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How do I Crate Train my Pet?

crate-trainingIf you find yourself asking this question, you probably already know there are many advantages to crate training.   Crate training your pet (dog or cat) can make transporting your pet much easier. This makes trips to the vet, vacations or any car travel go a whole lot smoother and safer. Crate training also gives you the peace of mind of knowing that your pet isn’t getting into trouble when left at home alone.

Crate training techniques are quite simple, but do require some patience. The crate, kennel or cage should always be a fun and safe place for your pet.  Your pet should never go in the crate when they are being punished for doing something wrong- or they will quickly learn to avoid it. Like with any animal training, it’s important to start simple and then get more advanced.

Start out with selecting an appropriately sized crate. Make it attractive to your pet – put a soft bed inside to make it comfortable.  Let your pet check it out first.  If they approach the crate, you can reward them with a treat or some positive reinforcement.  If they go all the way inside on their own, they should be lavished in attention and given many treats, but it may take time to work up to this.

One idea is to start feeding your pet inside the crate, giving the crate a positive association for your pet. If you feed all of your pets in separate crates, there is no chance of aggression over food because everyone has their own “safe place.” With a young pet, it’s very important to ensure your pet is let out regularly so they do not learn to urinate or defecate in the crate.  This can be a difficult habit to break.

If you plan on using the crate while you’re gone during the day you need to get your pet used to the idea.  You should first try going through your normal routine (put on your shoes, grab your keys), then ask your pet to go into the crate and give a treat.  Try starting this on the weekend or a day you don’t actually have to go anywhere.  Just sit on the couch for a few minutes and then let your pet out.  Eventually they will learn to recognize the cues of you getting ready to go as time for them to get into the crate.  Remember to NEVER punish bad behavior—this is not effective in training an animal.  If they do something you don’t like, just ignore it and try again.  Gradually you can work up to opening the door and stepping outside.  You can start by leaving the house for just 10 seconds, then slowly work up to 30 seconds, 1 minute, 10 minutes, etc. Give them a treat when they go into the crate, and reward correct behavior when you return.  Your pet quickly will learn the crate isn’t such a bad place to be.  Try not to get frustrated because this process takes a lot of patience! You may need to stop training for the day and start again another time if you or your pet gets too frustrated.

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