The great crate

| June 22, 2011

Dog in a CageLong before I started my own pet care business, people asked my advice about their pets, dogs in particular. It probably has something to do with all the reading and research I did even before getting my first dog years ago.

Whatever it was, I guess I must have had the right answers. In fact, I feel personally responsible for keeping a puppy, which would one day become my dog, in her new home.

A co-worker, who would eventually become my wife, had purchased a cocker spaniel. Between failed potty training, destructive chewing and nighttime barking, Hannah was about to get her new pet parent thrown out of her apartment. In this case, I did know one thing: crate training would probably help solve or minimize most of the issues she was dealing with. That, along with some professional training, worked.

To this day, crate training is the No. 1 suggestion I give people to help ensure they raise that adorable puppy to become a functioning member of the family.

I learned about crate training from the Monks of New Skete, or at least from their 1991 book, “The Art of Raising a Puppy.” A revised edition is due out this year. This book is the canine equivalent of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”

If you only read one book before bringing home a new puppy, read this one. And if you don’t have time to prepare properly before bringing home a new puppy, I’d advise you against a new puppy. Raising a puppy takes a lot more time and effort than reading a book.

The basic principal of crate training is this: Crates provide a safe, secure and comfortable place where your puppy cannot get itself into trouble. When you can’t devote your attention to your puppy, your puppy should be in its crate. Obviously this means when you’re out of the house, but it also includes when you just can’t be attentive, such as when you’re sleeping, showering or making a meal.

Because it’s unlikely negative behaviors will happen while in the crate, most of the destructive behaviors like chewing or going to the bathroom indoors are more likely to happen while you’re watching the puppy, giving you the opportunity to calmly correct and then direct your puppy to the proper behavior and offer praise for doing the right thing.

For example, if you’re watching when you puppy first begins to chew on the furniture, you can tell the puppy “no,” offer it something it should be chewing on instead and then praise it for chewing correctly. The same principles apply to potty training by way of the crate, although the process is a bit more involved, which is why I’ll cover that process in my next column.

There is one rule to crate training that must be followed, no matter what behavior you’re trying to teach. Never put your dog in its crate as punishment. Since the crate itself has nothing to do with the negative behavior, your dog will only learn one thing: the crate is a bad place.

Every good result that can come from crate training will then be negated. Stay tuned for more tips on using crate training to help your puppy grow into a welcome addition to your family.

David Loignon is the owner of Home Buddies Premier In-home Pet Care. You can reach him via e-mail at louisville­east@myhomebuddies.com or www.myhomebuddies.com/louisvilleeast

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Category: The Pet Buddy

About the Author (Author Profile)

David Loignon
After 25 years as a journalist and television production executive I turned
my career 180 degrees and opened a pet care business; Home Buddies
Louisville. I couldn’t abandon journalism altogether though, so now I write
The Pet Buddy, a weekly column to help you improve the lives of your
four-legged family members. When I’m not hanging out with my wife Julie and
our rescued fur-kids you will find me on a bicycle racing for The
TwinSpires.com Cycling Team.

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