Used appropriately, your dog's crate can be an effective tool for training and management, according to the ASPCA. Crates can fulfill your dog's natural instincts as a den animal, providing him with a cozy spot to sleep, providing refuge during a thunderstorm and giving him a secure location to raise his family. If your pup hates his crate, it might be due to improper use, such as being kept inside it for prolonged periods of time or if it was used for punishment. Changing your pup's perception of crates can teach him to view it as his safe and friendly den.
To help change Fido's negative perception of crates, begin training him with a new crate that he doesn't associate with past bad experiences. Ensure that the crate is large enough for your dog to fully stand, sit down, turn around and stretch out while he's lying down. Using a crate that's too big won't give your dog the cozy den-like environment that he requires and a too-small crate will make him feel cramped and uncomfortable. If you select a wire crate, cover it with a crate cover or blanket to create a secure den-like atmosphere. Add a comfy doggie bed, blanket and toys to make the interior more inviting.
If you previously kept the crate in an isolated area of your home -- such as the attic or basement -- it might be the reason Fido hated it. Your dog might have thought that he was being punished with banishment to a lonely part of your home, separated from his human friends. This time, place his crate in an area of your home that he won't equate with social isolation. Select a high-traffic area, such as near the kitchen, living room or den, or place it next to the sofa where the family watches TV. Avoid keeping the crate in an area with extreme temperatures, such as in direct sunlight, over a heating vent or near a radiator.
Crate training helps to teach your dog that pleasant things can happen inside a crate, contrary to his past negative experiences. Begin by dropping one of his favorite dog treats outside the crate. After he eats it, place another treat just inside the door so he can enjoy it while the rest of his body remains outside the entrance. Next, place a treat all the way inside the crate. Issue a command, such as "Inside crate." If he's reluctant to go inside, give him a gentle push until he enters the crate and eats the treat. Praise him and give him another treat. Practice placing a yummy snack inside the crate and issuing the "Inside crate" command until he no longer resists entering.
Begin training your dog to enter the crate on command without needing the lure of a treat. Issue the "Inside crate" command without tossing a treat inside. If he hesitates because he's waiting for a tasty snack, move your hand as if you're tossing a treat inside the crate so he enters. Once inside, praise him and give him the treat. With repeated practice, Fido will begin to equate being inside the crate with receiving a tasty snack. As he becomes more relaxed inside the crate, begin closing the door. If he becomes anxious, you can open the door but shut it again once he calms down. Gradually increase the length of time you leave the door closed with your dog inside.
To prevent Fido from hating his new crate, avoid using it as a punishment or keeping him crated for long stretches of time. A dog that’s crated for too long can be deprived of contact with humans and regular exercise, which can lead him to becoming anxious, stressed or depressed. Avoid leaving puppies in their crate for longer than three or four hours -- they're unable to control their bowel and bladder for longer than that. An adult dog can be crated for up to eight hours, such as overnight. If you crate your dog overnight, you should provide her with at least 60 to 90 minutes of exercise in the morning and again before she's placed back inside the crate at night, according to the ASPCA.
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