Dogs that have been crate-trained in a positive manner often learn to love crates. We would hate them so many people that have not trained their dogs in crates cannot believe that dogs would actually like this. But, they love them.
Years ago, I didn’t know anybody that crate-trained their pets. I had never used one. It seemed cruel to me at the time. I thought of it like caging my animal. It seemed to be a type of jail. I couldn’t imagine doing that to my family pet. I wish I had! A couple of years ago, I got Betty, my border collie. She was a year old and had been crate-trained by her foster family at the Border Collie rescue group. I didn’t think I needed a crate though. Well, I brought Betty home that first day and she was scared. She was pacing and nervous. She did not settle down at bedtime. I tried putting her in the bathroom because she was not completely potty-trained and I didn’t have any pens or crates yet (I didn’t realize I was bringing her home that first night. I thought I was just going to meet her.). She cried all night. She scratched. She chewed things. What had I gotten myself into? I tried letting her in the bed with me and she wanted to sit on my head. It was a rough first night. The next day at work, I was talking to a co-worker that had crate-trained his dogs. He offered me the use of a spare crate. It was the right size. I accepted the offer after he told me a little more about it. That night, I brought the crate home and set it up. Betty went right in and settled down. What just happened? I couldn’t believe it. She had terrible nightmares the first few months, so I closed the doors and she never had a problem with it. I was learning. She slept well in her crate. So, I started reading up on crate-training. I learned that dogs actually like a private den-like space to relax in. Wolves sleep in dens in the wild and dogs, like their ancestors, enjoyed a nice cozy sleeping spot. I found that she settles down in her crate and will go in it to relax when she needs some space. Here are a few things that I learned as I explored this whole crate-training thing for Betty:
Get the right size. A crate should be large enough for the dog to walk into, turn around and lie down easily. A larger crate won’t feel as cozy to a dog and a smaller size will be too cramped. Dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep. A crate will make potty-training much easier. A blanket or crate cover helps make it even more private and den-like. You can find crates at pet stores or online easily. Great places to get a crate at a good price are garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. There are also a lot of great designs to camouflage the crates and make them look more like furniture. I love looking for ideas like this on Pinterest.
Find the right bedding. My Betty runs hot and doesn’t like anything too fluffy. I bought a beautiful, expensive crate mat when I purchased her crate (I had to return the borrowed crate). I heard Betty pushing the mat around at night. Betty ate the mat when she couldn’t scrape it to the side one day while I was at work. She also ate a very lovely dog bed. It was about a year before she stopped eating beds. Some of the dogs that I boarded would bring their own crates and mats. One of my customers had the great idea to use a small area rug instead of a crate mat. Betty kept going into this pet’s crate when he visited us. So I put a fluffy microfiber bath mat in her crate. It was a perfect fit and Betty didn’t eat it. This was washable too. Find what your pet likes.
Location matters. An ideal spot for a crate is quiet and not too hot and not too cold. I keep Betty’s crate in my room near me. I don’t close the door anymore and she can spend a little time with me when we first go to sleep. She always goes back to her crate to really get some good sleep though. In the beginning, I closed the doors at bedtime and when I would go to work. She loves the spot by the patio door at my mom’s house even better with her crate by the fresh air.
Start slow. I was fortunate that someone else had already exposed Betty to a crate. A dog that has never been in a crate won’t take to it instantly. Start by having the crate in the room and putting them in for short times. Gradually increase the time.
Good things happen in the crate. Many people give special treats and toys that the dog only gets while in the crate. Many people feed their dogs in their crates. I save messy chews for the crate.
No punishment in the crate. Do not ever use the crate as a time out spot. You do not want the dog to associate the crate with punishment. You want the dog to want to go into the crate.
No kids in the crate. The crate is the dog’s sanctuary. Teach your kids that the dog needs a spot to have quiet time.
A crate is a safe place. If you have an ill or injured dog, a crate keeps the pet calm and contained. If you have a chewy or destructive pet, the crate keeps your furniture and home safe. It also keeps the pet from ingesting things that it should not. Thunderstorms and fireworks frighten most dogs. A crate is a nice safe cozy place for them to wait out these scary events. When I visit family I bring Betty’s crate. It comes in handy to keep her out of places that she doesn’t belong and away from kids or pets that become overwhelming. Most of my family has pets so it was nice to have a crate handy when introducing Betty to new canine family members. Betty was happy to go into her crate when we were teaching the kids to be gentle and unafraid of dogs as well as desensitizing her to small children.
