Quick Guide to Crate-Training Your Dog
Housetraining a dog can be a challenging process. Both you and your puppy need all the help you can get. Fortunately, such help is at hand: a crate.
And no, crate-training your dog is not cruel. When used correctly, a crate capitalizes on a primal puppy instinct: to refrain from soiling his den. At the same time, confinement in a crate helps your little one learn to hold his urine or feces long enough for you to take him to his potty place. Either way, many dogs learn to love their crates and actually seek them out when they want to take a nap or otherwise chill.
Here's how to use your dog's crate to jump-start the housetraining process.
Find a crate that's the right size for your dog
When it comes to crates, either plastic or metal is fine - but the size of a crate needs careful consideration. A crate should have enough room for your dog to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably, but not much more than that. A crate that's too small will obviously be uncomfortable, but a crate that's too big may prompt your puppy to sleep at one end and do his business at the other.
Divide and conquer your dog's crate
Getting the right-sized crate for each stage of your puppy's growth doesn't man that you have to buy a new one every few weeks or months. Instead, choose a crate that can accommodate your puppy's expected adult size, but has a divider that lets you adjust the size of his living area until then.
Introduce your dog to his crate
After you assemble the crate, let your puppy approach and sniff it. Then, toss a treat or toy into the crate to encourage the pup to enter. If the puppy goes in, praise him lavishly; if he hesitates, use a high, happy-sounding voice to encourage him to go after those goodies. Keep practicing this crate-training step until your pup consistently enters the crate without hesitation.
Close the crate door -- briefly.
Toss a treat into the crate - but this time, shut the door after the puppy enters. Praise him lavishly while he's inside. A few seconds later, open the door and give him another treat when he exits the crate. Continue to practice this maneuver until your puppy stays comfortably in the crate for five minutes.
Leave the room while your dog is in his crate
Put the puppy's next meal in a dish and place the dish inside the crate. Toss a treat into the crate to encourage your puppy to enter. When he does, shut the door and leave the room. After a minute or so, return to see how he's doing. If he's eating and seems content, leave again and come back a few minutes later. When he finishes eating, let him out and praise him. Repeat this step until your puppy is staying in his crate for about 30 minutes.
Now that your puppy is cool with the crate, start using it to housetrain him. Place him in the crate whenever he needs a nap or you can't watch him. He'll soon understand that the crate is his special chill-out place, and that his bathroom is somewhere else.
Award-winning writer Susan McCullough's books include Housetraining For Dummies, Senior Dogs For Dummies and Beagles For Dummies (all, Wiley). She lives with her husband, daughter and Golden Retriever in Vienna, Virginia. Visit her website at www.susanmc.com.
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