Crate Training

I know that in the past I have already mentioned using the puppies crate for its 'home'. We have had several calls for more details and a simple WHY use a crate? AND how in the world do you get a pup to LIKE it?
Aside from the obvious damage that can be done through boredom & absence of authority the main purpose is to insure that you and your family STAY in love with Pup as Pup quickly progresses to Dog.

Lets cover a few facts and information and then get back to the subject of crate training

Our Llewellins are certainly domesticated animals; but still retaining the scenting instinct should suggest to us that they are not nearly as domesticated as a powder-puff dog.

While yours may adapt very well to living in the home, its littermate may never step foot into a house. Even if you do not plan to keep Pup indoors it is always a good idea to make sure Pup is housebroken. After all a hunting trip, extremes in temperature, an injury, or some other unknown circumstance can prove it was wise to have done so.

HOWEVER, allow me to stress a point... The Llewellin is a better field dog if made a pet to begin with. A major part of the pet aspect IS house breaking as well as all the puppy games. Pup learns right from wrong in the home, in a variety of ways that carry over to field training. Pup sure learns a lot of the English language. Think about it. If Pup is underfoot when you are kicked back for the evening, there is time for fetch, behavioral commands and much more that Pup would not get if in the dog lot for the evening. Pup soon learns to curl up and snooze when you are doing the same. In other words, Pup becomes a part of your daily life and that part is purely pleasure. Let the entire family know in advance what is expected of them. Kids need to feel a part of Pups training and development and not just to think of Pup as a plaything.

A quick note on an older pup or dog in reference to housebreaking and assuming that you already have a good word command relationship established. Note the time of taking indoors. Do not let Dog wander about unattended, rather have Dog lie down beside your chair. In this way you can watch him. At the first sign of restlessness, assume that it is a need for relief and take Dog outdoors. Stay there with him until the deed is done. Then return indoors with praise. Continue to keep a close watch, even to the extent of following Dog about the house. Another point to remember is that even a well-housebroken male will hike a leg (marking of territory) when first brought into the house after an extended absence or in a new location and especially if you have a Dog II in the house also. Watch closely, it will happen quickly, a firm NO will do the job, enforced with a good swat on the rump (which is close to the part of the anatomy that is performing the wrong action).

Setting a schedule for yourself, for trips outside whether he shows any 'signs' or not will help a great deal. Future training depends on the understanding developed between Pup and master (as in pupil and teacher). All is based on companionship that has awakened a love and developed confidence and understanding.

Anyway back to the subject at hand

The Llewellin likes its' comfort no matter where 'home' is. The Llewellin also likes to BE clean and likes its' home clean. Where your Llewellin lives does not effect its' field ability. What affects that ability is the bond between you and your Llewellin. This has to do with the domesticated side of the Setter.

On the other side is the instinct to gravitate toward a den-like security. I noticed last week that Dee (my puppy from our last Russian litter) has discovered the art of digging a hole. This week she has it deep and angled enough to get her shoulders into. She is having too good a time for me to stop her. Yes, I know that I will wish I had later. The reason for me bringing this up is that generations of these Russian Setters have totally lived in a house. They have NO yards. It has to be pure instinct for Dee to make her tunnel. So, I let her.

Now we come to the true point of this writing. This begins with day ONE of Pups life with your family. You have invested money in this dog. Now you must decide to invest one full week of your time. You do not have to take a week vacation. You only have to dedicate the time you are at home to Pup in order to insure that Pup happily & smoothly settles in at his/her new home.

The crate concerns another aspect of any sporting dog and its natural, although domesticated, instinct; that of a definite "Den" instinct.

There is a sense of security for Pup, having a place of its own. Pups prove to gravitate toward a den-like security. Pup will learn your daily routine, finding a 'place' in each room of the house that you spend time in. AND he will learn this with each member of the family! This place will be close to whomever he is currently with. Most of my pups quickly find the special place under our large Plantation Partners Desk at my feet. In the evening this place will be beside your recliner, sofa, hobby area, computer or in the kid's room.

In your home if the introduction is handles correctly, Pup will soon come to think of the dog crate or shipping kennel as one of these places. The den/crate is a shelter, a secure place. I have had many a pup that goes to the crate and shuts the door to get away from the grandsons. Small spaces are secure spaces. Not too small, it should be large enough for an 8-week-old pup to triple in size and still be able to stand up and turn around in it. Line the floor of the crate with a piece of bound (so Puppy can't shred the edges) carpet remnant. These can be easily replaced when soiled and are comfortable. Puppy will not be able to drag it out and make a mess. Add to this an old bathmat for snuggling comfort.

There is a proper way to start Puppy in his new home. ALWAYS keep in mind the crate should be associated with pleasure NOT punishment. A den does not have a door. Use of the door comes AFTER Pup consistently goes in on his own accord.

If Puppy's first encounter with his new crate is to be thrust in and the door locked; you have just put Puppy in prison.

Do not use the door on the crate until Puppy goes in on his own accord.

Let Pup go in and out, in and out, and in and out. Give Puppy a treat when you see him go in. (Later you can lure Puppy in with a treat.)

Put Puppy's toys in the crate. Think of it as Puppy's toy-box.