If you ever need to board your dog, being crate-trained will reduce the anxiety of boarding because kennels and most private pet-sitters and boarders will crate your pet at bedtime at a minimum. Being able to separate animals into crates will also keep them safer. Many pet-sitters prefer crate-trained pets. There is always a risk of injury if the animal is allowed to roam at night because they are unsupervised while the humans are sleeping and can get into things. If there are other dogs present, fights can occur. I am not boarding animals currently -but when I did, I never allowed pets from different households to roam freely together at night. It was far too risky for the pets and my furniture. I have a client that I pet-sit that enjoys having Betty come provide companionship during our visits. I bring Betty’s crate for overnight sleeping. She sleeps better and doesn’t roam the house. I can sleep better know both dogs are safe while I sleep.
Not every dog will “love” their crate. Some rescued dogs that were abused and crated will have negative associations with crates. I do believe that every dog should have one available for emergencies and to keep them confined as is sometimes needed when injured or recuperating from an illness or injury. Having them acclimated to a crate ahead of time will reduce the stress of being crated.
Teaching the kids in your life to be a dog’s best friend
I have a border collie named Betty with strong herding instincts. I rescued Betty at a year old. She is 2–1/2 years old now. I also have five grandchildren ranging in age from newborn to seven years old that were terrified of dogs when I brought Betty for a visit a few months after I brought Betty home. Since I love my grandchildren and my new dog, my mission is to teach the kids how to behave around dogs as well as how to teach my dog to behave around small children. Keeping everybody safe is always the top priority. I also wanted the kids and the dog to enjoy each other.
I cannot stress enough that none of the children have been left alone with the dog. All have been closely supervised 100% of the time. Betty is a very friendly and obedient dog. Still, I would not leave her alone with children.
The first few visits, I put the dog in the backyard of my kid’s homes and the grand- kids could see the dog through the glass and the dog could see them. While they were watching the dog, we talked about the way the dog naturally behaves. I told them the history of what the dog was bred to do. We talked about sheep. We talked about the dog’s natural desire to keep the sheep safe from getting lost or running away. We took it very slowly and I waited until the kids relaxed. It took several visits before the kids wanted the dog in the same room. In the meantime, I did a couple things to desensitize the dog to the movements that small children make. We walked near parks and children playing. We kept at a comfortable distance. I rewarded Betty for not reacting to squealing running children, bicycles, runners, and other dogs. Basically, we worked on behaving around distractions. I am still working on distractions with Betty. The other thing that I did was help the kids understand how to behave around dogs (be less distracting). I told them to be calm around dogs. Running makes the dog want to chase them and jump. Squealing makes the dog want to bark. The kids learned to be calmer around Betty. After several visits, the kids were ready to meet Betty face to face, the interactions were very short. If either the kids or Betty got nervous, Betty went outside or into her crate. The crate was and is off-limits to the kids. It is Betty’s safe place. Time went on and the kids and Betty were less nervous around each other. Both are still always supervised when together.
As the grand-kids and Betty relaxed around each other, I taught the kids to wait for Betty to come to them. I taught them to be non-threatening to Betty. No chasing the dog. They learned that Betty liked being scratched under her chin and being petted on her sides. Many dogs do not want their heads touched. This is especially true if the dog has been hit by a previous owner. Rescue dogs have unknown histories. They learned that most dogs don’t want hugs and none want to have their tails pulled. No hitting or kicking the dog. No crawling on top of the dog. No pouring dirt on the dog. They learned to never run up to a dog. They learned that you don’t go to a strange dog or pet dogs that you don’t know. Next, the older kids (5 and 7 years old) helped give Betty treats when we practiced obedience training. The younger grandchildren (2 and 3 years old) like to walk around with treat bags to hand out to the dogs now. I had to hide the clickers because the littlest grand-kids were fascinated by the clicker sounds and I didn’t want to desensitize the dog to the clicker. It helped that my son got a dog that is very gentle around his three smaller kids. When my daughter’s older kids wanted to be able to practice training with Betty, I stood behind them at first to help Betty know that the kids should be obeyed. I taught the kids the commands and hand signals for obedience training and they loved learning how to get Betty to do tricks. I taught the kids to only say the command word once and wait for her to obey. Obedience training helped Betty understand that the older kids could tell her what to do also and it calmed her even more around them. The most recent thing that my two oldest grand daughters have been working to learn is loose-leash walking. We practiced with Betty during Mother’s Day by attaching two leashes to her no-pull harness. She is not completely trained to walk perfectly with a loose leash yet. One leash was held by my 5 year-old grand-daughter and I held the other leash because Betty is strong and will still try to chase a cat or a squirrel if given the opportunity. My seven year-old grand-daughter held the leash to my mother’s eight pound chihuahua. I taught the girls how to hold the leash with both hands, to keep the pups on the left-side and to stop walking if the dogs pulled. In a little over a year, we have gone from kids that are terrified at the sight of a dog to training and walking dogs. The kids beam when they get Betty to beg or spin on command.It is important to always watch the kids and go at a pace that doesn’t make the kids or the dog uncomfortable. Our progress has been determined by the curiosity of the kids and the comfort level of the dog. If anybody involved seems nervous, we take a break. One of my grand-daughters that was especially fearful of dogs initially has become somewhat of a natural around dogs. My mother’s chihuahua is often nervous around new people. Little Audri shown below at 5-years old has a calm, easy nature that dogs find very comforting. She’s the quiet one and our dogs love her. We all do. I am so glad to share my love of dogs with my grandchildren.
