Crate and Kennel Training
Dogs and puppies love to curl up in snug spots. This is a natural "denning" instinct left over from their wolf ancestors. Many people view a kennel or crate from a human perspective - a cage, or prison. Yet, if it is properly introduce, a dog crate provides a sense of security for your puppy; a place of her own. At the same time, a puppy that is comfortable in a crate is easier to housebreak and travels well.
Crates, or kennels of various sizes are easily available at pet supply stores. There are two main styles to choose from: thick, hard plastic crates with small openings on each side to allow ventilation, and open wire kennels. Pet supply manufacturers realize that dog crates are quickly becoming an essential piece of furniture for dog owners. Some now offer a line of high-end kennels with decorative finishes on the sides and tabletops so the crate does double-duty as an end table. It is important to get the right size crate for your puppy. Choose a a crate that will fit her as an adult---she'll quickly grow into it! Ideally, the crate should be large enough to allow an adult dog to stand up and turn around, with about four inches of extra space in length. If you are unsure how large your puppy will grow to be, you can find information in books or on the Internet that give approximate sizes for each breed.
You will need to teach your puppy that the crate is hers. Some puppies take longer than others to "catch on" to their special place. This is not an indication that the puppy doesn't like the crate, just a result of unique personalities each puppy has. Training your puppy to use the crate requires a number of small steps, as well as patience. The kennel should always be associated with pleasant moments. If you force your puppy into the crate or get angry at her, she will see the crate as a bad thing.
To introduce the crate to your puppy, sit beside it with treats in your pocket and call her to you. When she comes to you, give her a treat and lots of verbal praise in a happy voice. Place a treat at the entrance of the crate, and after she takes it, toss one into the crate. Each time you place a treat inside, give a unique command, such as "kennel up" or "kennel in" so she begins to associate the behavior with the command. End the session before the puppy loses interest. Once your puppy enters the crate, begin feeding her regular meals inside the crate. Nothing says "special moment" like food.
Crates and kennels are comforting for puppys and excellent tools for housebreaking, but they should be used carefully. Puppies will need to be taken out of the kennel during the night to relieve themselves. Never leave any puppy confined to a crate for more than 6 hours-they will become bored and can develop behavior problems as a result.
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