Tips for Keeping Your Dog Calm with Visitors

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Calm with Visitors

Tips for Keeping Your Dog Calm with Visitors

Dogs are a wonderful part of the family. They show their affection in many ways. With so much love to give, they want to jump on everyone. While it may seem cute at first, this is not a good behavior long-term. Jumping can be troublesome when guests arrive at your home, especially for the very young or old.  Teaching your dog proper manners when someone comes to visit is good for everyone. Fear not if your dog is no longer a puppy as It is never too late to teach your dog new tricks. There are a few tried and true tips you can use to get your dog to stop jumping on your guests.

Be the Pack Leader

A dog pack always has an established hierarchy. Every pack needs an alpha leader. Your dog’s instinct is to try to be the pack leader. However, if you assert yourself as the alpha, he will follow your lead.  A dog jumping is just another way of establishing control over you. This is how the dog shows his dominance. Your dog may continue this behavior with guests. When your dog jumps on someone, he is showing who is in charge of the house. For the best results, you’ll want to work to correct this behavior right away and as often as it happens. As a pack leader, you’ll need to show your dog the appropriate behaviors.

Keeping Your Dog Calm at the Door

If your dog is a little hyper, the ringing doorbell can set him into motion. He may not be able to contain his joy when visitors arrive. That can be uncomfortable for guests, especially for those afraid of jumping dog. Working to calm your dog before the door opens can prove very helpful. This may mean taking a few moments to help him settle down. This will help him to understand that he’ll need to be calm before greeting guests. The best solution is to put him in a down or sit position. If you continue to work with him, the dog will associate the doorbell with these commands. Once your dog is calm and attentive, he can greet your guests. It may also be a good idea to let your guests know you are working with your dog. This can help avoid anyone opening the door before the dog is relaxed and quiet.

Reinforcing Good Behavior

A dog that jumps will often get a lot of attention and love. In the dog’s mind, he is being rewarded for this behavior. You might not realize it, but this is reinforcing a bad habit. There are a few ways to keep this from happening. As much as you love your dog, never show affection if he jumps on you. When he jumps, simply ignore him. Try, instead, focusing on reinforcing good behavior. Try keeping a few treats by the front door. When he starts to jump, you must immediately put him in a sit or down position. Once he has done that, he can be rewarded. He will start to associate the good behavior with treats and affection. This is the type of behavior you want to reward.

Remember, it’s never too late to train your dog to have good or better behaviors when your guests arrive.

For More Information

If you have questions about nail clipping for dogs or general questions about pet care, you can contact Kara Jenkins, Owner of TLC Pet Sitter. We are also available by email at info@tlcpetsitter.com.

Redirected Aggression in Pets

Redirected Aggression in Pets

Redirected Aggression in Pets

Perhaps this has happened to you. You come home and find your mild-mannered pet has ravaged a curtain or torn apart a shoe from your closet – objects she has never paid attention to before. What is going on here?

It could well be a case of misdirected aggression from your dog or cat. Have you ever been upset with your boss at work and taken out your frustration on a co-worker instead? That is a form of misdirected aggression. Dogs, who are social creatures living in a hierarchal environment, do the same thing. If a dog is upset or out of sorts or challenged, he may lash out at an alternate target. Which could well be your favorite sofa cushion or TV remote.

Cats, who operate more as independent contractors, are especially prone to misdirected aggression. When a feline routine is disrupted a cat can take out its displeasure in myriad mysterious behaviors – including aggression towards you.

Understanding an incident of misdirected aggression is critical. Your pet is demonstrating an appropriate behavior but choosing an inappropriate target. If you can analyze your pet’s surroundings you can perhaps decipher the cause and correct it through counter-conditioning. One way a pet sitter can help is to minimize disruptions in your pet’s daily routine during your work and travel schedules. Stress reduction helps keep anxiety levels low and property destruction to a minimum.

At TLC we can help pet owners assess common redirected aggression in pets and help channel that energy into appropriate responses.

For More Information

If you have questions about redirected aggression in pets or general questions about pet care, you can contact Kara Jenkins, Owner of TLC Pet Sitter. We are also available by email at info@tlcpetsitter.com.

