Over the coming months I will post some basic training guidelines that will help create happy, healthy relationships between new dogs and their owners.
I highly recommend that you purchase a crate for your new dog. A crate is a versatile training tool that can be used in many ways to help your new pet feel more secure.
Crate training your new dog is very helpful for a number of reasons. First, many dogs/puppies (whether they have been previously housetrained or not) will have “accidents” in their first few days in a new home. This is usually the result of nerves and lack of familiarity with their new surroundings. Crate training is the best way to keep these “accidents” from becoming a habit.
Also, if your pet ever gets sick and has to stay at the vet’s office for a few days they will be staying in a cage or run. Their experience at the vet will be MUCH less stressful if they are already comfortable spending time in a crate.
There are also some unpredictable situations in which dogs may need to be crated. These can include evacuation due to natural disasters, long road trips, and other situations where you may need to transport your pet. All of these situations will be much less stressful for your dog if they are already comfortable spending time in a crate.
“But will they like their crate?” — This question is the key to crate training! We want your pet to think of their crate as their “bedroom”. The crate should be their own personal space in the home, a place that they know is theirs, and a place that is very positive for them. The best way to make the crate a happy, positive place for your pet is to associate it with some of their favorite things.
First, make the inside of the crate a comfortable place for your dog. Put a soft blanket and some toys inside of the crate. In many cases it helps to put a sheet, towel, or blanket over the top of the crate, leaving just the side with the door open. This gives the crate a cave-like feeling, and dogs feel safe in enclosed spaces like that. This is why dogs who do not have a crate available to them may hide under a bed when they get scared. Crate training provides your dog with a safe space that is just theirs.
Next, you want to leave the crate door open anytime you are home so that the crate is always available for your dog to enter and exit. Feed your dog his/her meals in the crate with the door open. Occasionally throw one of your dog’s favorite treats into the crate. Your dog will quickly begin to think of the crate as a positive place.
Also, when you are crating your dog, make sure that they get a treat when they go into the crate, and then a second treat once you’ve closed the door. For most dogs the act of closing the door is the toughest part of crate training, so we ALWAYS want to give them a treat through the door right after we’ve closed it. This will teach them that the door closing is a positive, happy event.
Never use the crate for “time out” or punishment of any kind. This will destroy your pet’s positive association with the crate, and punishment is not a useful tool as it causes more behavioral issues than it fixes.
When you first bring your new dog home put them in their crate at night to sleep. This is for their own safety, and will also protect your home from any accidents or destructive behavior that may occur while you are sleeping.
If your dog whines or barks while in the crate you will want to completely ignore it. The reason for this is they are likely just having an anxious reaction to their new environment, but if you respond to the whining/barking by giving them attention or opening the crate they will learn that whining/barking gets them attention from you, and the whining/barking will develop into a habit.
Once you have gotten to know your new dog better you can consider transitioning them out of the crate overnight. Keep in mind that some dogs will always sleep more comfortably and safely in their crate.
Patience and appropriate rewards are the keys to developing a strong relationship with your new dog, and crate training is an excellent way to start building that relationship!