If you could ask your dog why they love to dig so much, you might get one of the following answers:
It feels so good. I just love the feel of fresh soft dirt on my paws. This big hole in the cool dirt feels so great when I want to rest. I learned it from a friend.
It is really entertaining. Just watch how I can make this dirt fly through the air.
It is great exercise and I need to do something with all this energy.
I am so bored. I am just occupying my mind with something interesting.
I smelled something suspicious out there and I am going to find it.
I have to get out of here.
So it is easy enough to understand why they love to dig. A tougher question is what do you do about it once it has begun? Digging is very self-rewarding. How do you get your dog to stop doing something they clearly enjoy so much?
Have a designated place to dig. If you can give them one spot that is just for digging, It is easy enough to teach them that this is the only spot to enjoy the digging. A kiddie pool filled with dirt is great. You can even bury some toys in the dirt to make it even more exciting.
Exercise is a great way to occupy your dog’s body in a positive way. A tired dog will be less inclined to dig up the yard.Mental stimulation is a must for most dogs. The smarter the dog, the more you will need to stimulate them mentally. Obedience training is great for mental stimulation. Training sessions will tire a dog out as much as a walk — just in a different way.Monitor behavior. Catch the digging early. A firm “no dig” and re-direction helps. Reward good behavior. Bury chicken wire in the holes and cover with rocks to make the digging areas less desirable temporarily. Make sure to roll sharp edges away from digging surface. If the pet is intent on escaping, a concrete border poured along the perimeter and at least 12″ deep may be necessary to keep some breeds from digging their way to freedom. As with all habits, the longer it is allowed to persist, the harder it will be to correct. In addition to the previous tips, the one that is often the quickest and easiest is to bury the dog’s poop or coffee grounds in the holes. Fill with some cheap vinegar. I like to stock up at the dollar stores. Dogs don’t like the smell of vinegar and most do not want to dig in poop or coffee ( I have used both). Once the holes are filled, cover them with dirt. You won’t smell the poop or coffee once it is covered. But, your dog will definitely smell it. You will have to be consistent. After a couple weeks of this, most dogs will give up and go onto something that smells better to occupy their time. They may try a few other places as well. But, if you are consistent, they WILL give up. As with all things concerning dogs, patience and persistence is the most important quality for a dog owner to possess.
Top things to do to have the best dog of your life and be your dog’s best friend
Bonding is the first thing to do when you want a great dog and aim to be your dog’s best friend. Some dogs will seem to bond with their owners instantly. Others will take longer to warm up. They need to feel safe to have a good bond. If the dog is afraid of you, it may obey you — but it won’t always do what you want when you are not around. A good way to bond when you first bring a new pet home is to provide a safe, quiet place for the new pup to rest. A crate is preferred by many dog owners. It should be large enough for the pet to walk into, stand up and turn around. A larger crate is not advised because the pet may urinate in a larger space. A dog will normally not urinate or defecate in a smaller crate because they do not like to sleep near their own waste. Crates are cozy to dogs and remind them of dens which are used in the wild to protect them from the elements and other predators. A blanket or cover over the crate increases the feeling of safety for a dog. They do not think of crates as a jail or confinement the way people would. Instead, to a dog, a crate is a safe space that they can go whenever they need a break or a nap. Children should not be allowed in the dog’s crate. A crate is the dog’s space. Do not use a crate to punish a dog. Giving a dog special treats and toys in their crate make this space even more desirable when crate training. http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/crate_training.html When you first bring a new dog home, do not smother it with attention. Get on the floor with it. Allow the dog to sniff around a little and come to you. Many dogs are naturally afraid of children. Train the children to be gentle around dogs and to allow the dog to sleep in peace and that the crate is off-limits. A dog that is allowed to spend time in the home with all family members will be better bonded and everything else is easier with a good strong bond.
Exercise is very important to all living creatures. It is especially important for dogs. A dog that does not get regular energy is more nervous and will try to occupy itself in ways that you may not like such as chewing furniture, toys and shoes. Different types of exercise satisfy different needs in animals. Walking a dog is great for building your bond and allows a dog to explore with all the sights and smells. It is also a chance to work on training which is good for dogs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFgtqgiAKoQ Playing fetch and letting the dog run around is also a wonderful thing to do with your dog. It is a different type of exercise. Both are great. One is not better than the other. Some dogs love to learn to play Frisbee or agility. The more you can teach your dog and share with it, the better.
