An Ounce of Talent – Dog Training

Hunting Dog TrainingAs a professional trainer, I see a lot of dogs come in for training with a wide range of talent.  Like people, some dogs are blessed with more talent than others.  Some dogs have the drive and natural ability that will make them good candidates for advance field work, some don’t.  As a trainer is important to evaluate each dog and determine their strengths / weaknesses and build a training program that will allow each dog to reach its full potential.

My recommendation to anyone seeking a dog is that will be used as a hunting dog or if they would like to compete with the dog in AKC field event is to start with the best bloodlines they can afford.  (Here is an article on Breeding World Class Gundogs.)   This becomes extremely important if you plan on sending your dog out for training.  You see it’s like this, if you have a one gallon bucket and its full to the rim with talent, the job of the trainer is relatively easy to get the talent out – just bump the bucket and talent comes spilling out.  However, if you have a gallon bucket and it only has two drops of talent in it, getting the talent out can be a challenge.

The first thing we do when a dog comes in for training is to understand the goals the owner has for the dog.  We then spend time looking at the dog’s pedigree and evaluating its natural abilities to see if the goals seem realistic.   As a breeder/trainer, I am more likely to give a dog with a strong pedigree the benefit of the doubt during his/her evaluation.  For example, if a dog comes in with a loaded pedigree but shows reluctance to retrieve I would immediately probe to see what type of control the owner has put on the dog.  Often clients excited about the prospect of a new hunting dog start working dogs early and put too much control on them which masks their dog’s natural ability.   Through careful evaluation of both the pedigree and natural ability, we can structure a training program to bring out every drop of talent in the dog.

John Wooden, the famous UCLA Basketball coach, was quoted as saying, ” Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”  This is a quote I hold near and dear to me in all walks of life – including training dogs.

 

 

 

How Long Does it Take to Train a Dog?

Hunting Dog Training

Dallas working on blind retrieves

I often get the question from clients, early in the training process, how much longer do you think my dog will be in training.  Well, my answer sarcastically is — “A lifetime…”  Now, I know that is not the answer they want to hear but it certainly illustrates the point that dogs are always in training and good habits developed during formal training take a lifetime of maintenance.

You see its like this, everything a dog does is a habit set in motion.  They are either developing good habits or bad habits and if a dog is left to develop his own habits, chances are they won’t be in line with what you had in mind as an owner.

The training process can be broken down into what I call the “3 T’s of Dog Training” – TEACH, TRAIN, and TEST.  Every new training concept that we work a dog through begins with TEACHING the dog the behavior we desire. This is when we develop the learned behavior in a dog.  With most motivated dogs we can teach a new concept relatively quickly.  All that is required is good technique, patience, and a willing student.

Once a dog has a solid understanding of the command/concept he has completed the first phase of training and the behavior has become “LEARNED”.  What comes next is to train the dog with lots of repetitions, so the behavior become “HABITUAL”.  This is where we find ourselves spending most of our time while training a dog.  The amount of time varies depending on the dog and the command/concept.  Often I will get dogs in from the same litter and put them through the same training process, however, one dog may demonstrate a tendency of habitual behavior quicker than the others.  Often times it’s a matter of how biddable the dog is.  For example, the alpha dog from a litter may take longer to develop habitual behavior than its littermates because he is used to doing things his own way.  If you encounter problems during the training phase its extremely important to be able to read a dog and understand whether your dog is digging his heals in or is he just confused.  Sometimes it’s best to back up a step or two and review the concept. Maybe you advanced the dog too quickly through the concept.

Only after a dog demonstrates HABITUAL behavior do we start to generalize the concept.  We use the term generalize in the dog training world to mean teaching the dog that we expect him to perform the command/concept regardless of our location or the distractions.  However, it would be a very big mistake to take a dog from the quiet setting of the basement or garage and expect him to perform a given command at a distraction filled dog park.  Why?  Because the gap is too large.

