Dog cage – how to introduce it?
The kennel cage has a bad reputation, but is it right? Should we use it as a punishment or maybe as a place of rest for the dog? In recent years, many people have been trying to introduce a kennel into their dog’s routine.
A dog crate can be a very nice tool to help with emotions and regulation. If the dog is properly strengthened and taught how to use the new bed, it will perceive it as a safe and pleasant place. It is worth working with this object gradually so that the dog likes it and accepts it.
What is a dog kennel?
This is a dog-only place. We can compare it to a dog’s room or a cozy mink. It is a safe haven for the dog where it can rest and regenerate during the day. The dog should not perceive such a place as a punishment, but as its “safe place” base. A big advantage of a kennel is the ability to isolate the dog from various stimuli, e.g. guests in the apartment, vacuuming, children running around. It is always worth covering the cage with a blanket or buying a cover that will muffle sounds and provide darkness in the evening.
Many dogs like to use roofed spaces because it makes them feel safe. Maybe your dog intuitively lies under tables, sofas, or even behind curtains? If the dog has such a need, a cage will fulfill it very well. Not every dog likes to lie on display in the middle of the room. Very often dogs like to have resting places in the shape of a dog hole. It is also a kind of atavism, left from our ancestors. The female dog has always raised her puppies in dens to protect her offspring from predators.
How to choose a dog cage?
First of all, the size of the dog’s cage is very important. If it is too small, it will restrict the dog and he will not be able to move freely in it. If it’s too big, it won’t imitate a dog’s hole. It is best for the cage to be about 4-5 cm higher than the height of the dog at the withers. The width should allow the dog to turn around comfortably, while the length should allow the dog to lie down freely. The tail or paws should never extend beyond the cage. Many websites list sizes with examples of the breeds they are suitable for. A custom-made kennel cage is also available. Cages can be made of various materials, e.g. wooden or metal. If it is made of metal, it is easy to ensure comfort and cleanliness. Cages with a removable floor that allows the surface to be cleaned are also available. There are also fabric cages available on the market that are light and portable, perfect for training or traveling.
Is it worth introducing a crate to your dog?
A cage is better than an ordinary bed because, in addition to a place to rest, it can also serve as a place to calm down, release emotions, and a safe (portable) space. A crate is especially useful for puppies or dogs that have difficulty resting. Thanks to it, we can help the dog set rules, learn to rest and calm down during its daily routine. The cage is also very useful when traveling, both as a means of transport and as a place to rest your dog in a new place. It is easier for an animal to find its way in a new space when it has its own corner.
Disadvantages of a kennel cage
Like any training tool, the dog crate also has them, but they are mainly due to the lack of crate training. Of course, there are dogs for whom the limitation of space will be very frustrating and will not like this type of bed. However, the most common mistakes when introducing a kennel are the dog not getting used to the object. If we lock a dog in a cage without preparation, it will get anxious, frustrated and certainly will not relax and calm down. A cage does not solve behavioral problems. If a dog has separation anxiety and is locked in a cage to prevent it from destroying the apartment, it does not mean that it is not stressed. Often times, dogs will howl, scratch, or even bite the cage to get out. However, when the owner is present, the dog can easily relax and rest. So we always look at the emotions and causes of the dog’s behavior to eliminate the problem and not mask it by using a crate.
How to accustom a dog to a crate?
Before you start accustoming your dog to a new object, you need to choose the right place. The cage should not be located near a passage or a busy place in the apartment. It is best for the dog to hide in a quiet corner, but with a view of the room, so that it feels comfortable. The kennel, if properly introduced, is most often the dog’s favorite place at home. Therefore, it is also worth putting a soft bed or a pillow inside for your dog so that he can rest comfortably there. It is best to throw a blanket over the cage to isolate the dog from stimuli. Once the cage finds a place in your apartment, you need to get your dog used to it. At first, it is worth leaving it open and putting an old bed or a dog’s blanket in it. It’s good to give your dog some extra chews or meals in it, which means that we build a pleasant association for the dog with a new object. The dog’s space should be attractive and safe so that he can use it willingly. Getting your dog used to the kennel takes some time, but it is worth doing it slowly so that the animal later associates it well.
How to teach a dog to enter the crate on command?
If the dog has no problem with the item and is happy to use it, we can develop a password referral. At the beginning we work by guiding the dog to the crate. It is best to stand in front of the cage and move your hand to direct the dog to follow the treat to the cage. When he enters the hole with all his paws, we reward the dog, preferably at the bottom of the cage, to reinforce to the dog that we want the object. After a while, it is best to release the dog with a signal, e.g. okay/that’s it, and throw the treat outside the cage, this way we teach the dog to reset the exercise and perform it for some time. In the first attempts we do not use a password. For now, we are teaching the dog how to handle the object itself.
Adding a password
When the dog smoothly follows the movement of the hand, we can move on to the next stage. We always say a phrase, e.g. “to ourselves” and then guide the dog to go to the cage. There we reward the dog and remember to release it from activities.
Once your dog is trained to enter the kennel with the password, you can move on to extending the time he is used to staying in the crate. Also at this stage, you need to add an element such as closing the door. When the dog hears the signal, it goes to the cage, of course we reward it and add rewards for enduring it. Gradually close the door, if the dog is calm and has no problem with limiting the space, we add rewards through the bars, then slowly open the door and release the dog from the exercise. Then we gradually increase the time spent in the crate with the door closed; if the dog starts to get frustrated, we should go back to a shorter time and reinforce the dog. There is no need to rush, the dog should associate the object pleasantly, and not be stressed while staying in it.
Getting out of the cage
It is worth clarifying the detail of leaving the cage in the training. The dog will be taught to leave the cage calmly and will not run out of it excitedly or full of emotions. Once the dog is in the cage, we slowly open the door, and if the dog just tries to push through it, we close it gently. After a few tries, the dog will understand the operation pattern: if I push in, the door closes, if I wait, it opens. When the dog waits for a while during one of the repetitions, we put in a release signal. We open the door wide so that the dog can get out. You can encourage your dog to go out with a treat or gesture. We remember this pattern every time the dog leaves the cage.
Once the dog has mastered waiting calmly in the crate until it is released, we can start introducing distractions, e.g. we can wash the floor while the dog is waiting in the kennel. From time to time you can approach and add a reward to the dog’s cage. We gradually introduce more and more difficult distractions. If the dog cannot stand certain things and starts to get stressed and frustrated, we return to him and let him out of the cage with calm emotions, in the next repetitions we need to introduce easier distractions to help the dog. We always try to ensure that the dog ends up successful, meaning that it stays in the crate without any problems.
A dog crate is a very useful tool that helps your dog learn to rest and designate a space in the house. However, it takes some time to get your dog crate properly introduced. Within a few days, we will not teach the dog to sit in it while there is a lot going on around. You need to introduce all steps gradually and, above all, at the pace of your dog. Yes, there are voices that it is enough to lock the dog in a cage until it stops barking and scratching and it will learn to scratch. Maybe the dog will eventually give up and passively wait to be let out, but will it make him like using the cage, which is supposed to be a refuge for him? It’s up to you to decide how you will introduce a kennel to your dog.