Raising a Puppy

Raising a Puppy

Raising a Puppy

If You Want a Great Dog, Raise a Good Puppy

Raising a puppy sounds like a good ole’ time of throwing a ball and watching him scurry after it. We all know how holding a sweet puppy can just melt your heart. However, there is so much more to raising a puppy. Becoming a responsible puppy owner requires a lot of work and patience. If you want a great dog, raise a good puppy.

Never Know “No!”

Your puppy was born into this world completely helpless and blind. Now, in your care, he is fully dependent on you to teach him about the world around him, as well as what behaviors are unacceptable. Unfortunately, many trainers using old, outdated methods still tell you that the first thing you should teach your puppy is the meaning of “No!” The science and theory of learning, however, states otherwise. A puppy learns quicker and far more consistently when you can prevent his bad behaviors and reward the good ones. This motivates him to perform good behaviors instead of focusing the bad behaviors. An excellent example of preventing bad behaviors would be the use of a crate or playpen for housebreaking. Keeping your puppy in a safe place while you cannot keep an eye on him prevents him from wondering into another room to potty. When you take him to the proper potty place, you can reward him for doing his business. With time and consistency, he will want to potty in the right place, because you have positively conditioned him to do so!

Training Starts Now

The very first thing you should do with your puppy is begin training. This does not mean that you should begin a full training session before stepping foot indoors, but it does mean that the moment your puppy becomes yours, you should jump straight into his schedule! Dogs rely on schedules, and your puppy is no different. If he is given the ability to potty at the correct times, eat at specific times and given ample exercise and play times you have already started training! Puppies learn from repetition, and a schedule will get his mind and body in sync with the schedule you have made for him.

Involve Everyone

Even if your puppy is meant to be yours and yours alone, ask others to chip in on his care. Puppy care can be a difficult and daunting task to do it right all alone. Puppies need a potty break every hour or hour-and-a-half. If this doesn’t fit your schedule, ask a close friend of family member to do it and get them involved in your puppy’s life. It will be both rewarding for you, your friend or family member as well as your puppy. There may be times when you cannot be there when your puppy is in need, and it is helpful for him to learn to continue his schedule, even when it is with another person.

It’s Cute Now, But Not Later

Your puppy’s jumping and barking may be cute now, but when that little Labrador grows into an extra-large canine, it will just be annoying! A large, or even medium sized dog can easily knock over a person, making it a dangerous behavior to learn. Begin your puppy’s obedience by reinforcing behaviors like: no pawing, jumping, or being forceful with others in order to get what he wants. It’s simple to teach. First, hold a toy or treat that your puppy wants and wait. Then, he will get excited, jump, bark, or even lay down. These are all typical behaviors puppies use to get what they want. Finally, the moment he gives up and looks the other way is the moment you reward him by giving him the treat or toy! Continue doing this throughout the day, especially during play sessions. He is learning that he must be polite and gentle to get what he wants.

Consistency is Always Key

You will hear this one a lot, but it is for good reason. If you let your puppy get away with something you have just reinforced bad behavior that you were working to change. Telling yourself, “It’s okay, just this one time,” will simply add confusion to your puppy’s understanding of boundaries. Stick with your puppy’s training regimen and schedule. Remember to keep it training fun. After all, it is just one big game to your puppy. With the right attitude, it can be a fun game for you, too!

For More Information

If you have questions about raising a puppy or general questions about pet care, you can contact Kara Jenkins, Owner of TLC Pet Sitter. We are also available by email at info@tlcpetsitter.com.

Aggressive Dogs and Knowing the Signs

Aggressive Dogs and Knowing the Signs

Aggressive Dogs

How to Spot Fear & Aggression in Dogs

News headlines are constantly highlighting dog attacks. As such, even more dogs are being euthanized in shelters as they are deemed aggressive, dangerous and unpredictable. Would it surprise you to hear that all of this would be preventable with a basic knowledge of canine behavior?