When we generalize a concept we need to make sure we don’t set the dog up for failure.  I tell clients that in order to keep a good working attitude we need to throw away the calendar and focus on reading and reacting to what the dog is telling us.  All too often I hear people say, “My dog is X months old he should be doing XYZ.”  That is nonsense.  And those same people wonder why their dogs have a terrible working attitude.  Well its simple, no amount of pressure is going to help a working attitude.  As a professional it’s important to know when the gap is too large for your dog and when its necessary to step back and simplify.

But generalization doesn’t stop at the dog park or when a dog goes home from training.  Maintain your standards and don’t allow bad habits to creep in.  It’s not fair for you or the dog if one day you allow your dog to get up off of the SIT command and the next day you come down on him for getting up when you turn your back.  Make it black and white for your dog.

The training cycle can be summarized this way:  Learned Behavior evolves into Habitual Behavior which is reinforced through a lifetime of maintenance.  Have fun with your dog and remember dogs don’t live by a calendar.  It’s the other end of the leash that will tell us how quickly we can advance a dog.

 

Beginning With the End in Mind

If you have ever attended one of my seminars or had a dog trained by me what I am about to say should be familiar to you.   “A dog will never be more consistent than you are…”  Not only is this a fact when training dogs, it is a principle dog owner should live by, no matter how old the dog.

When clients pick up a puppy at 7-8 weeks old, one of the first things I bring up for the  puppy’s new family to  discuss and agree on is: What standards will the family maintain around the house and/or in the field?  Be specific.  Is the dog going to be allowed up on the couch? Is he going to get table scraps during dinner?  How about jumping up on people to greet them?  These are only a few of the many questions you and your family need to agree on before the dog sets foot in the house.

All too often clients think one particular behavior is cute when the dog is a puppy but quickly becomes unacceptable as the dog gets older.  When I take a dog in for training, I will insist that the new arrival understands the laws of the land from the first time we meet.  You see, I believe that everything a dog does is a “habit set in motion”.  If left to create their own habits… well, chances are they will not match the habit you in mind when you purchased your new four legged friend.  Now I am not saying that you should be so controlling that you nag your dog to death.  A dog should be a dog, too.  Here are a few quick rules I would live by when setting standards for your new dog:

1. Teach your dog good citizenship around the house – This is a time when a new dog owner can quickly go overboard and nag a dog to death.  I would keep the number of rules to a minimum.  After all, you just brought a puppy into your new home – not a miniaturized version of yourself.

2. Mark both good behavior and bad behavior – Now when I say “mark” I mean just giving a simple “yes” or “good dog” command for behavior we want to see repeated and “no” command for behavior we do not want the dog to repeat.

3. Maintain consistency in your program – It not fair to the dog if one minute you let him jump up on you and the next time you don’t. What message is that sending to the dog. Simply put, he can’t trust you.  Everyone is free to set their own standard of behavior when it comes to their dog – who am I to judge?  But maintain consistency and be fair to the dog.

4. Reward effort – Only correct a dog for blatant disobedience and lack of effort. Some dogs will do anything to avoid the task at hand, to me that is lack of effort, others will try really hard and just not do what you are asking. It’s important to recognize the difference.

5. Begin with the end in mind – Think in terms of this pint-sized puppy growing to full size. Some behaviors may be cute when they are 8 pounds but unacceptable when the are 80 pounds. Also, if you own a hunting dog start thinking in terms of that dream retrieve when a dozen mallards set into your rig. Does sit mean sit – or do we allow a little creeping because “he is just a puppy”. My only comment to the argument of “he’s just a puppy” is that performance standards only erode with each passing year if you don’t maintain them. A puppy that is allowed to creep when he is young is a good candidate to breaking on that group of mallards that set into the rig at shooting time.

Training Your Dog with Treats — Good or Bad?

Whenever I get a young dog in for training the first thing I evaluate in the dog is what makes him/her tick.  Sometimes its a tug toy, other times its a throw toy, but most of the time it’s dog treats.

