Behavior and Training Tips For Your Pooch

Crate Games For Doggies Who Don’t Like There Crates

The benefits of being able to crate or kennel your dog bar too many to even list.

Since a lot of good behavior results from the establishment of good habits and the prevention of bad ones, crate or kennel training your dog can prevent some pretty horrific problems down the road.

The I Love My Crate Game

So, whether you’ve gotten a new pup, adopted a dog from the Humane Society or just want to be able to travel with your dog or you want to leave home teach them to be comfortable in a crate or small kennel.

We use the word crate loosely FYI, any small area where your dog is comfortable and can’t get into a lot of trouble will do. A crate (aka kennel), a small laundry room, a gated area that is private. The only exceptions are dogs who are already phobic about being confined in a crate or a small space. Regrettably, this can be common in dogs with full blown separation anxiety.

Perhaps they begin to associate the crate with the fear that they feel when being alone. “Who knows maybe there are dogs out there like me (yup I am not good in small spaces or with heights) with some canine version of claustrophobia.

And yes, of course dogs do have a den instinct, but they don’t have access to books, nor do they surf the Internet looking for answers?

I have seen several dogs who are fine in the house, but are in a physiological panic if confined to a crate. So if your dog hates when it’s time to put her in her crate, begin to pant or salivate as soon as she’s inside, resist going in or becomes aggressive in desperate attempts to stay out of the crate you simply have to find another way to house her.

If this describes your dog, take heart we are going to talk more about it below.

Keep in mind, though, that most dogs adore their kennels are crates. As long as you make the time, it’s easy to crate train your dog. All your dog needs to learn is; crate equals feeling good.

To make that association, be sure that you understand that an emotion can be linked with a location or context like being in the crate when the owner leaves and very few repetitions, and a very brief period of time.

This is both your best friend and your worst enemy. It will come back to bite you if you put your dog in an unfamiliar crate just for a minute even, listen to him bark and then return and let him out! So, what did Ace learn if you did that?

“I got shoved into this weird unfamiliar place, my owner deserted me, I am parked in a panic, and thank heavens I did, because she heard me and came back and let me out of that nightmare.”

“Next time I will bark, bark, bark louder… maybe she’ll get me out sooner.” But what if you spent that time or that same minute playing the CRATE GAME instead and tossed tasty treats into the crate five times when your dog wasn’t looking so that your dog got to love walking in and out of the crate. Now your dog has learned that the crate is a fun place to go into, because when he does, or she does only good things happen there.



The routine, then, is simple. Play the crate game by having your dog go in and out 3 to 5 times one evening then repeat the game for a few sessions over the next day or two. Remember that when I use the term crate, I mean any small area including.

Play pens, kennels, a laundry room, a bathroom. Be sure not to shut the door at first just let your dog go in and let the dog come out. Once your dog consistently charges happily into the crate begin to swing the door shut just for a second after she enters.

After a few more sessions of the toss in a high value treat, shut the door, leave it shut and you’ll feed the dog and through the gate. Now they willingly going into the crate, discovered that the door was shut and have still had a great time.

After a week or so of several sessions a day, start leaving the dog in the crate with a stuffed Kong or a sterile beef bone that will keep him busy (if you want a great bone, antler or bully stick. For the Kong toy….Be sure to have some tasty gooey wonderful treat is inside that KONG TOY that he really wants to get out, once she/he’s busy discovering how far out his tongue will go, you walk away for 30 seconds.

NOW, make SURE to… Come back BEFORE, YES BEFORE, he’s done with his stuffed Kong toy, Open the door, say hi quietly and take away the toy. (if the dog growls or stiffens, STOP THE GAME DO NOT CONTINUE … we now have a resource guarding issue, call us and we’ll talk….) If not, now your dog is learning; oh boy, she’s going to go, and I’ll get my peanut butter Kong or other feeding toy surprise, oh boy, oh boy, I wish you’d hurry up and go away. Followed by “oh shoot, she’s coming back, well heck, I’m not done yet, how come she came back so soon!”

All you need to do now is gradually increase the amount of time that your dog is left alone in the crate! Pick a time when Lucky is most likely to nap when she’s finished mining the goodies out of her Kong toy, and you can start leaving her for longer and longer periods of time.

In the simplest of equations, do several repetitions of each of the following intervals. Leave your dog for one second, two seconds, five seconds, 10 seconds, 30 seconds, one minute, three minutes, five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, three hours and on to however long you need to combine your dog.

Keep in mind that those numbers are somewhat made up. So much depends on how your dog is responding it is very difficult to come up with a formula for every dog or breed. Most importantly, remember that you need to spend the most time on the earliest stages, which is great, since it is the easiest to do.

There is a downside of crates. We see far too many dogs who spend all day and all night in a crate, it is a darn shame and as trainers we try and discourage that. Crates are great when you’re raising a puppy, or settling a dog in a new environment, but unless you have some serious behavior problems you’re working on, they are rarely necessary when you’re home at night once your dog is mature.

And most adult dogs can be allowed to be loose in the house during the day, especially if you started them off right by not letting them learn bad habits.

Most of us would like to leave our dog out of the crate and loose in the house. The question, of course, is when is it safe to start trying that.? Some dogs thrive with free access to any room, but I suspect that others feel more secure if they are confined to only part of the house.

I think that is especially true of territorial more protective dog breeds, who behave as though they are on Century Duty when you are gone.

Dogs vary on this a great deal, just keep in mind that looking out the window isn’t always the best thing for your dog, especially the windows that look out to the street by the front door.

Reality television is never a good idea. That is a huge responsibility… all those cars, people and goings on…and so they bark like crazy.

You are probably wondering how do you decide when to start leaving your dog out of the crate? The first thing you’ll want to consider is the age of your dog.

Leaving an adolescent anything (fill in the species) home Alone in a big house is a prescription for trouble! Young dogs don’t have any more emotional control and young children, and it’s just not fair to leave a young dog in the middle of a candy store and not sample the wears.

So how young is young?

Young partially depends on the breed, because some dog switch or sooner than others especially the smaller breeds, because there are others that stay puppy like and foolish for 2 1/2 to 3 years. If your dog is a typical retriever, I don’t even think about giving them full access to the house until they are over 2 1/2 years old.

They will pick up everything that’s how they are bred. To be obsessively picking things up in their mouth and then NOT dropping them.

If you have an Active herding breed like a border collie or a healer or any type of herding breed they are in overdrive for a couple of years and if you don’t give them something to do, no problem they’ll find something selves.

So many clients, by the way, who optimistically leave their young pups alone with no problems until the pups are about 5 to 6 months of age, and then guess what, they return to a disaster one night.

These are the clients whose dogs got in correctly diagnosed with separation anxiety, because they were fine for a while, and then started destroying the house just out of the blue.

But lots of dogs become more active chewers in early adolescence. Teething usually begins around four and a half months or so, and we all know that leads to LOTS OF CHEWING.

Dogs, much like they’re human compatriots, go through developmental stages that include changes in behavior, and adolescent dogs are more than full of themselves. So, don’t presume that your mellow little terrier puppy will be fine when she is seven months old in the house, even if she’s been a problem free child up to then.

Are there exceptions? Of course. Prove me wrong anytime, I will love it. There are those amazing dogs out there who’ve been home alone all day long and never pottied or touched a thing. These dogs should receive awards and medals at a special ceremony jut for them. But don’t expect your Fido to win one just because you love him so much.


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