The Fearful Attacker

It is true that no dog attacks without reason, and almost every time that reason is that his body language was ignored. The vast majority of dogs who bite, bark, growl or lunge do so out of fear. Something occurred, whether you can see it or not, that made the dog feel threatened and fearful. His language was ignored, and thus he reacted in the only way he knew to protect himself. Other behaviors can come into play as well, such as resource guarding which is another fear based behavior. Remember being told as a child to not pet an eating dog? It is because a dog with resource guarding problems may lash out if prompted, even when you are just trying to be his friend.

The fearful dog who causes harm to a human or other animal is a serious danger. The people and animals around him can become hurt or even killed, which also puts his life in danger. If your dog has a bite history or at risk of biting, don’t try to train him yourself! You need a specialist or experience animal behaviorist to help your dog get a better grip and understanding of the world around him. This expert help will keep you all safe!

Unpredictable Shelter Dogs

Shelter dogs are often characterized as aggressive dogs. Dogs who are healthy and yet considered non-adoptable according to a shelter’s temperament testing system also falls into the category of being misunderstood. These dogs are in need of help and are often just scared. A scared dog will act in the only way he or she knows, which is to protect themselves from harm. This is often seen as an aggressive dog.

Considering a dog has no ability to understand what humans are telling them, they have no idea if the next person that walks into their kennel, picks up their food dish or puts a leash on them will cause them harm or not. The human may unknowingly provoke the dog by moving their body in a manner that gives the dog reason to be fearful, such as walking straight up, bending over the dog, reaching a hand towards the dog and even eye contact.

There is hope for these shelter dogs if they are given a chance. The fear in them can be changed through the training method called counter conditioning. It is a simple, but time consuming tactic based on the premise of changing a dog’s emotion over his trigger. The trigger can be a human, another dog, or even loud noises.

Counter Conditioning for Fear in Aggressive Dogs

Teaching a dog to accept something that he is terrified of can be challenging. It can take from a few days to months to change how a dog feels about something, but it can be done! Counter conditioning is the act of doing just that, and it requires patience, time and consistency. Get started with a handful of irresistible treats and the dog’s trigger at such a distance that the dog hardly notices. Every time the dog acknowledges the trigger without reacting, give him a treat. Work up, over time of short sessions, to having the trigger within only a few feet from the dog without him reacting. When you get to that point, you can call it a big success!

Dogs who are euthanized or have lashed out, bitten or snarled over resource guarding is a terrible tragedy. Resource guarding is a natural behavior that even the dog’s wild cousins, the wolves’ exhibit. Resource guarding is when a dog feels protective over an item, food, or even a person or another dog. This is the dog’s fear of that item being taken from him. Even this dangerous and overly common behavior can be trained out of a fear aggressive dog, sometimes within days!

Don’t Throw In The Towel!

It is extremely rare that a dog may be beyond the ability to rehabilitate or reform in their fearful and aggressive behaviors. Professional help is often times the best answer, but those few who are lucky enough to have the natural ability to communicate with dogs and are educated in the theory of training can effectively treat or even cure fear aggressive behaviors. Learn all you can, and never throw in the towel!

For More Information

If you have questions about aggressive dogs or questions about pet care, you can contact Kara Jenkins, Owner of TLC Pet Sitter. We are also available by email at info@tlcpetsitter.com.

Six Tips on Dog Walking for Pet Owners

Six Tips on Dog Walking for Pet Owners

6 Tips for Dog Walking

Even if you do not like it, your dog definitely likes to take a stroll. You may be surprised by these tips for dog walking. After all, dog walking seems pretty easy.  Dog walking is essential for maintaining your pet’s health and keeping them happy and active. Therefore, if you do not have the habit of taking your dog out every morning or evening, you should get started with at least twice a week and let the habit build. Dog owners will enjoy these tips for dog walking. They will help you master the art of dog walking sooner than you think.

1.      Lead your dog

Always walk in front of your dog or by its side. If your dog is ahead of you, it will keep dragging you along with it and you will never know who is walking whom. Dogs are naturally programmed function in packs so they will only find it natural if you lead them. Make sure you are the first one to step outside your house every morning and the first one to step in when coming back from the walk.

2.      Switch to shorter dog leash

Many believe that having longer leashes would allow your dog to walk freely, but longer leashes mean less control and increased chances of your dog running in the middle of the road with you running after. Shorter leashes allow you greater control on your dog and you can easily direct and train them. However, when buying the leash, make sure it is not hard on the skin and not hazardous in any way.

