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Gail Fisher's Dog Tracks: The steps to make crating work and why it's beneficial

Larry is now 13 weeks old, and over the last week, he has become a little more independent and into things - even more than before. Part of having a new puppy means teaching him the "rules" - what he can and cannot, should and should not do. It feels like a full-time job sometimes, but because I have other things I need to focus on from time to time - such as writing a weekly column - that means Larry needs to be safely confined so he doesn't get into trouble. That means using a crate.

A crate, also called a cage or kennel, is a wire, wood or fiberglass enclosure big enough for Larry to lie down, stand up and turn around - no bigger. Not too many years ago, the idea of crating a dog seemed heartless to most dog owners. Fortunately, many dog owners have seen the evidence with their own eyes: Most dogs love their crates. Dogs view the crate as a den, a safe haven, "my own room!" Once they're accustomed to it, dogs often seek out their crates.

Crate-training makes house-training quicker and easier, prevents destructive chewing and provides a safe way for a dog to travel. Crate-trained dogs often adjust more easily if they have to board overnight or stay at the vets, where they will be in a crate.

Here are the steps to train your puppy or dog to a crate:

1. Place the crate in the kitchen, bedroom or family room, and encourage your dog to investigate it. Talk to him in a happy voice, even laughing. Rattle it a little, to show that it might make a noise. Talk happily and laugh, showing no concern.

2. Use a cue such as "kennel" or "go to bed," entice him into the crate with a treat, praise and immediately give a treat. If he gets right out again, that's OK.

3. If he is reluctant to get in, toss a treat just inside the door, then a little farther in, a little farther, etc., until he gets in on his own. If necessary, physically place him in the crate once or twice, giving him a treat each time. Be sure to let him come right out again if he wants. Repeat this until he gets in on his own.

4. Tell him to "kennel," give him a treat and close the door. Scratch him through the bars, with praise, then let him out. Praise enthusiastically while he is in the crate rather than when he comes out.

5. "Kennel," give him a treat, close the door and walk away for five seconds. Return, praise him for being quiet, open the door and let him out. Repeat, gradually increasing the time in 10-second increments.

6. For puppies, have the crate by your bed, and put your puppy in it to sleep.

7. When you have increased the time your dog is crated, you can crate him when you leave the house. Don't make a big issue out of it. Act as you did when you left the room. No teary goodbyes. Just leave.

8. Feeding your dog in the crate can help acclimate him. Prepare his meal, say "kennel," put the dish in, close the door and walk away. When he's done eating, let him out.

9. During the training process, give your dog a treat each time he gets in the crate. Once he's trained, every once in a while give him a treat.

Here are some important things to keep in mind for as long as you're crating your dog:

. Don't put your dog in the crate in anger. A crate can be used for a "time out," but putting him in must be unemotional. You're simply putting him someplace safe.

. Don't let a barking dog out of the crate. Freedom (getting out of the crate) rewards the barking. If your dog or puppy is barking in the crate, wait until he's quiet, then let him out.

. Don't chastise your dog if he urinates or defecates in the crate. Simply take him out, and clean the crate. Being stuck in his mess was punishment enough.

Larry easily gets into his crate for a treat, and while he doesn't love staying in it all the time (although music helps), I know he's safe, so I can concentrate on getting this column done and submitted on time.

Gail Fisher, author of "The Thinking Dog," runs All Dogs Gym & Inn in Manchester. To suggest a column topic, , email or write c/o All Dogs Gym & Inn, 505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, NH 03103. You'll find her past columns are on her website.


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