Why is that?  Well if I had to guess, it has to do with how motivated young dogs are about food when they go to their new home at 7-8 weeks of age.  As new owners, we want to bond with the dog, we want them to come when they are called.  So we naturally reach for something the dog wants and offer that up as a bribe to come to you.  And you know what?  For 99 out of 100 dogs it works, so good we start using treats to train dogs for sit, stay, lay-down, etc.  Sound familiar?  I bet it does.

So this begs the question; Aren’t we bribing our dogs if we use treats to train them?  As a demonstrator/lecturer I hear this argument against training a dog with treats all the time.    So lets be clear about one thing: training with treats can be done in 2 ways: you can shape behavior with treats (reinforcing behavior) or you can bait a dog with treats (so called “bribing”).  

Shaping or Reinforcing Behavior with Treats

Training dogs using treats to shape behavior is very different than baiting or bribing a dog.   Shaping behavior occurs through “Operant Conditioning”.  In Operant Conditioning a dog’s behavior is conditioned by the consequences that follows.  When a dog performs a particular behavior that produces a favorable result, he is likely to repeat the behavior.  So, in Operant Conditioning, the dog learns to become problem solvers by trying many things to get the favorable result.  We mark the negative behavior by simply saying “No”, in other words keep trying.  When the dog starts performing actions that represent the desired behavior we reinforce that behavior by offering a reward.   With each successive attempt we reward for the dog performing a behavior a little closer to what we ultimately expect — and as a result to are shaping the behavior through reinforcement.  

Remember in Operant Conditioning the reward is not presented until AFTER the behavior is preformed,  which makes the reward reinforce the behavior.  Now the reward does not have to be a treat, it could be a throw toy or tug toy,  but in most cases a treat is what  motivates young dog.  

Now I am not a Operate Conditioning purest who thinks that everything should be done as a reinforcement.  After all, there is a fine line between shaping and baiting anyway.  How long do you think it takes for your dog to figure out that you have the treats in your training vest pocket or bait bag?  Not long at all.  And our body language is probably pushing or pulling the dog in one direction or another.  

I like to think of myself as a balanced trainer that knows how to read dogs and has many tools in his tool box to get the job done. Sometimes the right tool is a screwdriver sometimes its a wrench.  Its my job as a dog trainer to be able to know the difference between a screw and a bolt.   

Baiting or Bribing Dogs with Treats

When you bait or bribe a dog to perform a particular behavior you produce the treats BEFORE and lure the dog into performing the desired behavior.   Many trainers, like myself, believe that with some dogs you can speed up the process of training if you use subtle baiting to teach the dog what is expected.

Alright, I can hear the “Operant Conditioning” and “Motivational” purists screaming at their laptops/tablets/phones – are you kidding me you’re encouraging baiting when training dogs.  Not exactly, what I am referring to is proper placement of rewards regardless of timing.  Of course, I don’t believe in leading a dog around the room with treats out in front of the dogs nose in order to teach a concept.

No matter when the treat is presented, before or after a behavior, proper placement of the reward is critical to the dog’s understanding of the behavior you are asking them to perform.  For example, the proper placement of a reward for the “LAY DOWN” command would be at ground level and below the dog’s nose — not above their head.  This can go a long way toward communicating with your dog.

Remember, sometimes it’s necessary to bait dogs or use a body language to get your message across to the dog so they perform a particular behavior successfully.   After all — isn’t the name of the game when training dogs — Success Conditioning?

Can You Teach Old Dogs New Tricks?

Labrador RetrieverAs a professional dog trainer I can’t think of a question I get asked more often than, “Can you train an older dog?”. My standard answer is yes, of course, you can. However, the truth of the matter is that it all depends. There are many factors that go into determining whether in an old dog can learn new tricks or not.

