Many people feel it is cruel to crate a puppy or a dog. All those negative associations about cages and zoos and such. But this is the way you have to look at it.
It keeps the dog safe from chewing things like electrical cords and your new shoes, leather couch, and your brand new carpet when you cannot be around to supervise. It can be considered the same as a playpen for a baby. It is also an invaluable tool in housetraining. Puppies learn from their mother that they shouldn’t soil their sleeping area. When they are still in the whelping box, the puppies will crawl away from their sleeping area to an area they chose as the potty area, and eliminate there. They are already innately trained not to soil the area where they sleep.
Using the Dog’s Natural Denning Instinct: First, let’s look at dog behavior in the wild. Wild adult dogs will naturally find a den or safe area to sleep. When the dam whelps the pups in the wild she sets up a den and keeps it clean until the pups are old enough to go outside on their own. She teaches them it is not okay to potty in the place where they sleep. Domestic dogs will also naturally den. You will often see a dog sleeping under a table or desk or next to a piece of furniture if no other area is provided for them to den. It is not cruel to develop this habit from the time you bring your new furry companion home. In fact, it is cruel not to give the dog a safe area they can call their own.
Setting The Rules From The Beginning: If your dog whines when you first put him in his crate it is probably because he would rather be snuggled up close to you the way he was with his littermates or previous fur-friends. If you allow the dog access to your lap, bed, couch or chair when you first get him then it will be harder to eliminate these behaviors as the dog gets older. You must decide before you bring the puppy home what the “rules” will be and then stick to them.
Getting Started: Crate training should all be done positively with no negative associations. When you first bring your dog home, have the crate ready and comfortable for him. Get a small yummy treat (small piece of raw hot dog works well) and allow the him to sniff it and then lure the puppy into the crate with the treat. When he goes into the crate to get the treat and explore the new area leave the door open and let him come out as he wishes. Don’t force him into the crate and don’t make him stay in there the first several times. Repeat putting a treat in the crate, allowing him to go in on his own for the treat. Do this several times and praise him gently while he’s in the crate and associate a word or phrase for going in the crate. Some use “kennel up”, “go home”, etc. Use the word association AS you’re putting the treat into the crate and the dog is following it in. Do this about five times and then quit for awhile. Repeat this procedure several times the first day.
Closing The Crate Door: When the dog is going in after the treat comfortably and when he has just finished playing and piddling and is tired, lure him into the crate with the treat as you have before only this time close the door. Put a new toy (preferably a husky proof toy such as a Kong or Rhino) in the crate at this time. Something he hasn’t seen before and something that is interesting and will keep his attention for a few minutes (a Kong you can fill with peanut butter or treats). After you close the door, sit on the floor in front of the crate and talk to him if necessary. If he cries or whines, put your fingers through the grate in the door to reassure him that you’re still there. Usually, they will only whine for a short while and may even fall asleep if they are tired. Stay there until the whining subsides and he calms down and then open the crate door (5-10 minutes usually). If he happens to fall asleep, great! Let him sleep in the crate until he wakes up and then it’s right outside to go potty. Don’t use a lot of praise and fanfare when you open the crate door and ignore him for a few minutes after he is out so that he doesn’t get the impression that getting out is much more fun than being in the crate. Do not let him out of the crate until he is quiet for at least 30 seconds and has calmed down if he has been whining. Maybe try and distract him with another toy to give him a chance to be quiet so you can let him out while he is quiet but DO NOT let him out, especially the first time, until he IS quiet. Don’t yell or correct in any negative way. Just make up your mind that you will calmly wait the dog out no matter what.
The First Night At Home: If you have gotten your new pet during the day and had time to do the above steps, great! He will already be familiar with going in the crate after a treat. If not, and you want to begin his life at his new home sleeping in a crate here’s what to do. Play with the puppy till he’s tired, make sure he has pottied outside and place the crate where you will be sleeping (some people put the crate next to their bed so that the dog can still see them). Huskies want to be in the same room as their ‘alpha’ (you). Be sure to remove any collar that might be unsafe (remember that huskies are escape artists and if they try to get out of the crate, they may get their collar stuck and end up choking), place or lure the tired dog into the crate (possibly with a safe toy) go to bed and turn out the lights as usual. If the puppy whines, reassure with your voice that you are there and that everything is fine. You may lose a little sleep that night and possibly the next but DO NOT open the door for him for at least four hours (some dogs get nervous the first night and need to go potty again) – but if not, remember: the dog has successfully pottied just before bed. Do not get angry with him or yell at him but do not give in and let him out either. If the crate is comfortable and warm enough, the lights are out and you are right there to talk softly to him and let him lick your fingers, then usually he will fall asleep within an hour, less if he is tired. If the dog or puppy does wake up in the middle of the night whining, have your sweats, shoes and shirt ready to take him outside. Dress yourself quickly before you open the crate, quickly lead the dog ( carry if the dog is a puppy) to the potty area immediately, praise softly and gently for a job well done, bring him back in and without getting into a play session with him, return him to his crate, turn the lights out and go back to sleep. If he fusses for awhile, talk softly and put your fingers in the grate of the crate. Two or three nights of this at the most and your puppy/dog will be used to the routine. If you happen to sleep through the puppy/dog whining and he is forced to potty in his crate because he can’t hold it, don’t blame or scold him. It is your responsibility to get him out BEFORE he has had a chance soil his den. Clean it up using a urine neutralizer (light vinegar and water mix works well) put clean towels or pads in the crate and return to your routine. Set an alarm clock if you have to. The crate should not be too big for the pup, otherwise there will be enough room for the puppy to soil in his crate and not think about it as soiling his sleeping area. Later on, after the puppy is used to it’s routine and after he no longer needs to go out every four hours, you can put the crate somewhere else in the house.
