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  • Writer's pictureSympa

Housebreaking Help!

Used properly, the crate is a Godsend. The crate is the single most effective training aid you can have. If your first impression of a crate is "They’re awful", you are not alone. However, it doesn’t take very long to be indoctrinated to the advantages of a crate. A puppy has a very real need for a place of his own. An open-wired-mesh crate with a metal floor tray provides a puppy with a "safe place" to go. When he’s tired, its his bed. Dogs are den animals. Without a crate, you will find them "nesting" under tables, beds, chairs, in corners, even cabinets. A crate offers security from house traffic, noise, kids, other dogs, company, thunderstorms, etc. At the same time, it offers a full and clear view of anything and everything going on around them. This way, they get used to being in the midst of activity without any threat of danger. The crate is portable; it can be in the middle of a room, or in a corner. Keeping a Sheltie in a box, a bathroom, or a similar closed in environment, prohibits normal socialization and conditioning. A Sheltie kept in such unacceptable isolation produces a shy and fearful adult.

To knowledgeable breeders, crate training is essential. Used correctly, a crate encourages a puppy’s good behavior and builds independence and confidence. The puppy raised with the benefit the crate accepts it as his bed, and does not want to "mess" in it. He will try to get out to relieve himself. young puppies cant wait very long at first, and shouldn’t be forced to. The crate is a passive teacher in control. A puppy quickly learns the real reason for going outside. The important thing to remember is a puppy is not intentionally destructive. Leaving a puppy loose and unattended is foolish and dangerous. Having a crate to "baby-sit" your little treasure when you are gone means he'll be safe and he cant get into any trouble. As a Sheltie matures, he will use his crate less often. But, it will always be "his room" and home away from home. When traveling, your Shelties crate provides the same protection as a child’s car seat. It prevents accidental escape from a stopped car. There are NO drawbacks to crates, unless they are used as punishment or confinement is overdone. A puppy should sleep in his crate and be fed in it. After every meal and every nap, he should immediately be taken outside to relieve himself.

We believe in crate training, our puppies get used to crates shortly after their eyes and ears open. We have found a crate to be a useful training tool, an effective safety device, and a ‘home’ our dogs love to occupy throughout the course of their lives. We start all puppies on individual crate training between 5-6 weeks of age. The crate is a happy place, where meals are given, treat filled toys are enjoyed, and quiet time is expected. A crate trained puppy can be taken anywhere – on road trips, to hotels, on trips to visit family and friends, etc. When a puppy learns to love and settle down in a crate, options are expanded.

A crate is not a bad place. It has the potential to become a bad place only when/if used as a form of punishment, which we strongly recommend against. Aside from that, it’s relatively easy to create a ‘happy crate puppy’. A young puppy cannot live in a crate for hours on end. We find the average 12 week old puppy can be expected to settle in a crate overnight, and for up to 4 hours at once during the day. However, breaks must be given for the purpose of elimination and exercise. A crate should not be used for excessive confinement, as there is a fine line between proper use of a crate, and over use of a crate.

When a puppy is confined to a crate over night, or its owner is away, or occupied and unable to watch the puppy, a crate will keep him safe. Proper crate size is important – too large and the puppy will use one end to eliminate, and the other end to sleep/rest in. Too small and the puppy will not have sufficient room to stretch out. A puppy should never be left in a crate without access to water, as well as one or two toys to keep him occupied.

Puppies left to roam in a house/room can develop undesirable behaviors, and face the risk for physical harm. Unattended puppies can, and often do, chew on furniture, cabinetry, shoes, walls, etc. A puppy confined in a crate, with appropriate toys, will be safe in its owner’s absence.

In our experience, all puppies/dogs should be confined to a crate, properly secured, while traveling in a motor vehicle. Unconfined puppies/dogs become unguided missiles in the event of an accident, or sudden stop. Crates vary in types, usually a wire crate is what we recommend for puppies. They come with a removable crate pan to make any messes (including spilled food and water) easier to clean. There is nothing wrong, however, with the plastic “carrier” type. Soft sided crates are not recommended for puppies as they are likely to chew or scratch their way through the mesh and escape. We also use exercise pens (metal panels) inside the home in place of a crate, or to give puppies room to play without getting into too much trouble while not supervised...

Advantages of wire kennels Many wire kennels are collapsible, Fold & Carry styles, making them easier to store and transport. Wire kennels can be sized to your growing dog with removable divider panels that expand living space. Wire kennels are easier to clean -- particularly kennels with the new, seamless-style polyethylene floor pans. Wire kennels offer better ventilation. Wire kennels provide more and better visibility for your pet.

Advantages of plastic kennels There are, however, instances when plastic kennels are a sensible choice. If you plan on traveling with your pet by plane, plastic kennels are required by law. Also, some owners feel plastic kennels provide a greater sense of security and privacy for their pets. This quiet den-like refuge is good for high activity level households, particularly those with young children.

If your puppy does not settle in the crate at night, we recommend placing a towel or light blanket over the crate and turning on a radio or tv on low/quietly nearby. Crates should always remain positive, each time they go in, they get a treat...

It is also your best friend for housebreaking as pups do not want to mess where they eat or sleep! It is ok to use a crate for this purpose, in fact here is a sample schedule we recommend: Morning – wake up, take puppy out immediately to potty. PRAISE!! “Puppy Potty Party” as we call it :) Bring pup back in and let it play while you prepare food and get fresh water. Place back in crate with food, water. Couple hours later – take outside again. If puppy potties, PRAISE again. If not, do not move around much in the yard and stay quiet, do not play or distract puppy. Simply bring puppy back inside, place in crate on a “No Potty, No Play” and try again in 10-15 minutes. Repeat until you can praise with a party for pottying outside. Do not give a puppy a chance to potty inside, unsupervised. They learn quickly that if they potty outside they can play and if they don't, back into the crate they go. Play. Potty. Sleep/nap. Afternoon Potty. Play. Eat. Play. Potty. Sleep.…. You get the idea ;)

Puppies generally have to potty after play sessions, sleeping, and drinking/eating. So learn your pups schedule to make it easier on the both of you by setting puppy up to succeed. The use of “puppy pads/papers” and “fake grass” are controversial. They are a tool but not intended to replace housebreaking. We use them as a 'last resort' in the puppy pen, often taking puppies out before they squat on the pads. We try to not let a puppy think it is 'okay' to potty inside at any time, its hard for them to differentiate between when they can not potty inside and when it is ok to potty inside, if its in a certain place of your choosing, not theirs.

Especially if you are using the kennel to house train your puppy, do not make the common mistake of buying one that is too large for your puppy. If it is too spacious, your puppy will eliminate in a 'remote' corner. Buy a puppy kennel you will only use for training, or buy one that you can use throughout your dog's life and add divider panels when the dog is smaller to reduce the area to the appropriate size. The right size kennel is one in which your pet can lie down, turn around, and have three to four inches of extra head space when sitting or standing. While the right-sized kennel may seem too confining or too small to you, it is not for your dog. As mentioned above, divider panels can be used in wire kennels to adjust their size. If you decide on a plastic kennel, understand that you may need to purchase a bigger one later as your puppy grows, since it must be sized to the puppy to ensure successful training.

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