3.      Set aside fixed hour each morning

Dogs are diurnal and they like morning walks, so set aside an hour every morning for the walk. However, the need may vary from breed to breed, so have your dog’s vet tell you how much time a day would be suitable for your dog’s health.

4.      Let your dog sniff around

Dogs like to sniff around. It is their playtime activity and they enjoy it more than anything else. This is how they gather all the information about what is going around them. You as a dog owner should know how important this walk is for their health and mental stimulation. If you do not want to stop at every step while your dog sniffs every next thing, you can loosen the leash for a bit after a while so you can walk without constantly running after your dog.

5.      Do not forget to treat your dog!

Dogs are famous for learning through reinforcement method – treat them when they behave good to promote that behavior and turn it into habit Every time you complete a run or a walk with your dog, treat them with their favorite meal and give them plenty of water to replenish from the walking and sniffing. By doing this, you will be conditioning your dog in a way through which they will look forward to daily walks.

6.      Clean what he leaves behind

A good dog walker is also a good citizen. Clean up dog poop if they leave any on the walk and properly dispose it off. It won’t be a pleasant thing to do, especially when you are out on a good sunny day but it only makes you a good dog owner and a responsible neighbor.

Responsible Pet Ownership

Responsible Pet Ownership

Responsible Pet Ownership

Responsible pet ownership is nothing less than caring for a child. Luckily, most pet owners do consider their pets a part of their family. However, loving is not enough when it comes to being a good and responsible pet owner. Just like you work on raising your child, work on his education, make sure he is eating a well-balanced diet, his hygiene is maintained; you do the same with your pet as well. If you are wondering what should you do to become a responsible pet owner and how it is more than just loving your pet, continue reading the post.

Caring for Your Pet’s Physical Health

Taking care of your pet’s healthIt does not matter if you have gotten your pet vaccinated or not, regular checkups are must. With us humans, we can easily tell if something is not okay or not feeling well, but since we don’t speak the language of our pets, we don’t really know what might be going inside their body and how they are feeling. This is why it is important that you get their monthly physical check-up scheduled. Your pet’s health includes making sure they are free from fleas and parasites which can be sucking onto them and eventually weakening your pet. Also, get your pet’s teeth brushed twice a day as well.

Caring for Your Pet’s Diet

Healthy and balanced diet – Like every living being, your pet also needs a complete diet that’s a combination of fats, carbs and proteins to maintain a healthy gut system. Homemade pet food is the best option for pet food. However, even if you are buying instant pet food, make sure it contains the daily nutritional requirement of your pet. Also, do not feed your pet too much. Diabetes and obesity does not only exist in humans. It can also affect your pet and make them sick and lethargic.   

Spay and Neuter Your Pets

Be sure your pet is spayed or neuteredSome might think this practice is unethical, but pet overpopulation has become a serious problem because not everyone is a pet lover nor there is enough space in pet shelters. Which is why getting your pet neutered is important to control the pet overpopulation. It also reduces the risk of your pet getting testicular cancer and other health risks.

Being Prepared

Be prepared for pet emergencies – Just as you always make sure to keep a baby bag prepared with all the baby essentials in it, you have to do that for your pet too. Keep all the emergency supplies ready in a kit including eye ointments, vet wraps, gauze, hydrogen peroxide, anti-septic, and tweezers. Also, keep a pet first aid book at hand, especially when travelling with your pet in a car.

Basic Training

Timely training – We are not just talking about professional training here; basic training is equally important for your pet. It stimulates their mind and keeps them active and happy. Reward based training is known to help in promoting good mental health in your pet and enhance the relation between the pet and owner. Training also conditions and eliminates violent habits from your pet’s behavior, making them friendly and calm.

Socialization for Dogs

Socialization for Dogs

While many dog owners believe their dog to be the friendly sort, and they very well may be, the act of socialization goes far beyond just saying his to house guests. It goes beyond meeting new people, trips to the Dog Park and doggy play dates, too! Socialization includes items that may be strange to a dog, different floor textures, sounds that can be scary and more. You can start your dog, at any age, down the road to being well socialized with patience and care.