The number one factor is how ingrained the habit is that we’re trying to change. You see, when young dogs are going through the imprint period (between 12 and 20 weeks old) they begin to learn what they like and dislike about life. It’s also during this time that they create associations about learning and training. Associations that dogs create early in life are the basis of the habits that are going to last a lifetime.

When I get a young dog in for obedience training — it’s my job to be able to foster a positive learning environment — similar to that of an elementary school teacher. As a dog owner, it’s extremely important to make sure we are creating habits that are in line with the “rules of the house” or our “standards in the field”. If a dog is left to determine its own habits, chances are his idea on what are good habits will be considerably different than yours. So it should go without saying that it is far easier to stop a dog from misbehaving when they are young and impressionable than it is to change a habit that has been ingrained for years.

Similar to humans, bad habits are hard to break and most importantly it takes time and consistency. You can’t expect your dog to be any more consistent than you are. In fact, it is extremely unfair to a dog to keep changing your standard. For example, if one minute you let him jump up on you and the next minute he is met with a knee to the chest. Well, what message is that sending to the dog? Simply put, he can’t trust you and its this bond that will have a lasting impact on the relationship you have with your four legged friend.

I am a firm believer that you can teach old dogs new tricks. I do it every day. Admittedly, older dogs take more time and patience and sometimes require that we reprogram their associations with learning before ever attempting to teach an older dog “new tricks”. In many cases, I will start my training program with an older dog the same way I will start it will a young puppy. Remember, you have to reprogram the dog’s associations with learning first — find out what motivates your dog and keep it short and fun. You might be surprised how far treats, praise or throw toys can go in motivating an older dog and help teach that old dog new tricks.

Keeping it Fun for You and Your New Puppy

8 week old ESS

8 week old ESS

There are not many absolutes in dog training.  However, one thing is for sure, when it comes to training young dogs you are either making emotional deposits with your dog or withdrawals.  Remember that the next time you take your young dog out for a training session.   In fact, write it down on a yellow sticky and place it next to your training equipment.  Better yet, stick it to your forehead – just kidding. Imagine the looks you would get at work the next morning.   Oops – I digressed.

Dogs, like humans, establish likes and dislikes early on in life.  In fact, they start establishing strong associations between 12 and 20 weeks old (the so-called “imprinting period”).   It’s during this time when most dogs’ working attitudes are established. What is “working attitude”?  Well, its just like it sounds – the attitude your dog has about working or training.

When you were in grade school, did you get up in the morning excited about school or do you hit the snooze alarm a dozen times before finally getting out of bed?  Well chances are, how you felt about going to school was largely based on the associations you had with school or what you thought the day might bring – spelling test, a bully on the bus – yikes, maybe I will hit that snooze button again!  Well, dogs are not cognitive thinkers like humans, they are associative thinkers and even dogs might not be so keen on school if every day they had a SPELLING TEST or were greeted by the NEIGHBORHOOD BULLY.

My point to all this is simple.  If school was about gym, lunch and recess many kids would start their day with big smiles on their faces, eager to head to school.  Was there ever a time that you enjoyed school?  Perhaps it was a great teacher who made learning fun?  Think about it.

As a professional dog trainer, I find so many clients are too quick to jump into a structured obedience program and use traditional corrections with their dog before taking the time to fill the glass with good positive experiences.  Sure I like an obedient dog as much as the next guy. But what I love more is a strong bond and connection with the other end of the leash.

I have so drastically changed my young dog training program over the last several years.  My emphasis now is about one thing,  making it fun to learn! No, my standards have not change, what has changed is the methods I use each day to make regular positive deposits with that dog, instead of withdrawals.  It requires a whole lot of creativity and in the upcoming articles I will share some of the ways you can make your next training session fun — for both you and your future gun dog!

Bringing a New Puppy Home

Bringing a Puppy Home

Can you guess which puppy is the Alpha dog in this litter?

