Crate training your therapy dog is not as difficult as you may think. Canids – dogs, foxes, coyotes, wolves- like to den for sleeping and caring for young. Your therapy dog is no different. The crate quickly becomes a place of security if it is introduced properly. It become a place to go for peace and quiet and should be respected as such. If you have children it offers a sanctuary for the dog so he can get away from noise and stress. Teach your children to leave the dog alone when he is in his crate.
What is a crate? It is a container made of wire, plastic or mesh and comes in all sizes from the very small to large enough for the giant breeds!
Which size is right for your dog? Your dog should be able to stand in the crate and have enough room so that his back doesn’t touch the top of the crate and when he lies down he has enough room to stretch out.
Crates can be found at pet stores, online pet catalogs, department stores… just about any place that caters to animals.
Why should you use a crate? There are a lot of reasons to crate train your dog. It keeps him safe when you are gone. It will give you peace of mind knowing your dog isn’t getting into trouble or wreaking things in the home. House training is much easier. The crate is familiar to him if he goes to an unfamiliar place or travels with you. If you are involved in an accident on the road, a crated dog is less likely to get loose on the road or be flung from one part of the car to another.
How do you crate train your dog? Slowly, carefully and with kindness. Begin by making sure the door to the crate will not shut. Either remove it or tie it back so the entrance to the crate is open. If you have a young pup you can feed him in the crate but because dogs are messy drinkers don’t leave a water bowl in the crate. Pad the bottom with soft bedding or, for housetraining purposes, paper. Be sure to take your pup outside for elimination as soon as he has finished eating and as soon as he wakes up since puppies will eliminate soon after eating and waking.
Start the crate training as soon as you get your dog. The first thing to do, after securing the door so it can’t close, is introduce him to the crate by tossing a tasty treat inside. When he goes in to get the treat, calmly praise him. Do this several times until the dog doesn’t hesitate to enter the crate. Once he is consistently willing, even eager to enter, close the door. Leave it closed for a few seconds and, as long as he isn’t whining or scratching at the door, open it and allow him to leave. Praise him. Repeat the entire process: entering, closing the door, waiting and then opening the door, gradually increasing the length of time the door is closed. At the same time you toss the treat into the crate you can tell your dog to ‘kennel’ or some other word that he will understand means to go into the crate.
Don’t abuse the use of the crate. It is for your dog’s security and comfort, not his prison.