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Many behavior problems in puppies and dogs can be controlled by the careful use of dog crates. Used correctly, the crate can make a dramatic difference in your relationship with your dog. The number one reason dogs are surrendered to a shelter is because of behavior problems. Most of those problems are fixable, and a crate is one of the most important tools for dealing with common behavior problems (e.g., house training, destructiveness, barking). Most puppies, and even adult dogs who need a little remedial training, will adapt to a crate if introduced appropriately, gently, and with lots of praise, toys, and treats. Dogs are denning animals so they generally do not see a crate as a "prison." For them, it can be a place offering security, a quiet place to get away from stressful situations.

Why use a Crate?

Crates make house training much easier. Puppies or dogs can sleep in their crate next to your bed. Most dogs will keep their crates clean because they are loathe to eliminate in their sleeping area. When they need to relieve themselves during the night, you will be right there to take them out. Keeping the crate in your bedroom also helps forge a tighter bond with your dog.

Puppies:

Puppies and many older dogs chew - it's in their nature to do so. Puppies who are teething chew to relieve the pain of new teeth breaking through their gums. Dogs also chew to relieve frustration and anxiety. Dogs may chew just because it is fun. What they need to learn is what is appropriate to chew (their toys) and what is not (your best shoes, the sofa, the antique rocker, electrical cords). A crate prevents them from chewing on inappropriate or dangerous items when you cannot monitor their behavior. When your pup is accustomed to the crate, she can be left in it when you leave the house, or when you are unable to closely monitor her activities. Make sure she has gone to the bathroom one last time before putting her into the crate. A rug, crate pad, or blanket, along with toys and/or treats will make her crate a comfortable home for her.

Adult Dogs:

Some dogs cannot be left alone in a house because they are destructive. This is especially true of dogs who suffer from separation anxiety. Older dogs can be taught to use a crate. Be sure to introduce your dog to the crate by letting her get used to it gradually. Again, use treats, toys, and lots of praise to help make her crate a happy and safe place to be.

When going on vacations or trips by car, bring along your dog and the crate. She will be safer while traveling and many hotels will accept a dog with a crate.

Training your Dog to Accept the Crate:

To begin training, put a favorite toy, treats, or portion of a meal in the crate. This will encourage her to go into the crate, and when she does, she will find good things. When she goes into the crate, praise her, but do not close the door. Do this several times a day for a couple of days. The next step is to get her accustomed to being in the crate with the door closed. Now when she enters the crate, close the door for a few minutes. If she howls, whines, or barks, ignore her. If you let her out, you are simply rewarding the barking, howling or whining. When she is quiet, open the door and let her out. Once she has settled into a pattern of using the crate with the door closed, leave the room for a few minutes. When she whines or barks, ignore her. When she has quieted down, return to the room and let her out. Gradually start to increase the time you leave your dog alone in the crate. Go on some quick errands or just extend your time in another part of the house.

Taking this approach, your dog should quickly learn to accept the crate as her special space. Most dogs accept the crate in a few days, but every dog is an individual and some take a little longer.

Important Reminders:

For help with training, contact Bloomington Animal Care and Control for help. Ring 812-349-3492 or visit the shelter at 3410 S. Old State Road 37, Bloomington, IN 47401.