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Crate Training & Teething

Crate Training 

  • "Canis familiaris," the domestic dog, is descended from "Canis lupus," the wolf. Many thousands of years ago, wolves hung around caves, stealing morsels from man at the dawn of civilization. Submissive wolves may have left their canine pack to take up residence at the periphery of human camps. In return for watchdog duty, these beasts probably received food, shelter, and companionship in the human pack. Genetic variability and mutations in wolves produced domestic dogs of an amazing variety of sizes, shapes, and colors, dogs that were further refined into breeds created for specific purposes. Although the terrier puppy has never seen the great north woods and the Samoyed down the street never hunted a moose with a silent pack of wolves, they have wolf habits in common with all other breeds of dogs. All puppies, in the manner of wolves, need a den. Pianos and tables make great dens, but furniture doesn't have sides for confinement. Laundry rooms, spare bathrooms, and even playpens are too big for a puppy den; there's enough room in these enclosures for the pup to defecate or urinate in one area and still have room to play or sleep without stepping in the mess. 

  • In the wolf den, the mother wolf cleans up the cubs’ feces until the youngsters are old enough to defecate away from the den. The cubs learn that the den is a place to keep clean as well as a place of safety and comfort. 

  • A modern den can be a Fiberglas or wire crate that can be kept in any room in the house. It should be large enough for the pup to lie down comfortably. If your pup is one of the large breeds and you don't want to buy several crates as he grows, buy an adult-size crate and partition it so it fits his current size. 

  • The crate is a multi-purpose piece of dog paraphernalia. It can be used for: 

  • Housetraining 

  • Simply take the pup outside after each nap or meal. Do not play with him until he has done his business. If he hasn't relieved himself in about 10 minutes, take him back inside and put him in the crate. Repeat the routine in 10-15 minutes. Remember, no play until the pup does hid business and lots of praise when he gets the idea. 

  • Protection from excited toddlers. 

  • Children need to learn that the pup needs some quiet time. A blanket over a wire crate will help a child understand that it's time for Ranger to rest. 

  • Playpen for puppies when you're not home. 

  • If you need to take the kids to school or go to the grocery store, the pup that's crated will not chew the furniture or wet the carpet while you're gone. If he has already wet the carpet or chewed the furniture, you can put him in the crate and issue a stern warning that there'll be no more of that going on. 

  • Sanctuary for the over-excited pup. 

  • Don't let Rambo run amok through the house, terrorizing the cat, the kids, and the furniture, and don't feel guilty about restricting his freedom. Sending the pup to his crate is somewhat akin to sending a child to his room: he feels comfortable there and he knows you are angry, and you have a chance to recover from his outburst. 

After the pup is housebroken, leave the crate open during the day. You'll find that the pup will nap in the crate by choice. You can continue to put the pup in the crate when you'll be away from the house as long as you don't leave puppies and young dogs confined too long and make sure they have plenty of exercise when you are home. People often cringe at the thought of putting their beloved Star in a box or cage. They think confinement is cruel. After all, people don't want to be enclosed in a space they can barely turn around in. But puppies aren't people. Their wolf ancestors found comfort, safety, and shelter in their dens, and modern dogs find solace and satisfaction in their own space as well.  




  • Puppies chew to ease teething discomfort, to play, to explore the environment, to assuage hunger, to establish dominance, and to relieve boredom. Families can plan a response to active puppy teeth that will soften the impact on possessions and limbs while the pup is growing. 

  • Some suggestions 

  • Buy several toys he can chew on. Hard rubber balls and Kongs, fresh bones, nylon bones, and knotted ropes are available at pet supply stores. Knotted rags and old socks and shoes are acceptable as long as the pup doesn't get confused between the discarded item and a pair of $100 Nikes or Katy's new t-shirt. Soft squeak toys are fun for small puppies and for games of fetch, but are not sturdy enough for chewing exercise for older pups. 

  • Whenever Taffy chews the wrong thing, remove her to a neutral area and give her something she's allowed to chew. No shouting, no smacks with a newspaper or hand -- just matter-of-fact corrections in a firm tone of voice. "No, that's mine, here's something for you" is appropriate. 

  • Confine Fritz to a crate when you cannot watch him. A confined pet cannot chew the furniture. Make sure he has a toy in the crate that he is allowed to chew. 

  • Limit access to bedrooms, living rooms, etc. with baby gates and closed doors. 

  • Teach "no bite" to eliminate attempts to chew parts of human bodies. Puppies should never be allowed to teethe on people parts. Never. Biting family members is an attempt to establish dominance. Even toy dogs try to become leader of the family pack if given the opportunity. When a fast-growing guardian breed is allowed or encouraged to mouth arms and legs, he will quickly become unruly. 

  • If you cannot stop the pooch from biting on crawling babies and toddlers, separate kids and dog. Don't fall for the old "he really doesn't mean it" when Ranger nips or growls at the kids. It doesn't matter what he meant -- he's not allowed to put his teeth on babies. Ever. 

  • Puppies that are allowed to rule the roost with teeth and growl will turn into dogs that do the same. 

  • Join the in a game of retrieve or Frisbee. Be sure to teach "bring it" and "drop it" so you don't end up chasing Duke through several counties to get the ball back. These commands come in handy when the pup steals Mary's slippers or snitches an ornament off the Christmas tree as well. 

  • Each time you give the pup a toy or treat, say, "take it" before he puts it in his mouth. Grabbing is not allowed. When Bandit has mastered "sit," he should do so before the toy or food is offered. 

  • Put Daisy on a leash to teach the retrieve game so you can guide her back and get the ball. Grasp the ball firmly with one hand; open her mouth by placing the other hand over her muzzle and pushing in on her lips to protect your fingers from her teeth. Say, "give" and open her mouth to remove the toy. 

  • Don't be intimidated by puppy growling and don't overreact. As Daisy learns the appropriate responses, the growling will cease. 

  • Never play tug-of-war with a pup no matter how cute this growling ball of fluff looks on the other end of a rope or stick. If you give up the game, Rambo wins and advances up the leadership ladder. If you pull the rope from his teeth, you may hurt his tender young mouth. Puppies that learn to play tug-of-war frequently look at any moving piece of clothing as fair game, even if there's a child inside. 

  • Teach children that puppies must never be encouraged to chase or bite. Collies, Corgis, Shetland Sheepdogs and other herding breeds may try to round up children by nipping at their heels, but this, too, is unacceptable. Owners can understand that their herding breed pups may exhibit this behavior, but they should not allow it to continue. 

  • Use discipline, not punishment for infractions of the rules. A stern "no" or "quit it" and banishment to a crate should handle most infractions. Puppies should never be hit. 

  • Be persistent and consistent. If it was wrong yesterday, it's wrong today. 

  • The millions of dogs destroyed at animal shelters are testimony to the myth that good relationships with dogs develop automatically. You can avoid many of the behavior problems that often result in abandonment if by doing some basic training to teach Rover to inhibit his bite reflex. 




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