As any dog owner will tell you, dogs absolutely love to curl up in a special place where they feel secure and safe. This is an instinctive hangover from the days when Wolves built 'Dens'. This behavior is often referred to as 'Denning' and it is essential that your dog has somewhere to feel safe. This can often be achieved through the use of a dog crate. Before you rush out and buy a dog crate, there are a few things that you should know.
It is easy to view a dog crate from a human perspective. To us, a dog crate may look like a prison or confined space but to your dog, it may represent something completely different. If introduced correctly to your dog, a crate may become a safe haven, somewhere your dog can retreat to for some alone time. When family life is getting too much, having a bolt hole for your dog is vital.
Dog crates come in many different shapes and sizes. Manufacturers have produced very diverse products to satisfy the market. Your average crate will be made of a durable thick plastic with vents or openings around the sides to allow ventilation so that your dog can breathe easily and also these prevent the build up of condensation. Due to the fact that the dog crate may be used in the home, you can now buy decorative ones and even ones that double as a side table.
In addition to plastic crates, there are aluminum ones, wicker and plush soft ones with a fleece lining. Whichever type you choose, you need to consider the size of crate that you may need. If your dog has some growing to do, or has specific needs due to disability or injury, you need to account for this when deciding on a size. As a rule, your crate should be large enough that your dog can stand up and turn around with at least four inches to spare. If you own a puppy and you are unsure how large he/she will grow, get information on the average adult size for your dog breed and then account for the worst case scenario. It is better to have a crate that is too big than to end up with one that leaves your dog feeling cramped and confined.
Once you have bought your crate, you will need to let your dog know that this is going to be her special place. The easiest way to achieve this is to introduce your dog gradually to it's new crate in small easy to manage steps.
As with any dog training method, bribery seems to be the order of the day. Sit next to the new crate and call your dog to you. When she comes, give plenty of praise and give your dog her favorite treat. Next, try placing one in the mouth of the crate and repeat the same process of lots of praise and positive reinforcement. The third stage is to throw a treat into the cage and allow your dog to venture in to get it. When you do this, issue a command like "In your kennel" so that this may be used as a way to get your dog into her crate later on.
The final stage that will cement the new crate as a special area is to have your dog eat her meals either in or at the mouth. Associating the crate with food will instill an automatic sense that this is a special area for your dog. Gradually your dog should start using the crate under her own conviction until eventually, you may have trouble getting her out!!
One essential thing to remember though is to NEVER leave your dog in it's crate for more than six hours as boredom can lead to behavioral problems. Also consider that if you have a puppy, you should remove the puppy from the kennel to relieve itself regularly.