Using Crates & Barriers with Your Dog - Dog Training Tips

A dog's most basic need for safety is shelter, or a den. While your dog may feel that your whole house is his den, it can sometimes be too large of a space for him to feel secure. This may cause him to feel stressed and confused, rather than safe and sound.

With just a few basic tools, you can help your dog feel safe in his environment. Use of a crate or pet carrier, baby gates and barriers can help you to safely confine your dog to ensure his well-being.

Crate = Home Sweet Home
A properly introduced crate or pet carrier can be your dog's sanctuary. Because it provides the comfort and security of a den, a crate can be the ideal place for your dog to sleep and get away from household activity. A crate also helps with his housebreaking and obedience training, and brings you peace of mind knowing he and your house are safe from harm or mischief.

  • The crate should be appropriate for your dog's size: roomy enough to allow him to stand up, turn around, and lay down comfortably. If the crate houses a growing puppy, you might have to use a barrier to reduce its size. Some crates come with dividers for this purpose.
  • Include soft bedding and a few toys.
  • A crate should never be considered a substitute for diligent training and supervision and should not be used as punishment. "Time-outs" are not an effective training strategy.
  • Avoid leaving a dog in his crate for extended periods of time-depending on his age and bladder size/strength, no more than 10 hours for a dog and 6 hours for a puppy.
    • If you will be away longer than that, arrange for a friend or pet sitter to let your dog out to toilet during that time.
    • When you must confine your dog for an extended period, place him in a small room or some other safe and restricted area.

Baby Gates and Barriers
An alternative to a crate is confining your dog in a dog-proofed part of your home, such as a laundry or mudroom. Use a baby gate to confine your dog to the room. Likewise, use a gate to block your dog's access to any areas of the house you regularly deem off-limits.

If your dog has a tendency to toilet in the house, confine him to a room with a floor of vinyl or tile for easy cleanup of any accidents. Place his bed and some toys in the room for him. Treat-giving toys, such as KONG® products and the Buster® Cube, will provide him with hours of entertainment.

You can also use a barrier to:

  • Block your dog's access to a new baby's room.
  • Maintain household safety when introducing a new dog to your home. Confine the new dog to a small area behind the gate, and allow your resident dog space to roam and visit the new dog when he likes.
  • Create a safe environment for a cat you are introducing to your resident dog. A baby gate is easy for a cat to hop over to find safe haven, and keeps the cat's food bowl or litter box away from the dog. Beware, however, that using a gate isn't always successful, as some dogs have not learned to respect a gate; you may need to invest in an extra-tall gate if your dog is a jumper.
  • Confine your dog in the workplace so he can't wander or disturb others.
  • Restrict a drooling or begging dog from the dining area during meals.
  • Confine a dog that is frightened of people who visit your home. This helps keep your dog from feeling stressed and keeps guests safe. Be sure to provide your dog with something fun to do while he is confined; this not only helps him associate being confined with a positive experience, but also helps prevent him from being bored. Provide treat-giving toys to keep him occupied.

Know When to Get Help
Remember, the need for safety and shelter is just one of your dog's needs. If all his needs are not appropriately addressed, crating may only create new problems. A qualified trainer such as a Bark Busters behavioral therapist can help you determine the cause of your dog's resistance to crates or barriers and provide ways to help you make sure your dog knows he is safe in your household.

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