The Fear Periods

While all dogs are continuously learning throughout their lives, including socialization, the two fear periods in a puppy’s growth are probably the most impressionable. These two times in your puppy’s life are when objects, people, other animals and dogs can hardwire a certain emotion and reaction in your dog. The experiences he has during his fear periods are the ones that he will carry with him for the rest of his life, even the bad ones. This is why trainers, breeders, rescuers and veterinarians always stress socialization during puppy hood, because these emotions and behaviors that your puppy learns at this time become difficult to change in the future.

The first fear period will begin before your puppy is even weaned at four weeks old. If your puppy came from, or is coming from a breeder then it is up to your breeder to begin socialization at or before this time in your puppy’s life. The same can be said for a rescue or shelter! It is incredibly important for a puppy at the beginning of his four weeks of life to begin learning new things and have a positive exposure to things that may seem scary to a dog. This first fear period ends at about twelve weeks of age, which means you will receive your puppy during his first fear period! This is a prime opportunity to begin training immediately and form a wonderful bond with your puppy.

The second fear period is a guess, as each individual puppy may be slightly different. It can occur anywhere between seven and eight months of age and lasts for two weeks. During this time you may see more flighty behavior from your puppy, hence the name fear period! It helps to know your puppy well so you can realize quickly that he has entered his second fear period. While socialization should be taking part on a regular basis no matter what your dogs’ age is, this is the most ideal time to introduce him, or reinforce socialization with items and people specifically as well as work on preventative training so your dog will not become reactive in the future.

Exposure vs. Experience

Exposure is needed to socialize a dog, whether you are working on introducing him to umbrellas or other animals. However, exposure alone will not socialize your dog! The key to a well socialized dog is the brief, positive experience he goes through while the exposure is taking place. This does not mean you need to give your dog a treat after he cautiously explore a scary hat on the ground, but instead encourage him to explore it more and when he’s done give praise and move on. It literally can take minutes to socialize your dog with an item!

When it comes to socializing your dog with people, especially if you have a shy dog is not to force him to allow others to pet him. Forcing your dog to let strangers put their hands on him will work against you in socialization. If your dog is shy, let him just observe people, and when a stranger asks to pet your dog don’t feel obligated to let them. Just kindly tell the person your dog is in training, and most people will happily accept and understand to respect your dog’s space. When your dog becomes interested in the people, and not providing fearful or cautious behaviors, like leanings towards someone without stretching out his back legs (as this allows him a quick exit,) you can allow a person to pet him. Ask the person to kneel at his level, while providing their side not chest in his direction and let your dog approach. This makes the person look inviting instead of threatening, and gives your dog the ability to have a positive social experience with a stranger. Once should be plenty for a shy dog, but an outgoing pup may want to meet humans as many as possible!

Never Stop

Dogs learn for life. No dog is too old to learn new things, not even socialization! If you adopted an adult or senior dog, don’t feel as if you don’t need to help him become comfortable with new or strange things. Even if something is scary to him, he will love to learn something new and be more confident instead of fearful. Never stop teaching any dog new things, especially when it comes to socialization!

5 Warning Signs About Using To Many Dog Treats

5 Warning Signs About Using To Many Dog Treats

5 Warning Signs About Using To Many Dog Treats

If you have a dog you probably have some dog treats laying around. In fact some of my clients have so many dog treats that the dog really doesn’t need dog food because it is eating treats all day long. Giving your dog too many dog treats can cause all types of problems and here are some of the warning signs.

If you used treats to train your dog you’ll probably find that hTo many dog treates1. If you are giving your dog too many treats it probably has started demanding them for various different activities. For example you may find that your dog demands a treat when you come home or when you get up from taking a nap. I think you get the idea, the dog will figure out all types of situations that require treat.

2. If you used treats to train your dog you’ll probably find that he won’t sit, or down, or stay without a treat been involved. It’s simple, the reason for this is that you bribed him in the beginning and now he expects them all the time for accomplishing any of his obedience tasks.

