Crate Training
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Remy enjoying a nap in her crate

Crate Training


I am a very big believer in crate training.  Some people say that it is cruel but not if you use the crate properly.  Is it more cruel to come home and yell and scream at your puppy because they had an accident or worse, they chewed something and they are now injured?  All of my dogs have been crated trained.  My dogs absolutely love their crates.  When they become adults, I generally only put the dogs in the crates for meals.  I leave the crate door open all day and it is usually their first choice as a place to rest.  Also, a crate is necessary for agility trials, obedience shows, etc. and itís great to have dogs that will rest quietly in their crates.

Providing your puppy with a crate provides a safe area and gives the puppy a sense of security as it acts like a den. It is a very effective housebreaking tool because it takes advantage of the dog's natural reluctance to soil its sleeping place. It can also help to reduce separation anxiety, prevents destructive behavior (such as chewing furniture), and keeps a puppy away from potentially dangerous household items (i.e., poisons, electrical wires, etc.).  Because I travel so much with my dogs, I use the crate both in the van and at hotels.  My dogs get used to hotels very quickly as they sleep in their familiar crate. A crate should NEVER be used for the purpose of punishment.

I recommend that you provide a crate throughout your dog's lifetime. While I have a dog room where I keep the crates, they can be placed under a table, or a tabletop can be put on top of it to make it both unobtrusive and useful.

What Size/Style of Crate?

You should use a crate that is just big enough for your puppy to stand, turnaround and lay down in.  You don't want it too small as it will be uncomfortable nor do you want it so big that the puppy can go to the other end and soil the crate.  It is ideal if you have a couple of sizes of crates to grow with your puppy.  However, this may not be practical.  Many of the bigger crates (the wire type) can come with a divider that allows you to have the crate smaller for the puppy but then remove it as he grows.  I use a Vari kennel (plastic) for Scout but this type of crate is more enclosed so you have to make sure that the room is cool as the crate can get warm.  The only caution for wire crates is that the tail or paw can get caught between the crate pan and the side/bottom.  I recommend you remove the crate pan for puppies to prevent injuries.  There are now many soft-sided crates on the market.  I recommend not using this type of crate until your pup has already been crate trained and you are sure that they will not dig or chew it and try to escape.  Once they have learned how to escape from a soft-sided crate, you will always have problems with them escaping.

Furnishing Your Puppy's Crate 

Place your puppy's favorite toys and dog treats at the far end opposite the door opening. These toys may include the "Tuffy", "Billy", "Kong", or a ball. Toys and balls should always be inedible and large enough to prevent their being swallowed. Any fragmented toys should be removed to prevent choking and internal obstruction. You may also place a sterilized marrow bone filled with cheese or dog treats in the crate. Be careful of putting plush toys in a crate.  Many puppies will get bored and eat these and you don't want them to eat the stuffing.

A small dish attached to the side of the crate or heavy bowl with water should be in the crate if your puppy is to be confined for more than two hours in the crate.  Don't overload the puppy with water as this may lead to accidents.

Place a towel or blanket inside the crate to create a soft, comfortable bed for the puppy. If the puppy chews the towel, remove it to prevent the pup from swallowing or choking on the pieces. Although most puppies prefer lying on soft bedding, some may prefer to rest on a hard, flat surface, and may push the towel to one end of the crate to avoid it. If the puppy urinates on the towel, remove bedding until the pup no longer eliminates in the crate.

Location of Crate

Whenever possible, place the crate near or next to you when you are home. This will encourage the pup to go inside it without him feeling lonely or isolated when you go out. A central room in the home (i.e.: living room or kitchen) or a large hallway near the entrance is a good place to crate your puppy.

Introducing the Crate to Your Puppy

It is important that your puppy have a good association with the crate.  The following gives some helpful guidelines to introduce your puppy to their new home:

  • Occasionally throughout the day, drop small treats in the crate. While investigating his new crate, the pup will discover the treats, thereby reinforcing a positive associations with the crate. You should also feed your puppy in the crate to create the same effect.

  • In the beginning, praise and pet your pup when he enters. Do not try to push, pull or force the puppy into the crate. When it is time for bed, you may need to place your pup in his crate and shut the door upon retiring. The crate should be placed next to your bed overnight, in the kitchen, bathroom or living room.  No matter where you place the crate, it should be close enough for you to hear stirring or crying in case the puppy needs to go outside.

  • You can also make crate training a game.  IWS love games.  Without alerting your puppy, drop a small treat into the crate. Then call your puppy and say to him, "Where's the biscuit? It's in your room." Using only a friendly, encouraging voice, direct your pup toward his crate. When the puppy discovers the treat, give enthusiastic praise. The treat will automatically serve as a primary reward. Your pup should be free to leave its crate at all times during this game. Later on, your puppy's toy or ball can be substituted for the treat.

