Thursday, April 2, 2009

Modern-Day Living With Pets: Crate Training and Dens

Today’s pet owner has many options when it comes to training and caring for their pet from natural food products to orthopedic dog pillows. Crates are a great tool for modern-day pet owners since they provide dogs with their own space inside the home and give pet owners a break. This article helps dog owners understand the short-term and long-term benefits of crate training and provides a guide to ‘dens’, an emerging trend in pet care, and why you need one for lifelong dog training and care.

Benefits of Crates and Crate Training Tips
Crates serve an important purpose in dog and puppy training – housetraining, teaching dog to relax and calm down, giving owners and dog a break, keep dog and house safe.

Crates are great for puppy housetraining as it goes against their nature to soil where they sleep. Crates also serve as a ‘safe place’ for puppies and dogs when there is too much action in the house to properly watch them or care for them. Dogs crave den-like enclosures and feel best in cave-like spaces, so crates appeal to their natural instincts and help them feel comfortable – great for breaks from playtime or after a long walk! Plus crate training is easy.

Here are 3 keys to successful crate training:
1. Make the crate comfy. This begins with making sure you get the right size for your dog. You want your dog to be able to walk in, turn around and lay down. No bigger, no smaller. If the crate is too big, your pup won’t get the benefits the cozy den he craves. If the crate is too small, your dog will feel cramped. Also, be sure to put a comfy bed inside the crate to make it feel snug and keep it warm. Dogs know the difference and appreciate the comfort of a soft bed.

2. Put the crate in a place your dog likes to be, near you in a room you and your family spend a lot of time. Pets want to be near you and all the fun.

3. Get your dog used to its crate gradually. Start with the crate door open, pet and give treats to your pup while inside the crate (lots of treats!). Close the door for a few seconds at first, with treats inside, letting your pup out and giving him lots of praise. Every time you crate your pup, load up the crate with treats. Gradually increase the time your dog spends in the crate, always putting lots of your dog’s favorite treats inside each time he goes in. Once your dog is used to going inside his new home, try this: put treats in, close the crate door with your dog on the outside and watch as he begs to get into the crate. You can even turn training into a fun game like ‘hide and seek’ with his favorite toy.

So, crates are great and crate training is easy, right? It’s a great place to keep your dog safe and to give him the break he needs. But, it’s ugly. We know that and that’s why we’ll next tell you about ‘dens’, sometimes referred to as ‘dog crate furniture’, and it allows you to integrate your pet into your home with just one purchase.

Dens – A Home for Your Pet, Furniture for You
When Sally from Bellevue, WA learned about dog dens for her dog Jasper she recognized the key benefit right away – replacing his plastic training crate and gaining a piece of furniture for herself. What she didn’t know was she was purchasing a product that would bring hundreds of hours of peace and relaxation for Jasper. A den acts as a crate, a bed and an end table (that’s right, furniture) all in one. Dens are a new trend in pet care and are increasing in popularity since they actually provide function beyond the first year of having a dog, serving as a home for your dog and beautiful furniture for you to keep for many years to come. Dens also appeal to a dog’s natural instincts for a cave-like space similar to those their ancestors used and a wall to lean against. A key feature of a den is that it evolves as your dog matures. Sally started out using her den to secure Jasper until he was fully housetrained and to keep the rambunctious pup safe when she entertained guests at home. Now that Japer is older and trained she leaves the door off, using it as Jasper’s home, letting him come and go as he pleases. As you can see, dens are a great compliment to your home and serve an important function in dog training and lifelong care.

Now that you know about dens, it’s important to know what to look for when shopping for one.

Start with Your Home Décor and Lifestyle
Think about where you spend time at home and where you want the dog to spend time with you and your family. Living room? Kitchen? Bedroom? All three? Dens come in many shapes, sizes and materials, so it’s important to think about where the den will be so you can match it to your home furnishings and décor. Since dens are really furniture, it is important to consider where you need a piece of furniture as well. You may elect to get more than one den for multiple rooms in the house. Having a den in the bedroom can be especially helpful if you like to have your dog close at night, but do not want him taking up valuable space in your bed. Since the den will serve as furniture for you for many years to come, you will want to think about whether or not you prefer classic or modern style.

Not all Dens are the Same
Avoid the dens that are wicker or plastic. These are not sturdy enough for most dogs and will not last beyond a few years, if that. Also be sure to look for dens that have the option to lock the door and remove the door or keep it open. This will allow you to get the full benefit of a den as your pet matures. In the beginning years as you train you will want to secure the dog often, then as he learns what he can and can’t chew on, when and where to relieve himself, etc. you can remove the door and the den becomes his space, his home that he can freely enter and exit.

Be Sure to Consider Your Dog’s Personality and Size
When searching for that perfect modern or classic den, consider the size of your pet in terms of height and length. You want to make sure your den is big enough to allow your pet to walk in, turn around and lay down. Also, you want to make sure the den isn’t too big so your dog can feel snug and secure. If you have a puppy, get measurements for a full-grown dog for his breed or for a mix breed, get the measurements for a full-grown in the largest breed in his mix. It is best to measure height and length of your dog and compare with the dimensions of the den to ensure proper fit.

You’re Ready!
Armed with these tips on crate training and den living you’re ready to start living better with your pet at home. After all, better living means better relationships and according to Cesar Millan, professional dog trainer (star of his TV series, The Dog Whisperer), a strong relationship is the key to easy training and an obedient dog.

About the Author
Written by Becky Sparks Parker, member of the
DenHaus Design Team. DenHaus is a Seattle-based firm designing dens that function as furniture for you and homes for pets.