Bringing a New Pet Home: Crate Training - The First Night


POSTED ON
MARCH 10, 2019

Crate Training: The First Night

Written by Puppy Love London Dog Trainer, Sophia Barquero at her blog at www.theleashrack.com

Bringing home a new dog, regardless of its age is a very exciting time until it comes to bed time!

With new puppies, owners often face that dreaded first night together where a puppy may cry or bark when isolated from their family.

With an older dog, it is tempting to leave them out solo to test the waters – an adult dog can’t cause too much havoc, right? Sometimes this backfires and you end up waking up to quite the mess.

So regardless of your dogs age, you face the same questions that first night with your new companion.

  • How do we get your dog to settle through the night?

  • How do we lessen the pet guilt we feel over doing it?

  • Do we let them cry it out, or let them sleep with us just this once?  

For starters, its important to understand that crates can offer both safety and comfort to dogs, so there is absolutely nothing wrong with using one. Safety is important for young dogs or dogs who are generally destructive, and comfort can be taken from the crate as it serves its purpose; a bedroom for your dog. Most dogs crave a den like atmosphere and quiet space naturally when winding down, however as they build their bond with their humans they also want to be close to us. Crate training is thus often made to be the ‘barrier’ for dogs and their humans and this can cause distress and anxiety when they are being forced in there away from their people.

On that first night with your new dog, be sure to set up their sleeping pen or crate in your room. At least for the first few nights, they should be reassured of your presence. In the long term, having your dog crated elsewhere is absolutely possible and in most cases preferable, but those first few nights with new puppy are not the time to test it out.  We have to remember that not only is this a big change for you and your family, but for your dog as well. It is likely the first time your puppy has been without it’s mother and siblings, and for older dogs it is likely the first time they have been in a home or have been outside of their foster home. It can be distressing. So set up a cozy area next to your bed, and make the environment comfortable by adding items your breeder or foster home sent home with you and that smell like their previous home.

Once you are ready for quiet time, lure your dog inside of their crate or pen and feed them a few extra treats in there as you close the door. If it is a wired crate, you can continue feeding through the wires. If it is a mesh or fabric crate, you can keep the sides opened up to reach in and feed them. Don’t wander too far, and plan to stay in that room and head to bed with them.

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It is easy to feed and comfort your dog in these fabric crates!

This is where you may hit a road block. Most dogs do not have an issue with a closed in space; its our absence that we need to start training for.  This is why you will remain in the room, close by. Ideally your crate should be so close to your bed that your arm can reach out and touch it. Plan to reassure your puppy and wake up through the night to let them out to potty, but this is what makes this sleep training trick that much easier! You are right there for them to let you know they need to go, and to comfort them easily back to sleep, avoiding a crazy and playful puppy at 3am. You simply lure them back inside, close the door and are within arms reach if they need you.

Its pretty similar to the child who has nightmares and opts to sleep with their parents – eventually that goal is for the child to sleep solo, but there is nothing wrong with offering comfort while they adjust to their new reality.

DAY TIME CRATE TRAINING

During the day is when you can make some headway on crate training appropriately. First, starting with duration (how long can your dog hang out in there quietly?) before adding distance (how far can you go from the crate before your dog panics?)

Examples of scenarios when you can practice these sessions include

  • when you are cooking, move your crate towards the kitchen and have your dog hang out in there while you are in view. You can toss a few rewards for calmness or offer a frozen kong to occupy them, but otherwise she is learning to relax , confined, in your presence

  • if you are tidying up the house or a particular room, placing your dog in her crate while you move around the room casually can help start to build some tolerance for your absence. You can reward her calm behaviour as you move about too!

If you work from home, this set up is easy to implement in your routine but if you don’t we recommend having friends come and help you out with your new pup for pee breaks or hire a dog walking service to keep routines consistent for you. Regardless of your work routine however, crate training should be happening outside of the hours where you leave your dog alone. This is especially true if your dog dislikes it from the get go or needs more motivation to enter it. Training should be done on weekends or evenings.

Surviving that first night is something to be proud of! Rest assured most dogs settle into their new routines quickly and without fuss, but setting them up for success by slowly moving them away from your bedroom will get you on the right path faster and with less trauma (on both ends of the leash).

Need some visuals of what a training scenario may look like? Check out the video of little Bailey learning to tolerate distance while relaxing in her crate. Keep your training sessions short and successful!

Do you have two minutes?

Do you have 2 minutes of free time in your day? GREAT! Then you have time to practice some engagement with your walking! 

The goal in these sessions is to reward glances in my direction - essentially building value for ‘checking in with me’. Your dogs learns through trial and error that pulling or ignoring won't get him far - if your dog pulls you around on leash when training, simply stop moving. There are only so many places they can go! Once they offer a glance your way, THAT is the behaviour you want to repeat-  so mark it “YES!” and reward.
When dogs are in new environments the tendency is for them to zone out and ignore you - this is normal especially if it is a highly distracting environment. It's up to us to teach the dog a little focus+engagement in ALL environments earns you  freedom! Always give a clear end signal to your training sessions - “all done!"

As always start this exercise easy -
In the home, in your yard and down your driveway/street are all good examples of quiet and non overwhelming places to start this training.
Once your dog has the ability to check in with you without nagging or reminding, the foundation is set for a nice loose leash walk!

  • Written by Sophia Barquero

*photo by Julie Whalen Photography

*photo by Julie Whalen Photography

Ask a Dog Expert: Dealing with Hot Weather

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Question: I feel like my boxer can't handle the heat. What can I do to ensure she's comfortable in these hot temperatures?

Answer - It's important to keep your dog cool and hydrated for the following reasons: Dogs are 80% water just like us. They need about an ounce of water per pound of body weight to stay properly hydrated. Dogs sweat only through their feet and by panting - which dries out their mouths so they need water.

There are a few things you can do to ensure your dog is comfortable in this heat.

1. Take walks early in the morning, or in the evening so that you can avoid the hottest temperatures mid-day.

2. Do not under any circumstance leave your dog in your car on a warm day - even just for a few minutes.

3. Bring a water bottle for you and your dog for the walk or play time.

4. Look for signs of overheating – diving into shade, excessive panting, searching for a water. Cut your walk short if your dog is showing any of the signs.

5. Do not give ice cold water is it shocks their system. Cool or room temperature water is best.

6. There are cooling jackets, bandanas, mats and different water bottles and dishes you can buy from your local pet store (Visit Bloomingtails in Byron) they have lots of awesome things to assist with the heat.