By Lucinda Craig, DVM
Getting a new dog or puppy this holiday season? For your dog's safety, I recommend that all dogs be crate-trained. This will allow you to safely travel with your dog and will also make your dog more relaxed if he needs to be kenneled or hospitalized. Many dogs will practically crate train themselves, but for some the crate produces anxiety. Follow these simple tips to teach your furry friend to feel comfortable and happy in his crate.
To begin crate training, start by feeding your dog in the crate. Put the food inside and leave the door open, allowing the dog to leave at will. Once your dog is eating comfortably in the crate, start to shut the door for a few minutes at a time. At first, try to keep the time the crate is shut short enough that your dog does not become agitated. You want to let him out when he is calm and happy, if possible. If your dog is barking or whining, the instant he becomes quiet, release him and practice with shorter times and different treats. A Kong toy filled with frozen, canned dog food; peanut butter; or Cheez Whiz will occupy many dogs. The chewing is also pacifying and relaxing.
Gradually increase the time your dog is in the crate. Try to make sure that every time you place the dog in the crate, you are not gone for an entire workday. For dogs with separation anxiety, this will cause an association between the crate and the feared separation, making the crate a place of danger instead of safety. When using a crate to house train your puppy, be sure to keep the crate in the bedroom so the puppy is not isolated.