Crate Training = Freedom

Crate Training = Freedom

Sherry Antonishen, Head Trainer, CPDT-KA

IMG_0660Some peo­ple think that crates are con­fin­ing and unnec­es­sar­i­ly restric­tive to a dog. I believe that noth­ing could be far­ther from the truth.

First of all, a crate-trained dog can go almost any­where — they can safe­ly (and com­fort­ably) hang out in a hotel room while you’re out hav­ing din­ner, they can trav­el on an air plane, and they are a lot more com­fort­able at the vet’s office.

In addi­tion, crate train­ing a dog helps you to train oth­er things, and ulti­mate­ly allows for more free­dom for your dog. Here’s why…

Dogs do what is rein­forc­ing.  In oth­er words, they are curi­ous crea­tures in con­stant search of trea­sures. In an untrained dog or a pup­py this ‘trea­sure hunt­ing’ is often annoy­ing, pos­si­bly dan­ger­ous, and at the very least is teach­ing him that roam­ing free and not lis­ten­ing will lead to an excel­lent cache. (If your dog thinks steal­ing shoes or socks is fun — he is a trea­sure hunter!)

Imag­ine the dog that is not crate trained and instead left to roam a room where the own­er is work­ing at a com­put­er. Sure there are 15 toys for him to play with, but he will grav­i­tate to all new things, espe­cial­ly those they should not have: elec­tri­cal cords, pens, and remote con­trols  are just a few excel­lent items wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered. Even a well pup­py-proofed room can hide an awe­some reward in the worst pos­si­ble place (think your new pair of pre­scrip­tion eye glass­es on a side table). In addi­tion, every time you have to get up and take some­thing away from your dog, you are adding val­ue to his game because you are giv­ing him atten­tion and pos­si­bly ini­ti­at­ing a game of chase!

Now imag­ine a world where your dog or pup­py loved his crate.  I am not talk­ing about tol­er­at­ing the crate.. I am talk­ing LOVE the crate. This is a trained behav­iour that you can do! In that world, you would have the keys to a very pow­er­ful tool. When your pup­py is out of the crate, you can be active­ly train­ing by reward­ing behav­iour you want and re-direct­ing unwant­ed behav­iour quick­ly before it becomes a habit. Play is done with you, not alone by grab­bing your shoes, and all rein­force­ment comes from you, not from the envi­ron­ment.  Can you feel your dog’s love to work for you grow­ing? Because it will.

You lay out the trea­sure map! Sit­ting polite­ly, set­tling on a mat, reliev­ing him­self out­side all lead to awe­some rein­force­ment. And it all comes from you. In this case your dogs moti­va­tion to work for you is through the roof! And chew­ing on the remote con­trol is not even a con­sid­er­a­tion.

IMG_2925But you can­not do that all day long. After a good walk, a crate is a safe place to go, as long as you have prop­er­ly trained them to love their crate! Pup­pies can spend sev­er­al hap­py hours a day in their crate if they are get­ting ade­quate exer­cise and train­ing time!

When you can’t be active­ly involved in shap­ing your pup­py or dog’s behav­iour he would be rest­ing in a crate, work­ing on a food puz­zle in a crate, or if you are a good mul­ti-tasker, you could be rein­forc­ing your dog for choos­ing to go lie in the crate with the door open. I was able to crate train my dog to choose a crate over all oth­er set­tling places.

Putting your dog or pup­py out­side is real­ly not the answer to a dog that is not crate trained. In this case you have a dog that is learn­ing to have fun out­side with­out you! And when they are in the house you spend a lot of time tak­ing things away and man­ag­ing the things he is get­ting into. In oth­er words you are a fun-wreck­er. Then you put him out­side and he can lit­er­al­ly do what ever he wants.  This is not how you want to lead your pup­py into the world, and gen­er­al­ly dogs man­aged in this way end up spend­ing less and less time in the house with their fam­i­ly where they would love to be.

12573766_1026511874081489_5202330124119302562_nA prop­er­ly crate trained dog puts you in charge of every­thing your dog wants and makes train­ing easy. Going back to where we start­ed, a well trained dog is wel­come almost any­where and iron­i­cal­ly needs to be crat­ed very lit­tle. And if they are crate trained, they are also more com­fort­able in a vet hos­pi­tal stay, and are allowed to fly, stay in hotels, and attend cer­tain events such as agili­ty class­es and longer work­shops where crate train­ing is a require­ment.

Want your dog to LOVE his crate? Check out our crate train­ing sem­i­nars, or book a pri­vate train­ing ses­sion with one of our excel­lent train­ers!


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