During the current Corona virus pandemic many people will be spending weeks, if not months in the home with their puppy. Great you might say and in many ways it is…but in other ways it’s not. Come the great day when you return to work your young dog is in for a massive shock, unless you’ve used your time wisely. Jeremy Kyle has been taken off air because it was little more than “muppet baiting for the masses” and there are only so many Corona Updates to can watch without going wibble.
Now you can use your time productively and both you and your puppy will reap the benefits.
Crate Training Your Puppy
Crate training is an excellent way of managing your puppy by keeping her out of harm’s way, and preventing her getting into mischief in the first few weeks. The crate provides her with a safe haven. Everything in the crate belongs to her, and she can do with it as she wishes. Therefore everything in the crate should be strong and chewable without presenting a hazard to puppy’s health. Her crate is her bed and her rest area. It should never be used as a punishment. She should never be placed in it harshly, or in anger.
On those occasions when she is getting over-excited, it may be used as a place in which she can be placed to calm down. Whenever you use it for this purpose, go outside in the garden and give yourself a slap. You should have taken steps to calm your puppy before it got to that stage!
Crate training helps to prevent several of the most common and frustrating issues associated with a new puppy. Some of these are listed:
Using the crate as an aid to toilet training and in conjunction with a correctly designed toilet-training programme is an effective and gentle way of encouraging your puppy to refrain from piddling and pooing until you take her for her regular toilet-training break.
All puppies have natural desire and need to chew. Everything in the crate belongs to her. By carefully mixing toys of different textures you can satisfy her need to chew in a safe way. Safe for two reasons. Firstly, you have ensured everything in there is designed for puppies to chew on, so she cannot injure herself by chewing something dangerous, and secondly, because everything there belongs to her, so she cannot be told off for chewing anything that is in there.
By identifying her favourite chew toys, you can ensure that she is trained to chew those, rather than your favourite shoes. Because you won’t be putting those in her crate, nor leaving her with access to them anytime soon. Will you?
The crate can help establish a good bedtime routine as it is also her bed. It is a nice, safe place to be. It is somewhere she can relax, away from other pets and children. At night she should have a bedtime routine, a little walk, a period outside to perform toilet-training routine and so to bed. Pop her a little treat. A trainer I know always gives her dogs a gingernut biscuit at bedtime. As it is the last thing she always does, it helps establish a calm, relaxing bedtime routine.
Relaxing in Isolation
Almost as problematic as leaving your puppy alone too much is not leaving her alone enough. Your puppy should learn that she does not always need to be on your heels all the time. Training her for short periods of separation from you is always a good idea. Pop her in the crate, for a few moments, whilst you nip upstairs, leave the room to make a phone call, or even go to make a cup of tea. Child gates and puppy pens are also useful for this purpose.
Preparation for Travel Training
Crate training forms a solid base for training your puppy for travel. By getting your pup content and secure in her crate, the crate can be used as a transportation kennel when she is travelling in the car. I suppose in theory a dog that dislikes travel may come to dislike her crate, but in 30-odd years of working with dogs I have never known this occur.
It’s Your Decision
The decision to crate train is yours alone, but some form of confinement is necessary, unless of course you are content to allow your puppy to chew anything she finds, because that is what she will do, unless you buy her a Kindle or an IPad, so she can entertain herself.
You can manage her chewing and build short periods of separation into her daily routine by using a secure, dog-proofed room, or you could invest in a puppy pen. (Similar to a child’s play pen, but puppy proof.) Due to the size of most rooms and most pens, there is sufficient room for the puppy to piddle and poo to her heart’s content, well away from her bed, so this does not have the same toilet-training advantages as the crate.
How to Crate Train Your Puppy
You have prepared your crate and positioned it in a comfortably warm, draught-proof location in your home before your puppy arrives home for the first time.
The crate should be made welcoming, with a nice comfortable bed and ideally a small blanket that has the scent of her Mum and litter mates on it. The crate should be positioned in a location such as the kitchen that has plenty of passing traffic from the family, but which can be closed when puppy is sleeping or is bedded down for the night.
Prior to her arrival and for the first few days, the crate should be regularly baited with treats so your puppy enjoys exploring and sniffing them out. This way she will be happy to go in and out of her crate of her own accord, learning that it is a pleasant place to be through positive experience.
The crate should be furnished with a selection of toys of different materials and textures. These toys should be tied into the crate with string so she can’t just go in and take the toys to a different location in the house. A stuffed or frozen Kong is an ideal treat/toy to put in the crate and this will keep her entertained and comforted for lengthy periods, although I am not suggesting that she should be confined for anything other than short periods, except overnight.
The stuffed Kong should be tied into the crate in a low position, so that she has to lie down to chew on it and cannot just take it and do a runner. It must become associated with her crate, making it a nice place to spend time.
An example routine might go something like this:
Your puppy has been toileted in your garden and then brought back into the house. Leave a few minutes to elapse so that she does not make a connection between coming in from the garden and being crated, then your puppy should be gently placed into the crate and as soon as she is in it, she should be introduced to the stuffed/frozen Kong.
When she is in there, close the door of the crate, leave the room and allow her to settle. It is likely that she will not even notice you have left her, because she will be too busy snuffling at the frozen Kong, but if she cries, ignore her. When she is quiet for a few minutes, return, let her out of the crate and take her out into the garden to stretch her legs, play a little game and have a piddle.
If, as is likely, she has fallen asleep in the crate, wait until she wakes and then take her out into the garden to toilet. Slowly build her daytime quiet sessions in the crate in small, regular increments over the next week or so.
As you extend the time ensure your puppy is not hungry, has been toileted and maybe given a walk, the duration of which should be appropriate to her age, before placing her in the crate. Gradually acclimatise your puppy to increasingly longer periods before you have to leave her for real.
Playing In and Out
After a couple of days at home, with regular daytime periods in the crate, and with her going in and out to check for treats, you can start her going into the open crate by letting her see you throw a few really tasty treats into it and allowing her to go in to eat them. At first offer no words of encouragement and certainly no commands, just let her follow the treats.
When her response has become reliable you can throw the treat in as before and after she has entered say, “Go to bed.” You are adding the phrase to the action she has already performed; attaching a label to the action, if you like.
As she becomes more proficient you will give the “Go to bed” instruction at the same time as you throw in the treats and let her follow them in.
Finally, and this may take three days or three weeks to achieve, make a throwing action, whilst giving the “Go to bed” command, but do not release the treat. When she goes in, only then throw in the treat, or better still give her the treat from your hand.
You can practise this several times; she goes in and is rewarded with a treat. After eating the treat, call her out and, if necessary, lure her out, but don’t treat her. Then repeat the cycle. Make a throwing action whilst saying “Go to bed,” and when she does so reward her with a treat. You can repeat this 5 or 6 times in a minute or two. Repeating it several times, so the routine becomes slick and fun, helps your puppy to learn the lesson. Finish the training session whilst she still wants to work.
As with all training; you can have quick, or you can have good. Good is better!
Copyright Educating Alice – The Essential 4-Step Guide to Training the Perfect Puppy (2016, J J Fitzpatrick)