3. If you’ve used treats to teach your dog to do his business you may find he is waking you up in the middle the night to take him outside, but he really didn’t need to go he just wanted his treat. This is another example of bribery that can backfire on you with your dog.

4. Okay now this one is serious. If your dog shows any sign of aggression with you, other family members, or other pets in the house over his treat or a bone then you need to eliminate treats until you can have the problem resolved with the help of a canine behavior specialist. Like I said this can be a serious problem and somebody or something can get hurt..

5. Last but not least. When that little pup of yours begins to look like a little rolly -polly ball because he’s so overweight then it’s really time to eliminate the treats. Giving your dog too many treats is definitely the way to put weight on your dog that it does not need.

So keep in mind when it comes to treats less is better and don’t let your dog trick you into giving it more than it should have.  I tell people that dogs are really smart and they are really good at training people.  In fact dogs are better at training people than people are at training dogs.

Are You Practicing Good Dog Owner Etiquette

Are You Practicing Good Dog Owner Etiquette

As a dog owner, it is very important that you practice good doggy manners.  “What does that mean?” you ask.  Here are a few pointers on being a good dog owner who shows good doggy etiquette.

Jumping On People

This is the one that is probably abused the most.  Yep, you walk into a home and here comes the dog, jumping all over you.  Some people say it’s okay because they are dog lovers but not everyone wants a dog jumping all over them.  In some cases, these over exuberant dogs actually knock people down. Depending on the person’s age, this could be very dangerous.  So how do you keep it from happening?  Put the dog on leash, so he cannot get to the person entering through the door.  In fact, teaching your dog to do a sit /stay while on the leash really comes in handy.  Eventually, once the proper door behavior has been learned, you may no longer use the leash.

Excessive Barking

If you have ever been the recipient of non-stop barking from a neighbor’s dog, you know what I mean when we talk about excessive barking.  We should all be good neighbors and bring our dogs in the house, especially during the evening so that our dogs are not disturbing the peace.  If you know a neighbor sleeps during the day, consider keeping your dog indoors throughout the day as well.  If necessary, crate your dog, and the neighbors will love you.  

Allowing Your Dog To Run Loose

Allowing your dog to run loose in most areas is not only against the law, it is also very dangerous for your dog.  Thousands of dogs a year are run over while roaming the streets.  A dog owner that cares for his dog will never allow his dog to run loose.  If your dog shows any type of aggression while running loose, you are vulnerable to a tremendous amount of liability, should your dog happen to bite a person or another dog.

Pick Up The Poop

This one is a real pain in the rear for a bunch of homeowners.  I know you have seen it, but hopefully you have not added to the problem by allowing your dog to poop without scooping it up.  This has become such a problem in some communities that all dogs in those communities are swabbed for DNA. Any waste material that has not been picked up is checked with the DNA on file, and the offending owner can be fined up to $500.  So, bag the poop to keep your neighborhood clean.

Practicing good doggy etiquette will provide a better sense of community for all dog owners and homeowners alike.

What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

Do you know what positive Reinforcement Training is? Positive Reinforcement Training

 

There are a host of dog training philosophies floating around, each with its own, often-times vocal, champions. Our sitters/walkers at TLC House & Pet Sitting practice positive reinforcement training that uses rewards – be they treats or praise or play – to reinforce good behavior and ignore all bad behavior. Current thinking in the dog community considers positive reinforcement to be the longest lasting, most effective method for behavior modification in pets.

 In practice, while walking and caring for dogs around Tempe this means keeping commands short and uncomplicated. Your dog is looking for consistency and the desired behavior must be rewarded immediately every time the proper action is performed.

 At the same time it is critical with positive reinforcement training to never reward undesired behavior. Rather than doling out punishment, unwanted behavior from your dog is dealt with by withholding something of value from your pet – attention, toys or even companionship a “time-out”. Often shaping behavior will involve a vocal interrupter during a negative behavior to encourage the dog into choosing the right action.

 Our sitters/walkers come to know what your dog loves as a reward. It can be a walk or maybe just a hearty belly rub. Most dogs love their treats and it is important to know how to handle food rewards during positive reinforcement training. When first working with a dog to illicit a new behavior a treat every time the action is performed is called for, a method known as continuous reinforcement. Always accompany the handing out of food with robust praise.

