Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Crate Training Basics

All kids want a space of their own - somewhere they can get away from the activity, somewhere they can chill - even our furry kids. It can often be an advantage to be able to send the kids to their rooms, to get them out of our hair - even our furry kids. And just like our two-legged kids, the other kind will appreciate their own space more if it has some fun toys for them, and it isn't a place of punishment and "time out".

The ideal space for a Labrador Retriever is a dog crate, because a Lab's personal needs are relatively simple; a bowl of clean water and a comfortable bed are the only things that are needed to make a crate a safe and comfortable place for your Labrador Retriever.

How do you get your Lab to enjoy going into his crate? A reward-based training plan will quickly make your him associate the crate with good things. Begin his training from the moment he first encounters the crate. He should get a reward and praise for just sniffing his new room. This could take some time and effort so prepare yourself by putting the crate in an area where you can be around your Labrador Retriever. You might think about dog crate furniture as this allows you to keep the crate in the family room with you without taking up any additional space.

The next step in the training plan is to encourage your Labrador Retriever to enter the crate by putting one of his favorite food treats or toys in the doorway of the crate. If he is hungry at the time, this will work so much faster. If he walks into the crate to inspect it more thoroughly, reward him lavishly, as this is behavior you want to encourage. Gradually up the ante and only reward him for going right into the crate.

Once you have set up a pattern of your Labrador Retriever going into his crate, you can then give this action a name and a simple gesture. The easy way I found was to point one hand into the crate and sprinkle a few treats from the hand at the same time. The command (we use "in your crate") is given and when he runs into the crate for the treats, he is praised thoroughly. After a couple of repetitions, give the hand gesture and command, but skip the treats. Praise the dog and reward him when he has gone to where he thought the treats were. Repeat a couple of times, and then just praise him. You don't want this behavior totally dependent on treats.

You may need to repeat this training routine a few times over the next couple of days to thoroughly establish the behavior, but your Labrador Retriever will quickly learn to associate the command and gesture with the desired result, and will gladly run into his own room from that point onward.

Closing the door behind your Labrador Retriever is similarly built up one step at a time to give him confidence that nothing bad will happen. Start with a quick close/open of the crate door and give him a treat. Gradually increase the duration of the door close and he will be happy to wait for longer and longer. The duration of his stay can be increased up to five hours for older dogs. A rule of thumb is that his crate stay in hours should be no more than their age in months plus one, up to a maximum of five hours.

Crate training can take time, but it is very worthwhile for both you and your Labrador Retriever.

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Dog Crates November 07, 2012 2:12 AM  

Lots of good points here. Before crate training it's good to read up on as much as you can so you can know what to do and what not to do.

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