a car they should be crated, or have a seat belt harness on.

There is a ton of information out there on crate training and potty training.  The Internet is a great source of free information, so I am not going to take time to repeat what is already out there. But I will share what I am doing with Sunny and how I use crate training for raising a performance dog.

Some puppies accept crate training a lot easier than others.  I say the more they scream the better dog they make!  Just shows a lot of drive and determination IMO.  Sunny is definitely a screamer.  But it has only taken about four days for her to adjust and she is doing very good in her crate and xpen now.  She still fusses a little bit, but she is learning a routine.  I work at home so it would be easy for me to keep Sunny with me all day long or crate her near another dog.  Of course she does get to be with me a lot, but I put her in her crate or expen so that she is alone for short periods of time.  I want her to learn that she can be alone and not become dependent on always having to have company around.

I don't give my puppies a lot of freedom.  I keep them confined unless I am working with them.  There is some hang time, like now when I am in the office and Sunny is here chewing on a bully stick.  She has a couple toys in here and occasionally I take a break and play with her.  During the day when I am busy she is in her xpen.  I am getting her out several times a day and either playing or going for an exploration walk.  If I can't watch her when I am inside,  she goes in a crate.  When we eat dinner she goes in a crate, or if I shower etc...And of course at night she sleeps in her crate. 

When I finish a walk I put her right back in her xpen.  When I get her out to play and when we start training, she will go back into an xpen, kennel or crate when we are finished with our session.  I don't just turn the dog out into a yard with freedom.  This helps the dog to  absorb the training or play session.  My dogs learn from the beginning that I am the supplier of all good things!  IMO a puppy needs to learn to earn everything.  Too much freedom and the dog will take advantage. Once my puppy has grown up some and is getting trained, she will get more freedom in the yard.  If at any point in the training she isn't working well for me I will cut back on the freedom.  It is sure to happen during adolescence!  I often refer people to Susan Garrett's book called Ruff Love.

One other thing that I don't do with my pups is let them run with the adult dogs in the house.  The number one reason is that I want her to bond with me first.  I'm the leader.  This will make training easier.  The other reason is I don't want the puppy terrorizing the adults - it is not fair to the older dogs in the family!  So I use crating to manage the dogs in the house and yards.  I have a 3 1/2 year old border collie, Flint.  He is very good and tolerant with young puppies.  On occasion I will let he and Sunny play in the office with me at night.   But only with supervision and if I see that Sunny is getting too wild on him I will give Flint a break.  She is a wild little thing and I love it!!  But Flint gets tired of it and I want him to stay tolerant of puppies.  When Sunny is a little older I will let her meet the matriarch of the place, Tina.  Tina will show her who is boss without hurting her.  Sunny will need this lesson  I am sure :-)  I will gradually introduce her to the elders and they will teach her lots of things too.

If I am not training my dog I am managing my dog.  Crating is an important element in that design.