Due to the highly social attitude of dogs, their need to bond is great. With the busy daily routines of most families though, dogs can develop problems with their need to chew, play and explore while their human family is away. Preventing, or eliminating such unwanted, and often destructive behaviour is necessary. This can be done relatively easily and effectively with crate training. It is certainly not unfair or cruel, and in fact, is often calming for the pet, as it allows them a safe and secure area when humans are not around to observe. To your pet, it is similar to a natural den in the wild.
To properly crate train a pet, the crate must be large enough so that the pet can turn around easily but should not be much larger. A safe treat or toy can be placed in it as well to provide a comfortable environment. The crate is meant to be seen as a safe haven, not a punishment, and can be used when you are home as well as when you are absent. Crate training will also helpful with house training since most dogs will try not to soil the area where they sleep in. Try to place the crate in an area of a room where the dog would naturally go to relax. Creating a positive environment is the key to effective crate training.
The key to crate training is to introduce the crate to the pet as soon as it is brought home, and allow the dog free access to the crate at any time. Allow the pet to play and to eliminate outside before putting it in the crate, then leave the room. Expect some vocalization when first put in the crate, however do not release the puppy until it is quiet. This will help to reinforce to the pup that quiet behaviour is good and will be rewarded. Repeat the crating and release procedures throughout the day so that the pup will become accustomed to the crate.
For an older pet, the key is to place the crate in an area where the dog usually frequents to eat – place the food and water in the crate with the door open so that the dog must go in to eat. Reward the pet with a favourite treat or chew toy. Once the pet is in the crate, reward for “sit” and “stay”, with the door still open. Gradually increase the time of the “stay”, then begin to close the dog in the crate through the evening.
If your pet is having problems with fear of thunderstorms, please discuss the best approach with your veterinarian prior to attempting any of the above suggestions.Drug therapy may be a useful adjunct in treating these problems – please contact the clinic to discuss what may work best.