Most pets will need to spend time in a crate or travel carrier at some point in their lives, whether it’s while being transported in a vehicle, during a boarding, grooming or a hospitalization stay, or in an emergency situation. Pets that are already familiar with and comfortable in a crate will experience significantly less stress and anxiety during those times when kenneling is required.
Although many people believe kenneling a pet is cruel, when used correctly, a crate can provide a safe haven for a dog or cat. Not only can it offer a quiet spot to rest, kenneling can help with overall training, as well.
Canine Crate Training
Your dog’s crate should be just large enough for him or her to stand in and turn around. If your dog is still a puppy, be sure to purchase a crate that will accommodate his or her adult size. Dogs like to feel like they’re part of the action, so situate the crate in an area of the house where your family spends a lot of time, but that is still quiet enough to be a refuge.
Begin training by offering treats inside the crate. Once your dog has accepted this, begin to serve meals inside, near the back end of the crate. If your dog is comfortable standing and eating inside the crate, you may close the door, opening it as soon as the meal is over. Slowly increase the amount of time your dog is inside the crate with the door closed, based on his or her comfort level.
Because you want your dog to associate the crate with positive feelings, it should never be used as a punishment tool. Similarly, don’t leave your dog in the crate for too long as this can cause a dog to become depressed or overly anxious. Puppies under 6 months of age should not be crated for more than 3-4 hours at a time. After your dog has learned the rules of the house, the crate should be in a place he or she will tend to go voluntarily.
Feline Crate Training
Contrary to popular belief, cats can not only be trained to tolerate a crate or travel carrier, they can learn to love it as well.
There are a variety of cat carriers on the market, but many cat owners have had success using one with collapsible walls and doors. Make the inside of the carrier as welcoming as possible by lining it with cozy blankets and favorite toys. Offer treats and meals in and around it. As your cat begins to accept his or her new “den”, try adding the walls and eventually the doors (if using a collapsible one).
Once your cat is comfortable being closed in the carrier, pick it up and walk it around the house. Move on to taking short car rides, lengthening the amount of time spent in the carrier at your cat’s pace.
The carrier should be located in an area where your cat already enjoys spending time, this could be tucked into a corner of your bedroom, or up on a shelf in the family room. The point is for your cat to eventually view the carrier as a natural habitat. Experiment with different locations if your cat is uninterested at first.
Your team at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center is happy to answer any of your questions regarding crate and carrier training for your pet. Don’t hesitate to give us a call!