Alright, the big day is finally here. If you’re like most new dog owners you have been counting down the days since you have made the big decision to bring a new puppy into your home. Are you ready? Rest assured, if you’re not, you’re not alone. Through this article I hope to accomplish two goals. First, let’s make your home a safe environment for your new puppy. Second, I’d like to give you a concrete set of techniques you can use to begin teaching your puppy to be a good citizen in his/her new home.

Most new puppy owners underestimate just how much mischief their little four legged friend can get into in a few short minutes alone. I cannot tell you how many stories I hear of “Missy” ruining an expensive Italian-made pair of leather dress shoes. My standard reply is, “Did you leave these shoes in a place where she could get to them?” To which they sheepishly answer, “Well, yea… I just thought…”. “Wow, those sure are expensive chew toys you’re leaving for your new puppy.” The point is this: When left alone, even for a few short minutes, a young puppy, with his razor-sharp teeth can ruin or destroy furniture, carpeting, etc. Worse yet, it only takes a single chew on a lamp cord to harm and electrocute your new puppy.

Puppy-Proofing Your Home

The simplest technique for puppy-proofing your home is to go about it the same way you would when making a home safe for a young child, except pay closer attention to items that a puppy can chew or scratch. Consider anything left on the floor or within reach of the puppy “fair game”. If you take a minute to look around your house, you should immediately see items that a young dog can chew on / destroy, or even worse, be harmed by. If you have not owned a puppy before, get down on your hands and knees and view your home from the puppy’s vantage point. Electrical cords, cabinet corners, carpeting, and shoes lying around are all in plain view of your new companion.

The simplest technique to teach a young dog what he is allowed to chew and what he isn’t is to issue a stern “NO” command and then replace the item he is chewing with an acceptable chew toy while praising him for changing his behavior. During this period, the puppy will be drilled many times on the “NO” command. It is very important to apply praise when you get the desired change in behavior. Make sure you have hard chew toys or rawhide handy when your puppy is loose so you can quickly make the correction and stop the undesirable behavior. Soon he will realize that he can only chew on the items you give him — toys. Be consistent in your approach. Don’t allow him to chew on one pair of sneakers and not another, that is sending mixed signals to the dog that will prolong the process.

All the puppy-proofing in the world is no substitute for keeping a close eye on your young canine while he is learning the difference between right and wrong. If you are unable to watch your puppy, it’s a good idea to confine him in an area where he cannot get into trouble. Fence off a part of the house where the puppy cannot get into trouble or better yet, use a crate to confine your young canine. If choosing to crate your dog, make sure you pick the proper size so he is comfortable. A crate that is too large will offer a puppy an opportunity to soil one area and lay down in the other.

Nipping and Biting – Normal Puppy Play
If you ever watched a litter of puppies in the whelping box you will notice that puppies play with each other by using their mouths. They wrestle and tug on each others ears, tails, legs, or whatever they can get their mouth on. When you take a puppy from his littermates into your new home, it is not uncommon for this type of behavior to continue with you and your family. This is absolutely normal behavior. Puppies rarely show aggressive behavior with the intent of harming their new owners. However, if this behavior is left uncorrected it can become annoying and can often escalate to more rough play.

The goal of working through this normal puppy behavior is to teach your puppy that mouthing is unacceptable and to encourage acceptable behavior.

Discouraging Nipping / Mouthing

Bringing A New Puppy Home

There is no substitute for teaching a new puppy to be a good citizen.

How do I stop a puppy from nipping? This is a very common question from new puppy owners. The best answer I can give is to never let it begin in the first place. There are a number of techniques you can use to discourage nipping, the key is to maintain a high standard (hands do not belong in a puppy’s mouth) and to be consistent with your correction and/or praise. There are two techniques you can use to correct nipping:

The first works for about 75 percent of the dogs. It is simple and teaches the dog to be gentle with your hands and that nipping or rough play ends a play session immediately. After being nipped, look directly into your puppy’s eye and say “Ouch” in a high pitched voice, as if you have been seriously hurt. End the play session immediately and replace your hand with an acceptable chew toy. Since dogs are social animals, ending the play session once nipping occurs can be very effective, however, it will take many sessions to for this technique to work.