  • It is advisable to crate your pup for short periods of time while you are home. In fact, crate training is best accomplished while you are in the room with your dog. Getting him used to your absence from the room in which he is crated is a good first step. This prevents an association being made with the crate and your leaving him/her alone.

 Important Reminders

Always remove your puppy's collar before confining in the crate. Even flat buckle collars can occasionally get stuck on the bars or wire mesh of a crate. They are a choking hazard!

Do not crate a puppy or dog when temperatures reach an uncomfortable level. As an IWS has a heavy coat, it is very important to keep the crating area cool.  Cold water should always be available to puppies, especially during warm weather.

Be certain that your puppy has fully eliminated shortly before being crated. Be sure that the crate you are using is not too large to discourage your pup from eliminating in it. Rarely does a pup or dog eliminate in the crate if it is properly sized and the dog is an appropriate age to be crated a given amount of time. If your pup/dog continues to eliminate in the crate, the following may be the causes:

  • The pup is too young to have much control.

  • The pup has a poor or rich diet, or very large meals.

  • The pup did not eliminate prior to being confined.

  • The pup has worms.

  • The pup has gaseous or loose stools.

  • The pup drank large amounts of water prior to being crated.

  • The pup has been forced to eliminate in small confined areas prior to crate training.

  • The pup/dog is suffering from a health condition or illness (i.e., bladder infection, prostate problem, etc.)

  • The puppy or dog is experiencing severe separation anxiety when left alone.  

Accidents In The Crate

If your puppy messes in his crate while you are out, do not punish him upon your return. Simply wash out the crate using a pet odor neutralizer (such as Nature's Miracle). Do not use ammonia-based products, as their odor resembles urine and may draw your dog back to urinate in the same spot again.

Crating Duration Guidelines

Puppies under 4 months of age have little bladder or sphincter control. Puppies under 3 months have even less. Very young puppies under 9 weeks should not be crated, as they need to eliminate very frequently (usually 8-12 times or more daily).

9-10 Weeks     Approx. 30-60 minutes

11-14 Weeks   Approx. 1-3 hours

15-16 Weeks   Approx. 3-4 hours

17 + Weeks     Approx. 4+ (6 hours maximum)

 *NOTE: Except for overnight, puppies should be crated for more than 5 hours at a time. (6 hours maximum!)

The Crate As Punishment

NEVER use the crate as a form of punishment or reprimand for your puppy or dog. This simply causes the dog to fear and resent the crate. If correctly introduced to his crate, your puppy should be happy to go into his crate at any time. You may however use the crate as a brief time-out for your puppy as a way of discouraging nipping or excessive rowdiness.  I would need to do this with Drake when he was a pup.  He would get tired at night and like a toddler, would fit to stay awake and would get very nippy.  I learned that it was best to put him to bed in his crate and he would immediately fall asleep with no fussing.

Children And The Crate

Do not allow children to play in your dog's crate or to handle your dog while he/she is in the crate. The crate is your dog's private sanctuary. His/her rights to privacy should always be respected.

Barking In The Crate

In most cases a pup who cries incessantly in his crate has either been crated too soon (without taking the proper steps as outlined above) or is suffering from separation anxiety and is anxious about being left alone. Some pups may simply under exercised. Others may not have enough attention paid them.

When Not To Use A Crate

Do not crate your puppy or dog if:

  • He is too young to have sufficient bladder or sphincter control.

  • He has diarrhea. Diarrhea can be caused by: worms, illness, intestinal upset such as colitis, too much and/or the wrong kinds of food, quick changes in the dogs diet, or stress, fear or anxiety.

  • He is vomiting.

  • You must leave him/her crated for more than the Crating Duration Guidelines suggest.

  • He has not eliminated shortly before being placed inside the crate.

  • The temperature is excessively high.

  • He has not had sufficient exercise, companionship and socialization.

Buying a Crate

Crates can be purchased through most pet supply outlets, through pet mail order catalogs and at dog shows. For an Irish Water Spaniel, I recommend a large Vari-Kennel #500 or a wire crate (36"Lx24"Wx27"H).  I use Vari-Kennels (#500) for Scout and Glider and Clark gets a larger, Great Dane sized crate.  He likes to spread out. Wire crates come in a wide range of quality and really inexpensive crates tend to not hold up well as the wire used is very light.  A mid-priced crate is best.

The Cost of A Crate

Crates can cost between $75 and $175 depending on the size and the type of crate and the source.

The Cost of Not Buying a Crate

 The cost of not using a crate:

  • Your shoes

  • Books

  • Table legs

  • Chairs and sofas

  • Throw rugs and carpet, and

  • Electric, telephone and computer wires.

 The real cost, however, is your dog's safety and your peace of mind.



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