 Once your pet is demonstrating consistent performance of the behavior it is time to cut back on the rewards. Instead of a treat every time, withhold the treat – but not the praise – once out of every five repetitions. Then twice, then three times and so on. Mix up this intermittent reinforcement pattern so as not to frustrate your dog. Keep up the praise but dial down the excitement level to a “this-is-what-we-expect” tone of “good dog.”

 Positive reinforcement in this fashion requires patience but with time your dog will become the solid canine citizen we all want our pets to be. And he will be doing it because he is getting what he wants out of the bargain – your praise and admiration and a tasty morsel every now and then.

 

In-Home Pet Care, Dog Walking

Tempe, Gilbert and Chandler, Arizona

480-588-1364

Crate Training Do’s and Don’ts

For pet owners, a crate may offer several benefits such as: aiding with house training (as dogs do not like to soil the area where they sleep), limiting their pets’ access to the rest of the house, and as a safe way to travel.  However, for a dog, a crate is much more.  Dogs are instinctively den animals.  Their crates serve as their “den.”  Dogs prefer using their crates as a safe place to sleep or take refuge, just as they would use a den to do so in the wild.

Crating Precautions

It is important for owners to foster that sense of security that a dog feels about their crate rather than creating a mood of feeling trapped or frustrated.  Some common mistakes that would cause a dog to experience anxiety while crating them would be: to use a crate as punishment, to leave a dog in their crate for too long without getting human interaction or exercise, confining puppies in crates for longer than 3 hours (which is too long for a puppy to be expected to hold his or her bladder).

Picking the Right Crate for Your Pet

A crate should be the right size for your dog, which would allow your dog to stand up and turn around comfortably.  A crate that is too large may be more difficult to use while house training a dog, since the dog may have room to potty in one corner and sleep in another.  Some options for puppy owners are: renting a smaller crate from a local animal shelter until their puppy is full grown, and then purchase a crate that is the right size for their full grown dog or simply blocking off the excess crate area while the puppy is small.

Crate Training Tips

Crate training should only take days or weeks depending on each individual dog.  Owners should make sure that the process is a positive one for the dog and that they are going at the dog’s pace and not forcing it.  Here are some simple steps to make the process go smoothly:

  1. 1.       Introduce the dog to their new crate- Place the crate in an area where the dog is comfortable and make the crate a relaxing get-away by placing a blanket, towel, toys, and/or treats inside.  The dog will become naturally curious about the crate and want to check it out.
  2. 2.       Feed near the crate- A dog will begin to develop a positive association between the crate and meal times, if fed nearby the crate.
  3. 3.       Start with short intervals- Owners should first crate their pets for short periods of time while still home, to get them used to the idea.
  4. 4.       Crate when leaving home- Once the dog has shown that he/she can be crated for longer and longer intervals without anxiety, then they are ready to be crated while the owner leaves home.  Owners can use a command and/or treat routinely to prompt their dogs to enter the crate.
  5. 5.       Crating through the night- At first, owners should place the crate near their bedrooms, so their pets can feel secure that they are close to their owners while still crated.  Puppies and older pets should be let out to potty even during the night, as their bladders are not capable of holding through the entire night.  The owner can then incrementally move the crate further and further away from the bedroom, once the pet has become accustomed to sleeping in the crate overnight.

Potential Side-Effects

Although crate training does offer many benefits to both owners and pets, owners should be aware of some side-effects along the way.  While crate training, puppies especially, may whine or cry.  Although it is important to make sure that you are not reinforcing the whining behavior by letting the dog out of the crate prematurely, it is also important to give the pet plenty of opportunities to potty.  One way to do so would be to have potty breaks at specific times so the pet has a routine, and knows to expect a potty break at a certain time rather than whenever he/she whines.  Another possible side-effect is separation anxiety, which may be managed through consulting with a professional animal-behavior specialist.  If a pet is displaying signs of hurting himself/herself while attempting to escape the crate or of being especially destructive, please seek help for your pet in order to overcome their separation anxiety.

Information obtained from Human Society 8/17/11.  For more information on this topic and many others, please visit their website at: www.humanesociety.org