The second technique is to teach your puppy to be gentle with hands and nipping results in unpleasant consequences. Be ready to apply the correction quickly and firmly. Once your puppy begins mouthing you, grasp him by the scruff of the neck with the opposite hand, and take the hand that he was just mouthing and open it flat, with your fingers close together. Next, place your flat hand across his mouth where his bottom jaw meets his upper jaw. Don’t hurt him but put just enough pressure against the back of his mouth to elicit a gag reflex, while saying in a low growling tone of voice, “NO BITE”. If he begins to whine, gag and squirm around (trying to remove your hand from him mouth) hold your ground and repeat the command, “NO BITE”. Once your young pup has given in remove your hand from his mouth and pet him with the hand that was just in his mouth. Finally, replace your hand with an acceptable chew toy. This technique teaches the dog rather quickly that mouthing your hand causes an uncomfortable thing and quickly his preference will be for chew toys rather than your hand.

A Note About Children And Puppies
Often a child’s first reaction to being nipped or mouthed by a puppy is to shriek and quickly push the puppy away, only encouraging the puppy to play harder and act out further. It’s very difficult for children less than 10 years old to practice the techniques described above. For this reason during the first few weeks of puppy hood, dogs should never be left alone with young children.

Points to remember:

  • Keep objects small enough for your dog to choke on, off the floor (such as coins, hardware, etc.).
  • Electric cords should be tucked behind furniture or encased to prevent electrocution as a result of chewing.
  • Keep cabinets that contain cleaning agents secured.
  • Pick up after yourself (shoes, socks, etc.).
  • Be consistent with what you allow him/her to chew.

Crate Training

Crate Training

Crate Training

Crate Training

Often clients ask, “What do you think about crate training?” My standard answer, “Crate training is the most misunderstood training technique a new dog owner faces today. Like most things in life, people often criticize what they don’t understand. Personally, I crate train all my dogs that live in the house. Many people have a misconception about what crate training is or what it is not.” In this month’s article I will attempt to dispel some of the myths about crate training and give you some simple techniques that you can begin using today to make the process of crate training easy and create a “domestic den” for your dog.

When done properly, crate training offers dog owners two valuable benefits. First, the crate becomes the place your dog can call home. Second, crate training can considerably speed up the housebreak process.

A Place Your Dog Can Call Home

If you step back in time and look at the canine before man’s domestication – the wolf, you would find a “denning animal” that naturally made himself or herself a home in small burrows on the side of hills and underneath blow downs. These burrows or “dens” were constructed to escape from predators. The early canine quickly realized that a small den just large enough to turn around in would offer shelter from the elements and allow them to efficiently conserve on body heat during the winter months.

Have you ever noticed where your dog goes to escape the hustle and bustle of family life? Inevitably, you will find him or her out of the traffic area and lying under a table or a chair. These areas offer you’re dog the solitude he so desperately seeks. Dogs feel more secure in “denning” environments. If he wishes to get away from the kids or the active of your family you will find that he will retreat to his crate / domestic den. Employing the use of a crate in your home will provide your dog with a place he can call home.

A Home Away From Home

Whether you’re on the road in competition or on vacation, the crate provides a convenient portable den that offers dogs and owners a safe and stress-free way to travel. I have found dogs that are crate trained will experience much less stress on overnight trips than dogs that are not crate trained. This can often be the factor that makes for a successful day in the field.

Crate Training and Housebreaking

Dealing with a crying puppy is often the first problem a new puppy owner must face when crate training. Start by placing your puppy in his new crate for very short intervals. Sometimes beginning with sessions measured in seconds rather than minutes or hours is the best approach. Even better yet, try feeding your puppy in a crate. This will help your young dog establish a positive association towards the crate.

