We often have rather unpleasant associations with a cage… How can you lock a dog in a cage, what kind of idea is that anyway? However, it is worth looking at it from a completely different perspective. A cage, so often recommended by trainers and behaviorists, is meant to play the role of a dog’s asylum, i.e. a place at home where a dog can fully rest, where nobody and nothing will disturb it, where it feels good and safe.
Most dogs choose tight, roofed places for sleeping, resembling a dog kennel or burrow, but not always there is such a place in our house and a cage will be perfect here. Using a cage doesn’t always mean closing it, in many houses the cage is open all the time, and the dog itself willingly chooses it as a place of rest.
When can a crate be of particular use to us?
- When teaching puppies to be clean
- In the case of destructive tendencies of puppy raisers.
- In a housebreaking programme
- For nervous and hyperactive dogs, giving them a place to calm down
- For timid, withdrawn and traumatised dogs, giving them a haven
- On holiday and in hotels, giving your dog home and making it easier for him to stay safely in a new place
- In everyday life, i.e. in situations such as drying the dog after a walk or cleaning the house freely, without a doggy assistant forever tangled under one’s feet:)
However, for the crate to become a dog’s refuge and a place which will help us (of course as one of many elements of therapy) in solving some problems with our dog, it must be properly introduced and the dog must gradually get used to it.
So how do we get the dog used to the crate?
1) At the beginning we should choose a suitable place for the cage, preferably a relatively quiet one, but at the same time one where the dog and we are most often present. Placing the cage in a room where the dog never looks is rather pointless.
2) In the cage we put the dog’s bedding and other things smelling of the dog’s scent, such as favourite toys or chews. To begin with, leave the cage open and give your dog a chance to get to know the new object in peace. It’s worth throwing a few favourite treats or a scented chew inside, so that when the dog looks inside he finds a delicious surprise.
3) During the next few days our task will be to associate the cage with the dog’s pleasures. We can achieve this by:
- feeding the dog in the cage, placing chews or kong filled with something delicious inside
- playing with your dog in and around its cage, for example by throwing a toy inside
- praising and rewarding your dog every time he enters the cage on his own
- sitting beside the cage and encouraging the dog to come to us for cuddles
- tying a toy/kong/chew in the cage so the dog can play with it, but only while inside
In a word, we can use everything the dog likes so that the cage becomes the central distributor of pleasure in the house for him:) We should remember also to force the dog inside, nor to try to lock him there right at the beginning!
4) If the dog is already willing to enter the cage by itself, it is worth teaching him to enter it on command e.g. „on the spot”. This will be achieved by encouraging the dog with a treat and rewarding him for entering. In the next stage, we prolong the time, rewarding the dog for staying longer in the cage with a few treats given every few, and then every dozen or so seconds. For more advanced dogs I recommend learning by shaping with a clicker!
5) So far we have been practising with an open cage, so it is time to move on to the most important stage, i.e. closing the dog inside. The initial attempts at closing should go as smoothly as possible so that the dog doesn’t even notice that it is closed. It is best to encourage the dog to enter by giving it a filled kong or a smelly chew, and when the dog lies down chewing the prey, close the door for a moment, wait a few seconds and open it. Practice in this way, slowly increasing the closing time, trying ng to open the cage before the dog finishes eating. It is best to do the locking exercises after a walk when the dog is run out and calm.
6) When practising with your dog locking him inside for several minutes, it is good to vary the time, locking him inside for longer and shorter periods. During the time of closing you can leave him a Kong, a chew, scattered food or treats, and if the training goes well, sometimes close the dog for a while without anything and then open it again when he is calm.
7) If it dog starts squeaking in the cage or tries to get out of it, it should be calmly waited, because opening would make the dog learn that it should do it every time to get out. So we wait calmly, and as soon as the dog calms down for a few seconds, we calmly open the cage. Next time, it is advisable to conduct the training in such a way as to prevent the dog from becoming very nervous. We want the dog to associate only positive emotions with the cage, but remember that a slight whining or squeaking may happen at the very beginning and it is completely natural.
8) When we reach the stage where the dog easily stays in the cage for more than ten minutes, we can start trying to leave him alone in the cage at home. Our initial outings should be realt. We should also remember to take the dog for a long walk beforehand.
9) The cage should be accessible to the dog at all times so that he can always find peace and shelter in it. Try covering the cage with some canvas to see if your dog prefers it uncovered or covered. Most animals find it easier to calm down and relax when it is covered on at least 3 sides. 3 sides. If we have to use the cage while we are away, remember not to leave puppies in it for more than 2 hours, and adult dogs no more than 4 hours.