I don’t pretend to be the definitive expert on Crate Training, but I have had much success using them with my Beagles. I also know that for many years, the folks who show dogs and/or hunt with dogs have used crates (in one form or another) for keeping their dogs safe and secure. This is a new concept to many of us who have had dogs as “family pets” in our lives, but maybe it’s time to admit these folks knew something we didn’t. If you agree and want to crate train your dog you can find books on the subject at your local library and pet stores. This article is meant to give you a “heads up” on crate training and a rough idea of the steps involved. Always remember, a puppy cannot hold their urine and feces for long. An adult dog may never have been taught to hold their waste for an extended period. You must allow your dog outside every three to four hours, minimum, during the day AND at night until they’ve learned to control their bladder and bowels. If your dog is forced to eliminate in their crate you have not only defeated your purpose, but you’ve set your house training back considerably. A crate is not a substitute for house training.
Crate Training is helpful as a training tool: It is not a punishment or “time out” devise. Crating is to be used when your dog must be left unattended, during sleeping hours with a young, non-house trained dog, as a safe way to transport your dog. This is where crate training can be most useful to the pet owner and a positive experience for their dog. It encourages good sleeping habits and discourages elimination. It gives your dog a safe place to relax and rest.
Crate Training has some disadvantages: It doesn’t communicate your “superior” position. It keeps you from your dog when you’re sleeping, and it provides no real understanding or trust between you and your dog during training. Therefore, crate training can be “overused” or misused by those who aren’t familiar with the concept.
I was convinced to crate train a puppy when I left him unattended for a short time and my puppy consumed a AA battery. My fear and guilt over the potential poisoning of the puppy (fortunately these batteries are generally not poisonous) were all it took to convert me. Depending on the dog, you may have enormous or limited success, but one thing is for sure…your dog, your home and your sanity will be better for that crate.
The Size of the crate: You may want to find an expanding crate. This will allow you to enlarge the crate as your puppy grows to adulthood. The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up, lie down and turn around comfortably. Too much room allows a puppy to eliminate in one area while sleeping in another. Too small and the pup cannot stretch or change positions. Beagles need a Medium size crate. Medium size crates are also numbered as a size #200 or #250, depending on the manufacturer.
Introducing your dog to the crate: Again, do not use the crate for punishment. You’ll be defeating your purpose. The idea is for the dog to view his/her crate as a pleasant place, not as a form of torture. It’s better to begin crate training over a weekend or a long holiday. Start the dog in the crate for only a short time (5 – 10 minutes). You absolutely don’t want to start crate training when you’re going to be gone for a long period of time (this will be viewed as punishment). Be sure your dog has eliminated before you introduce them to their crate. Don’t shove or push the dog into the crate. If necessary, gently place the dog in the crate using a calm and loving voice. You may even want to provide a treat or favorite toy in the crate to encourage your dog to enter. If the dog begins crying and/or whining within those first few minutes, ignore the verbal complaints. When you are ready to release your dog sit down next to the crate, talk gently to the dog, put your fingers into the crate. Your goal is to STOP the crying. When the dog has quieted, release the dog. Wait for one half to one hour and start the process again. Try to make the experience as positive as possible, slowly increasing the time your dog stays in the crate. My personal experience required I leave the room (my pup thought I had left the house). I would then wait for several minutes, go back into the room, quiet the dog, then release him from the crate and praise him (usually followed by a small treat). You ARE going to hear crying…be strong. DO NOT allow your dog to dictate how long he will be in the crate. DO NOT release the dog until he has quieted himself.
When to use the crate: I don’t believe in keeping a dog in a crate unless there is a reason for it. I do not advocate keeping a dog in a crate while you and your family are awake and at home. It’s very important that your dog be socialized. Being locked in a crate is NOT socialization. Locking a dog in its crate is not house training a dog. As an owner, you have taken on the obligation to paying attention to and train your dog. A crate is for keeping a dog safe when an owner is away from home and cannot supervise the dog. It is for a period of time when an owner is sleeping and cannot “watch” a puppy that hasn’t learned to eliminate outside.
Traveling with your dog: A crate is a perfect way to transport a dog(s). This allows them a measure of safety they would not have if given free run of an automobile. If your car is large enough to use a crate, please do so. Your dog will be far safer. If your automobile is not large enough for a crate then please invest in a dog safety belt. Most automobile accidents occur within three miles of home. If you are in an accident and your dog is injured or even allowed to escape, you now have not only yourself and your family to be concerned about, you have your dog running loose in traffic.
So, is crate training right for you and your dog? Well, there are certainly other options. Allowing the dog to remain in your home unattended (this could be a costly and potentially fatal mistake). Putting your dog in a room (like the utility room, garage, or my personal favorite…the bathroom) is good if you were planning to re-decorate anyway (I’ve seen many a beagle eat and dig their way through drywall, single-handedly annihilate foot upon foot of base and door molding, and go through the wall to wall carpet like it was grass). Leaving your dog unattended in a yard (I’ve never met a beagle yet that, given enough time, couldn’t escape from your normal, garden variety fenced yard). So no, you certainly don’t have to crate train your dog. It is, after all, your sanity.
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