Crates an effective training tool when used correctly
In the first eight months of 2012, Animal Allies Humane Society found homes for more than 1,600 cats, dogs, puppies and kittens. As an animal welfare organization with a large adoption program, one major task is to prepare each adopter for the ne...
In the first eight months of 2012, Animal Allies Humane Society found homes for more than 1,600 cats, dogs, puppies and kittens.
As an animal welfare organization with a large adoption program, one major task is to prepare each adopter for the new addition to the family. Teaching an adopter how to smoothly transition a new four-legged friend into a home lays the foundation for a happy and long-lasting relationship.
Some plan their adoption to coincide with a long weekend or a period of planned time off to be home with their new pet as they adjust for the first few days. This gives them uninterrupted time to teach the rules of the house and supervise interactions with other furry family members. Most adopters, however, must find a way to acclimate their new addition while maintaining their normal routine. Either way, a pet will certainly be unsupervised at some point whether the adopter is at work, running errands, or sleeping.
To help protect an unsupervised pet, and to make the transition into a new home less stressful, Animal Allies suggests dedicating a small room or space to act as the pet's "safe zone." This is an area with which a new animal will quickly become familiar -- a space with its toys, food, and water, where it can go for some quiet time as it adjusts to new surroundings and can be left alone safely. For those adopting a dog, one suggestion for creating a secure, den-like space is to use a training crate.
However, it surprises me to discover the number of people who have misconceptions about crate-training or who react to the very mention of crating a dog with immediate protest. Although the use of crates can be abused, crating is an effective training tool when used correctly and for the proper reasons.
One reason to crate train a dog is for protection. A house contains many alluring items that can be hazardous to an
animal's health, from discarded food wrappings or electrical cords to a pair of tasty leather shoes. And not only does a crate protect a dog, it also prevents destruction of personal possessions -- a common reason pets are surrendered to the shelter. A crate is a great tool when building trust and gradually giving a dog more freedom in the house.
Another reason to crate-train is to assist in housebreaking. A crate is akin to a den, and dogs are reluctant to soil where they sleep. Taking a dog or puppy outside directly after a period of time in a crate naturally enforces the desire to eliminate outside. It is extremely important, however, to ensure that potty breaks are frequent. Once a puppy is forced to eliminate in its crate, it is no longer an effective housebreaking training tool. The ASPCA suggests that a puppy of 8-10 weeks be crated a maximum of 1 hour at a time, increasing in increments to a maximum of 4 hours for a dog 5 months or older.
As time in a crate is increased, so will the need for additional exercise and stimulation. Frequent breaks for walk or play are absolutely necessary and will help a dog stay relaxed while crated. Giving a dog a puzzle toy or long-lasting chew will help keep it occupied and stimulated as it awaits your return.
Crates should never be used as a form of punishment or substitute for teaching correct behavior. Be sure to spend time training a new dog to be comfortable in the crate before leaving it alone -- crating shouldn't be a scary experience. The ASPCA website contains useful information about the benefits and limits of crate training and how to train your dog to become comfortable in a crate.
Animal Allies Humane Society continues to explore ways to make each adoption successful.
For those 1,600+ animals who found themselves without a home this year -- the same animals who now wake up each morning with their new families -- this makes all the difference.
Amy Miller is the marketing and communications coordinator for Animal Allies.