Try placing an garment or blanket with the mother’s scent on it in the crate with the puppy. Additionally, placing a ticking alarm clock outside the kennel can be comforting to your new puppy for the first few nights away from his littermates.

During the first night a puppy is separated from the rest of the litter he will often whine and fuss. This behavior is a very natural survival skill learned early in life. Whether in the whelping box or in the wild, a puppy learns very quickly that when separated from the pack, calls for help will allow other members of the pack to quickly located him, thus reuniting him with his peers. To that extent, many animal behaviorists recommend allowing a new puppy to sleep in the same room with you to reduce this separation anxiety.

Moving a crate into your bedroom accomplishes two things. First, as stated above, it reduces separation anxiety for the puppy. Second, it allows you to monitor your puppy’s housebreaking routine. Before putting your puppy up for the night, make sure he has had a chance to go outside and eliminate.

Inevitably, you will find that as you close the door to the crate he will begin to whine and fuss. Never let your dog out of the crate if he is crying. At first this may not sound logical. But remember, dogs learn quickly through associations. If you open the door when he cries he will quickly think crying opens the door. At this point you will want to introduce a “NO NOISE” command and bang your hand on the top of the crate. If the puppy continues to whine, just ignore him. The last thing you want to do is reward this behavior by opening the crate door and comforting him. The only exception to this rule is when crying is a result of having to go to the bathroom. Therefore you will need to go on those “midnight-walks”. Then if at all possible, wait for a break in the crying before opening the door, even if it is a break for only10 seconds.

The crate can be an effective tool when housebreak your new companion. The underlying reason for this is fairly simple. Dogs normally will not eliminate in the same areas they live. It’s only when a dog has been left in a crate too long that they are forced to eliminate in the crate. Remember, young dogs are not physically able to “hold-it” for hours and hours on end. So when deciding to put your youngster up for the evening, be mindful of how long he or she will be able to comfortably “hold-it”. During the night, if your puppy seems to be stirring, get up and take him outside immediately. With puppies you may have to carry them outside to avoid accidents. Once he has had a chance to relieve himself, bring him straight back inside to his crate. If he begins to fuss again, issue the “NO NOISE” command and be consistent.

After a few nights of dealing with the whining and carrying on, your puppy should begin to make it through the night with minimal fussing. Crate training takes time and sometimes requires a “deaf ear” on your part. Use common sense and consistency in your approach and soon the answer, as whether to crate or not to crate will become obvious. Good luck and enjoy your new puppy.

Rules to live by when crate training:

  1. The crate should never be used to punish your dog.
  2. Keep the introduction to the crate short and sweet. Let the dog get comfortable with the crate before attempting to close the door on him. Once you close the door, reward him with praise and/or a treat. Keep the first few sessions with the door shut short. Ten seconds without crying is what you’re striving for. Open the door and give him lots of love and praise. Slowly, and I mean slowly, increase the time with the door shut.
  3. Select the proper size crate for your dog. If you buy a crate that is large enough to accommodate him when he is full-sized, block off an area inside the crate to make it just large enough for him to stand up and turn around. Making it too large will allow him to soil one area and live in the other.
  4. Pick up your dog’s water 3-4 hours before putting him up for the night.
  5. Allow your dog to eliminate completely prior to being put up for the night.
  6. Take him outside immediately upon letting him out of the crate. With puppies, you may have to carry them outside to avoid accidents.
  7. Let him naturally find the crate in your kitchen, living room or wherever you decide the crate will reside. Make sure you place the crate in an area well circulated, free of drafts, and out of direct sunlight. Placing food in the back of the crate will encourage your pet to explore and enter this new area.
  8. Never let your dog out of the crate if he is crying.
  9. Have a vigorous play session before to going to bed.
  10. An undergarment or a ticking alarm clock can comfort a new puppy during his first few nights away from his littermates.
  11. Never disturb your dog when he seeks solitude in his crate. Remember this is his domestic den and like you, he needs valuable time alone.
  12. Finally, be patient and committed to the process.