The basics of crate training a new puppy

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I have a very good friend — a single and very independent person — who was recently adopted by a very cute, energetic young dog.

My friend is in the midst of developing a relationship with Fido, one in which she does the training and Fido does the learning — a relationship that can lead to many years of enjoyment and companionship.

Fido is heading for a career as a pet, one under control and one that allows both parties to avoid a frustration that can ruin the whole basic training experience.

Pet, hunting dog, or dual purpose (the ideal) canine, the future starts on day one, hopefully when Fido is quite young, the absolute best time to start learning the rules.

Crate training

It starts at the beginning, not after bad habits become the norm, and should involve Fido’s own room — a comfy little space called a crate.

The crate is for Fido, a place for him to relax and feel safe, while you, the dog’s owner, travel, entertain guests, or soak in the tub.

Travel means to leave the premises and head for the store, go to work, or out for the evening.

Why a crate, cage, wire pen, (call it what you will)? Because dogs left unattended and free to roam the house, are often dogs that commit unrepairable and always expensive damage.

You know, ripped drapes, tooth-marked door frames, carpet holes, clawed door, that sort of stuff. Sound familiar?

Here’s the advantage of a crate trained dog, an animal that is at its best when it is under control.

He’s pestering you — simply send him to his crate. She’s underfoot and is annoying your mother-in-law, the preacher, or your kid’s teacher — no problem, say “kennel” and she is on her way to her kennel.

Fido is bored, you are gone and he is not only bored but frustrated because he wanted to go for a romp — so he starts chewing on an extension cord. Not good.

He needs to be crate trained and so does every dog.

Hunting dog

For a hunting dog, a crate is a must. Muddy dogs want nothing more than to lie on the back seat and without a crate to ride in, he’ll do it.

According to top training experts, dogs are nothing more than the domesticated form of the gray wolf, once wild animals that like the safety and comfort of enclosed spaces – their dens.

One can then equate a crate with a den, somewhere Fido feels safe and comfortable.

So the question is, how to train your dog to recognize his crate as his den, a place he likes, a place that does not represent punishment.

Start young

Start young because crate training is often the easiest part of house training.

The key, he said, is to match the size of the crate to the size of young Fido.

The crate should be large enough for the dog to turn around and lay down in without hitting its head on the top but not large enough that Fido can do his business.

Size is very important because dogs, like wolves, don’t really want to lie down in their own mess. Most puppy trainers add a divider in the crate until Fido gets bigger.

It is equally important to place the crate near an exterior door so that the first place the dog goes when allowed out of the crate is outside.  Only when the dog relieves himself do you allow him inside.

He’ll be house trained in just weeks and at the same time, he will become very receptive to his crate, or kennel.

Fido’s den

In fact, the word “kennel” should be spoken every time Fido is placed in his crate. Not every so often, but every time.

In fact, the word “kennel” should be spoken every time Fido is placed in his crate. Not every so often, but every time.

Fido is a creature of habit and conditioning, he will catch on amazingly quickly.

You may call it Fido’s kennel but he will know it as his den, a place that is his and only his.

Reward Fido for good behavior with praise and maybe a treat but don’t get in the habit of repeating a command more than once.

Our late Labrador had a wire crate where he gladly spent his alone hours and sleep time. His crate was seldom closed but he still headed there when instructed to and stayed there when we were gone.

That is until he heard the mail lady round the corner a half mile away. At the sound her truck, Jake trotted down the driveway where he knew he would collect a biscuit or two from his favorite lady.

Then it was back to his den.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.

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