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A portable kennel, also called a crate, is a great place for your dog to call his own in your house. They are also convenient for traveling. Dogs like to hang their heads out of car windows, but your dog is safer in his crate. On long trips or stays at a boarding kennel, it can be comforting for your dog to have his familiar “house” with him. A crate should be just large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around comfortably. Crates make housetraining easier, unless the crate is too large. Dogs naturally do not soil their sleeping area, but if the crate is too large, the dog will use a portion of the crate to relieve himself and never learn bowel and bladder control.

To train your dog to go into his crate, put a few treats in the back of it. When he goes in for the treats, praise him. Don’t shut the door. If he won’t go all the way in for the treats, put them just inside the door. After a few times of going in and coming out, shut the door with the dog inside for just a few seconds. Open the door and praise him. Let the dog get used to being confined by slowly increasing the time he is inside with the door closed. When he is comfortable going in and out of the crate, add a command like, “crate” or “go to bed” when he goes inside. Don’t use the crate to punish the dog. He should associate it only with comfortable things.

Crates are useful, but unfortunately, they are sometimes used as long-term confinement. Too often a dog is crated for his entire life as a substitute for training. Crating any dog in a portable kennel, but especially a puppy, for eight hours per day and expecting him to be happy is unrealistic not to mention cruel! If you must crate your dog, arrange for him to have out-of-crate-breaks with exercise and play, provide stimulating toys in the crate, and give him something to chew away any frustration. Crating should be temporary until your dog has learned enough manners to be trusted alone in the house. Then, unless you install a doggie door or train your dog to paper or to a litter box, you still should arrange for your dog to relieve himself outdoors and have a brief playtime.

Why is confinement for eight hours too long? Simply put, eight hours in a crate is too long for a puppy for the same reason that eight hours in a crate would be too long for you. It is tedious, boring and lonely. A puppy will need to potty during those eight hours and cannot hold it. Social isolation and sensory deprivation contribute to behavior problems. To a curious and active puppy, eight hours of being locked up can be frustrating and distressing. A common problem described by owners when a puppy is finally released from the crate is that "he goes nuts.” The puppy is so excited and hyperactive that the owner resorts to punishment (verbal or physical) to make the puppy settle down. It can become a vicious cycle of confinement, isolation, frustration, hyper-excitability, punishment, confinement, isolation. Both the dog and the owner are frustrated.

Adult dogs with nothing to do will usually sleep for hours during the day, but a puppy crated for eight hours is bored, no matter how many toys you put in the crate. Puppies need attention and a variety of stimuli. Dogs are social animals and need contact with other dogs or humans to be well-balanced, happy, good canine citizens. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand the needs of puppies before they acquire them. If you are unable to come home during the day to let the puppy out, or do not have a trusted person who can do it for you, and cannot afford a puppy day care, then it is important that the remainder of the day be spent training, exercising and playing with the puppy. If the puppy is crated at night in addition to during the day, the total number of hours of confinement is well over eight hours.

Many dogs are left alone and crated for eight hours or more every day. That doesn’t mean it the best choice or in the best interest of the dogs. Locking your dog in a crate should be a temporary measure to keep your dog and your belongings safe in the house until he is trained and can be trusted alone.

Article submitted by Kathie Compton, http://www.texasdogtrainer.com.

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