Crating When You Leave The House: At some point you have to go to work or go out somewhere and can’t take your dog with you. He’s made it through his first day and night at his new home. He is familiar with his crate and it does not have any unpleasant associations linked to it. Make sure he has been exercised and has pottied. It is helpful if he has played a bit and is tired. Take off his collar and remove any unsafe toys (stuffed animals, towels, blankets, rawhide, anything that is easily chewable) that may be in the crate, lure him into the crate with a treat and your association word (or physically place in the crate if a puppy). Close the door and leave the house without further ado. No talking to him etc. He may whine a little. Leave for about a minute and then come back in, praising the pup that you’re back and give him a treat. repeat this again at 3 minutes, 5 minutes and then up to a half hour.up to an hour. Try to practice this as much as you can during the day so that you leaving him becomes natural for him. When you are ready to leave your pup for more than an hour, you might have to explain to your neighbors that you are crate training your new puppy/dog to keep him safe from chewing things like electrical cords and your new shoes while you are away and so he will develop good potty habits. Explain that he may whine for a little while after you leave. Hopefully they will understand. Don’t stay away too long. Two hours is optimal. If you have to go to work and have no other choice, then arrange to come home at lunch to feed, exercise and potty the puppy/dog during your break or have someone else come in and do this for you. A puppy cannot be expected to go longer than four hours without a potty break and it is very hard to retrain a puppy that is used to soiling his crate.
A Place To Get Away From It All: After the dog/pup has grown a bit and is used to being put into his crate when you leave and at night when you sleep, you will see something interesting happen. When the puppy is tired and wants some time alone, possibly away from the children (who should not be allowed access to the crate for play purposes) he will go to his crate and curl up and go to sleep.
OTHER REASONS TO CRATE TRAIN EARLY
- Flying : Suppose you have to fly your dog on a plane. They must be crated for this. Flying is stressful enough for the dog who is already crate trained but add the stress of never having been in a crate to a dog who has to fly for the first time. Can you see a reason for the dog to be used to a crate?
- Boarding: What if you have to go out of town and need to leave the dog in a boarding kennel? A crate trained dog will understand and adapt to this situation easily. Usually, you can bring the dog’s toys and treats with you to the kennel and allow the dog some comfort in having his own toys and treats.
- Crating In The Car: Keeping the puppy/dog safe in the car is another reason to crate train. Nobody likes to think of what would happen if they were in a car accident. Car doors can fly open and the dog, if uncrated, stands a good chance of leaping out into traffic and getting hit by a car or running off because they are scared. If you have your dog crated in the car when in an accident the dog may get banged around but the crate will most likely protect the dog from being hit, may help contain the dog in the car itself, and will keep him from being lost if the car doors fly open even if the crate is expelled from the car. If you are hurt in the accident the emergency services people are more likely keep your dog safe and contained if the dog is in a crate and they can easily transport the dog to a safe area.
DO’S & DON’TS
- Never crate a dog with a choke collar on. Dogs can choke themselves to death. It’s probably a good idea to remove any collar while the dog is in the crate. Never crate a dog with a leash attached! Same reason.
- Safe Toys : Use safe toys only, nothing the dog/puppy can get apart and choke on while you’re not there. Rawhide chewies/bones are not good as they are not digestible and can linger in your dog’s intestine only to have it surgically removed. Squeeky toys need to be monitored because the squeakers can be removed and swallowed and cause the dog/pup to choke. Good toys that are safe: Kongs. These are made of hard rubber that is almost impossible to destroy. They come in many different sizes and it have an small opening on one end. Some people put a little peanut butter inside and that gives the pup/dog something do for awhile after you leave. Not a lot of peanut butter, just enough to keep them interested. You can also hide small treats in it as well.