How to crate train your dog

Midwest Life Stages Double-Door Folding Metal Dog Crate, 36"L x 24"W x 27"HSo you just adopted your new family member and are ready to crate train her. Here are a few simple steps to ensure your training success!
1. Make sure the crate you have is the right size for your dog. Your dog should be able to stand, turn around, and lay down comfortably. Do not get too big of a crate or the potty training will not work because a large crate will give your dog the opportunity to create a “potty space” in the crate.

2. Put the crate in a semi-secluded area. I usually put mine in the laundry room by my back door. The reason for this is to work with your dog’s instincts. Wolves sleep in dens and see this space as a safe, secure place to be. In introducing the crate to your dog, you are going to make the crate her “den”. In fact, my dogs all know to go in their crates by the verbal command “den time”!

3. Make sure to introduce the crate to your dog slowly. Put a treat right inside the door of the crate and let your dog get it. Work your way with several treats into the crate until the treat is at the back of the crate and your dog has to go all the way in to get it.

4. Next, put another treat in the back of the crate and when your dog goes all the way in, close the door. Give her another treat and then open the door right away. Keep doing this a few more times, but each time make the closed door period a little longer.

5. Do #3 again, but this time leave the room once the door is closed. Just like #3 keep doing this and increase the amount of time you are gone each time you do it. Always praise the dog for being good when you give the treat and then open the door.

6. If your dog is crying in the crate, do not rush to open the door or even verbally comfort her. If you respond to the whining, your dog will learn that whining=you come and let her out. Instead, wait her out and once she stops crying give her a small treat and then open the door. This way she will know that crying does not get her what she wants, but if she is good and remains quiet she gets to be by you!

7. If you have a puppy, please be mindful of the length of time she can hold her bladder. A good rule of thumb is how old a dog is in months is about how many hours she can hold her bladder. So a 3 month old puppy has to go potty about every 3 hours. You should NEVER leave a dog in a crate for more than 9-10 hours at a time. Every dog, no matter what breed or age, needs to get outside and get some food/water/exercise and attention from you!

8. Once your dog is completely trained, you can leave her loose in the house while you are gone. However, because your dog now views this space as her den it is best to keep it out for her. Many times when I come home from work, I will find my dog sleeping in his den at his own free will. It’s a safe place for him and I don’t think it right to take it away!

Remember, the crate is being introduced as (and should remain) a safe, secure environment for your dog. Always use a happy tone of voice when putting your dog in her crate and NEVER use the crate as a form of punishment.

Also a reminder about treats – a little goes a long way! These steps may seem treat intensive, but the treats you are giving out should not be bigger than your pinky finger nail (even smaller if you have a small breed).

Getting a Second Cat

So you have a cat and now you want to get a second one. In fact, it is true that most cats do best in pairs so looking for a buddy is probably a good idea. But before you head off to the local animal shelter, there are a few things you need to know to ensure two happy cats and a happy you.

  1. Cats do best with friends of the same sex. The reason for this is female cats tend to be more reserved and independent while male cats are the “eternal kittens” who are more playful and outgoing. Therefore, putting a reserved cat with a crazy playful one does not work out too well. Also, male cats play differently than females. The males are much more rough and tumble while the females are a little less aggressive in their play behavior. The exception to this rule is if you have a really outgoing female or a really reserved male. The main point here is to match their personalities as much as possible.
  2. Cats do best with friends close to their age. So if you have a 12 year old cat, it is highly unlikely this cat will get along with a 4 month old kitten. I’m not saying that if you have a senior cat you should not get another cat. However, if you have an older cat that has been your only cat for a long time, you may want to keep it that way so that she can enjoy the rest of her life in peace. But if your senior cat is still really active and/or just recently lost a companion, then just make sure to get another adult (3 years+) cat.
  3. Introducing two cats is actually a long process. The new cat should be set up in a room all by himself with his litter box, food, water, toys, bed, etc. You resident cat should not be allowed into this room at all. After a day or two, take your new cat’s bed and maybe a toy or two and switch them with your resident cat’s things. This will allow the two cats to smell each other without them actually seeing each other. The next day or two, swap the cats. Put your resident cat in the room and let the new cat check the house out. Soon the two will be ready to meet. Give them time, let them check each other out and if things get heated, just separate them again for a few more days. This process can take up to two weeks, so be patient.
  4. Another reason why you want to put your new cat in just one room at first is because cats tend to hide when they feel threatened. So your new cat will very likely hide when he gets out of his carrier and you are going to want to know where he is! Instead of having to search your entire home to figure out where the cat is, you just have to find him in one room.
  5. The general rule is you should have as many litter boxes (or more!), water bowls and food bowls as you have cats. The reason for this is that cats are very clean and picky creatures so they will not use a dirty water bowl or a smelly litter box. There are always exceptions to the rule, but you should be safe rather than sorry. If a cat finds a litter box unsatisfactory, she will find a different place to go to the bathroom and no one wants cat pee on their bed.
  6. In these times of economic struggle, you should also ask yourself if you can afford a second cat. The day to day expense of a cat is not that much, but imagine if your cats get into a poisonous plant or one of them breaks a leg. Vet bills, especially the emergency room, can get into the thousands within minutes. Please seriously think about this before you decide to commit to your new family member.
  7. This is the most important factor when considering to get another cat: Make sure to get your next cat from the local animal shelter! There are many amazing cats in shelters that deserve homes and they will be forever grateful to you.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please let me know! I am happy to help you with any of your animal issues.