Training is the next building block to create a wonderful dog. Now that you have a good bond and your dog has gotten some exercise, it is ready to learn some potentially life-saving commands. Potty training is a must for any family pet. Teaching your pet to come when called can save their life. Basic obedience training is a wonderful way to teach your pet some basic commands. Many people teach their dogs themselves. There are many wonderful videos on YouTube and online. There is no reason to not teach your pup the basics. The next step in training is to train around other dogs. Once your dog will listen at home, practice in the yard around a few distractions, take them to a park for more distractions. Group classes are wonderful if you find a trainer that uses positive treat-based reinforcement. Scientific studies have shown that the more modern positive reinforcement treat-based training is the most effective to train dogs without increasing aggression. http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2012/08/positive-reinforcement-and-dog-training.html
Feeding a good quality diet is common sense. Good quality dog foods can be found at modest prices. Check the labels. The first ingredient should be meat. Many dogs are allergic to grains and chicken. If your dog has diarrhea for longer than two weeks when changing their diet, there may be allergies. Another sign of allergies is excessive paw-licking. Many pets thrive on brands that have fewer ingredients. A popular website to check the comparisons of dog food is http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/ Puppies need three meals per day. Adult dogs need 1–2 meals per day. Measure your dogs food and don’t free feed if your dog might overeat. Plus if your dog is ever sick, it comes in handy to know how much your dog is eating — which you cannot determine accurately when free feeding. Obesity in animals will shorten their lives and reduce their quality of life just like it does in us.
Get your family on the same page. Let everyone in the family know the commands that will be used and the normal daily routines. Dogs thrive on predictable rules and boundaries. The rules of the house must be enforced by all family members. For example, if you do not feed the dog table scraps but one person sneaks them to the dog, the dog will beg and be obnoxious about table scraps. Be consistent. That means everybody. Let the kids practice with obedience training. If the dog doesn’t listen to the children, stand behind the children to help the dog know that they must obey the children just like they obey you. Make sure the children know how to treat a dog. No kicking, no tail pulling, eye poking, or climbing all over the pet. Sleeping dogs should be allowed to sleep. Even if you trust the dog and the child to be good around each other, never leave children and dogs unsupervised. Also make sure that you and any other adults agree on how to train a dog. If you use positive reinforcement but your partner wants to smack the dog, you will not get great results and you will be frustrated with each other.
Socialization is great for dogs just like it is for us. Dog parks can be great or terrible. It really depends on the park, your dog’s personality, and the other dog at the park. There are a lot of variables that you cannot control. For this reason, the dog park is not my first choice for early socialization with your new pet. Walking around the neighborhood is a great start. Once your pet can walk nicely around the neighborhood, visiting friends with pets is another great way to socialize a new pet. We like to visit friends and so do our pets. Exposing your pets slowly and safely to a wide variety of people and places is great for our dogs. It is never too late. If your pet shows aggression toward new people or places, take a step back and reward them for good calm behavior. Go at your pet’s pace. Don’t take a scared puppy to a dog park as a first outing. You want to take him or her to places that will challenge them but not overwhelm them.
Exploring is another great activity to enjoy with your dog. Most dogs are happy to explore new places. An active dog will enjoy hiking while a lazier breed will enjoy a car ride or a nice coffee date with their owner. Match the activity to your dog’s energy level. Dogs can make wonderful travel companions. When I adopted my dog, Betty, she was a rescue border collie. The only time she had been in a car was to go to the shelter or the vet. She had never been on a walk with a leash. The leash and the car terrified her. Now she loves to go for walks and is happy to go in the car with me whenever possible. She has traveled cross country many times. She has learned that both are fun and is eager for the adventure.
Commitment is easy for dogs. For people it does not come so naturally. This is something we could learn from our pets. Your dog will never wake up one morning and decide he or she does not love you anymore. Commit to giving your pet a good life for their entire life. Too many pets end up in shelters because someone thought having a pet was easy. Dogs are not born trained and bonded to you. It takes commitment and the last item on this list…
Patience. Patience. Patience. You will not get your dog trained in a week. You will probably not have a great dog at one year. It will be better at two years though. It will be much better at three years. Then one day when you least expect it, your crazy rescue dog that never listened to you and ate your favorite shoes becomes this really great dog that you can’t wait to spend time with when you get home. Your dog will reflect the amount of time and training that you invest. It happens and it is worth every chewed up shoe and potty accident that you survived to get here.
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