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

Puppy Love Files: Cold Weather

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Is your dog going stir crazy because of the cold?

Although for the most part we have had a mild winter thus far, there are the cold stretches that are unavoidable. Everyone at some point expresses the same thing to me, "My dog is missing his/her friends and exercise!" or "My dog is suffering from cabin fever, and I'm suffering because of it"

If you have felt this lately, you're not alone. The fact that you DO feel this, is actually a good thing! This means that you care enough about your dog that you aren't putting him/her at risk. Dogs CAN get frostbite and even "snow-loving dogs” can get uncomfortable in some of these cold temperatures! 

So…what do you do? Maybe your dog is just in hibernation mode and is happy to snuggle up and sleep, but maybe he is looking at your with those big puppy eyes saying, "When can we DO something?!?!?" or maybe your dog has so much energy she is spending it on terrorizing the house, chewing on baseboards, chasing the cat, or barking at every little sound they hear. 

What can you do to help with this? I have a few tips that help my dogs get through these winter cabin fever blahs.

1. My favourite tip of all. Make your dog work for his food. Dogs do this in nature. They scavenge. They use their highest senses to sniff out where the food is and are then naturally rewarded for their hard-earned efforts. Making your dog work for their food provides mental stimulation which can tire a dog out. There are a few ways that you can do this. You can purchase a food ball from your local pet store - there are other treat-dispensing toys. I use mine for food. There is a great orange ball, and a hard plastic oversized kong that my dogs particularly like. If you don't want to spend the money, take an empty peanut butter container and drill a hole in one of the sides and let your dog push it around to get the kibble out. There are many other do-it-yourself options that you can google. 

2.Play hide and seek. This game encourages your dog to listen to your commands. First, grab your dog's favourite toy or treat without them knowing. Then have your dog sit and stay. You will then go somewhere in your house to "hide". Call your dog's name and "come". Reward your dogs with the treat or toy when they find you! Mix it up. You can have different family members scattered around the house and the dog has to find who said "come".

3. Give your dog something really great to chew on or work on. It will depend on your dog and what they like to chew, but save the "best" chew toy for rainy or too-cold days, or days when you are just run down. Do not have these chews out all the time or the dog will lose interest. I will either stuff a Kong, give the dogs empty peanut butter containers with remnant scrapings, buy yummy raw bones or hooves, etc. Remember this special toy/chew will go away after they just start to lose interest. I do not want my dog to lose all interest, as I want them to be excited when they get to see it again! Be careful with certain chews - dogs should generally be supervised with bones, rawhide, pig ears, etc because of risk of choking or cracking a tooth. My dogs are often tired after 30-60 minutes of really working away at something like this. 

4. Work on basic training. Do you think your dog knows sit? Does she know it in the basement, or a different floor other than the living room carpet? Does she do it every time? Basic training is a fun way to spend time with your dog and to build on your relationship. See how many times your dog can do a command in 60 seconds. See if that can improve over time. How many times out of 10 can your dog do a command with you asking just ONCE? (Give 10 seconds or so to let the dog think. If they don't respond, they don't actually know what you are asking!) and that doesn't count. Maybe your dog is getting 6/10…Maybe it's time to start with the basics again. If you need tips, please ask me for a basics brush-up lesson! I am amazed at how mentally exhausted my dogs get after 15 minutes of fast-paced basic training (Sit, down, touch, come, let's go, leave it, wave, paw, roll-over, etc)

5.Just cuddle them. What do you want to do most on days when it is well below zero? Snuggle in bed and hibernate! That's what they might want too, and if you can join in, I know they would appreciate it!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you and your dogs can have fun with these suggestions!

Danielle Guetter
Puppy Love London
danielle@puppylovelondon.ca
www.puppylovelondon.ca