Friday, November 16, 2012

Surviving the Puppy Years – Growing out of the Crate

If you have ever crate trained a puppy, you know it takes time and a lot of patience. You have to be strong when you’re puppy whines and cries to come out. It is possible to achieve a happy balanced crate trained puppy.

Eventually though most people want their dogs to have the run of the house. But how do you know if your dog is ready? The best advice I can give is to take baby steps! It’s a good idea to start with very short time periods with your dog out of the crate.

My puppy’s first taste of freedom has been at night. She proved to us a long time ago that she could be trusted in the morning out of her crate while we all sleep in on the weekend. We have been blessed with a good sleeper! After our beloved Mika passed away we decided it was time to give our puppy Judique more freedom at night. If I let her out for a pee in the middle of the night, I would let her stay out until morning. I did this for a week or two and then one night decided she was ready. She’s been wonderful.

This is a good place to start if your puppy is in her crate during the night as well as the day. It gives her a taste of freedom but you’re still there if anything should happen.

On average dogs tend to be ready to be on their own in the house by the age of 2. There many factors that will determine when your puppy is ready. Higher energy dogs who get bored easily can be more of a challenge. So are dogs that have separation anxiety.

You need to know your puppy, how much they chew, what things attract their attention, how much exercise they need to settle down.

Baby steps

When you feel you and your puppy are ready, start leaving her out of the crate and going outside by yourself. Start with 5 or 10 minutes. Do this every day for a couple of weeks. Then gradually increase the time by 5 minutes. For the first while you shouldn’t go too far. You want your dog to think you are leaving but you also want to be close by. The great thing about this type of practice is that it will show your dog you always come back. By starting for short time periods you can actually decrease your dog’s separation anxiety.

Once you’ve practiced short time periods with no incidents, it’s time to take the next step. Take the car and go to the store. Or go visit a neighbour. If that goes well, keep repeating leaving her out of the crate for short outings. If you find your dog has been destructive while you were gone, go back to the shorter times. This process can take a lot of time depending on your dog.

You should feel very comfortable before your dog is ready to be left to her own devices for the whole work day. I know sometimes it may seem like your dog will never be ready for that. But it will come with time, especially if you work up to it.

If appropriate you may choose to have your dog free in one room to start with.

The big deal is no deal at all

I know how hard it is not to grab your dog and hug and kiss her goodbye when you leave. But this is the worst thing you could do. You will only increase her level of excitement and when you leave that excitement can turn into anxiety and that can lead to destruction and a very unhappy pooch. Instead stay strong and simply leave. If you want to use a phrase such as “watch the house” or “you wait here” go ahead and do so but say it in a very calm and neutral tone.

The same goes for when you return. Of course your dog will be excited to see you but refrain from using the high pitch “I’ve missed you so much”!!!! Again I know it’s tough but the calmer and more nonchalant you are about coming and going, the calmer your dog will be. 

Work with nature

In nature dogs would hunt, eat and then rest or play. You can emulate that for your dog by always going for a walk before feeding time. This is allowing your dog to work for her food. The amount of time or intensity (running, doing obstacles) will depend on your dog’s individual need.  By the time you are ready to leave, she should be ready to settle down and rest while you are gone.

No comments:

Post a Comment