Do not put Puppy's food & water in the crate (Puppy does not need to add bladder control to his other problems.)

Once Puppy makes the crate 'home' close the door and leave the room for gradually increasing lengths of time.

NEVER open the door while Puppy is howling. LET Pup out immediately upon your return to the room, BEFORE he has time to remind you.

Try to avoid putting Pup in while he is in one of his rip & romp sessions.

AGAIN don't put Pup in right after he has had a meal. Allow time to void and a brief playtime.

WAIT until Puppy is calm before you open the door - you maintain control and reinforce calm behavior.

Let's back up a bit to the very first few hours of Pup in your home.

First of all if Pup need a bath after the trip, give him one. No cream rinse or conditioners for Pup. If you haven't purchased dog shampoo use the antibacterial hand soap in your bathroom. Talk to Pup during the bath. Don't be uptight or rushed. Be sure to rinse the soap residue away under running water and have 2 towels on hand. Dry off most of the water with the first towel. Use the second towel to wrap Pup in and take Pup to your kickback & relax area and rub and talk to Pup till he is thoroughly dry. As Pup gets older bathe weekly or if he gets into something really nasty outside, as needed. The drying and brushing are enough 'reward' to insure bath time does not become an ordeal. Soon the word, BATH, will be eagerly reacted to and Pup will beat you there. We have more than one dog, which we have to make sure the bathroom door is closed if we do not want to 'share' the shower.

Let Pup down to explore and find a quiet place on his own. Simply WAIT for Pup to relax, take a nap and come out on his own. Let Pup come to you! Pet and cuddle and then consider food and water.

Although the point of this writing is the crate training, one cannot get to that point without discussing Pups feeding and comfort associated with the feeding schedule. Remember the mention of bladder discomfort? Everything about Pup, crate, feeding, ect; always brings you back to one subject, that of house breaking.

Be consistent!

Be consistent in everything you do with Pup. NEVER leave the food and/or water dish down UNTIL Pup learns to tell you he is ready to go outside! I have family members who cannot do this for some reason. Pup will NEVER housebreak if you do not follow this one rule.

Start with a cup or handful of feed, more next time if that did not seem to be enough and gradually increase Pups 'full' amount as Pup grows. Moistened food will insure that Pup eats a full meal and will have a good urge to void. As soon as Pup is through eating escort Pup to the door you want him to learn to use and go outside with him. Walk well away from the door (because Pup will use the same area again and again) TO A PRE-SELECTED AREA. Issue a command associated with the function (such as 'business' or 'potty' or simply 'outside') as you walk out the door and only repeat the command again WHEN the 'business' is being done. The tricky part here is that Pup needs to both pee and poop. Do you wait for both to be done? Do you praise at the first, go back in and watch for the second? Keep in mind that the first trip out Pup will be distracted from his purpose with this new area to explore. Be patient, stand back and wait. Do not 'take him for a walk' or play with him. Hopefully Pup will have put the purpose off until both happen in quick succession, whereupon you scoop up Pup, hug and praise and return indoors. If NOTHING happens, do not punish in any way simply take him back inside talking in reassuring tones. Wait a few minutes . . . . . Watch Pup constantly. Take Pup back outside if you see him increase his speed of steps and/or circle in one place. IT WORKED THIS TIME! If Pup plays hard between meals and you think he needs a drink, go ahead and give it to him. A good rule of thumb here is to have a drink yourself when you water Pup and when you are thirsty again, Pup will be also. Puck up the dish ­ outside ­ wait ­ praise ­ return indoors. Patience and consistency are the rule.

Yes, I know I digress again. But, some subjects need to be addressed or enlarged upon in the proper order. Although this might be repetitive for some of you readers, it cannot be avoided for those of you who are new to our venue and this is the only writing one had read on the subject(s).

The simple truth is that without housebreaking one cannot crate train.

Use of the crate should not replace the yard or exercise pen. Pup, because he is a birddog and not a powder puff dog, should not be expected to 'live' in the crate the entire day while you are at work. This will result in too much pent up energy upon release. Think this through and this is enough said. Would you think of the crate as a secure place?

Why do you need a crate for a house broken pup? Puppy will feel more secure when left alone. I am sure you have heard someone say something like, "I can't leave Buffy at home alone, she will tear up something of mine because she gets mad at me for leaving." Of course now a days there is physiological treatment for dogs. And drug therapy. Prevention makes for a lot better medicine, in my opinion. This prevention will allow for 15 years of a loving companionable dog.

BUT, WHAT DO I DO ABOUT THE FIRST FEW NIGHTS, BEFORE THIS MIRACLE HAPPENS?????

Simply use a big box. Use a big DISPOSABLE box, if puppy potties in it, have another in the garage or shed.

All pups will return to the same spot to void, so do everything you can to eliminate the evidence. The new products on the market like "Febreeze" are wonderful. They really work. Show Pup the 'mistake' with a firm NO and pointing finger (I see no reason to rub Pups nose in it, as some recommend), put Pup outside, and clean up the evidence and spray with Febreeze.

Let us back up a half step to the mistake part. If Pup is punished for voiding he will become fearful and anxious. The advantage of a crate is the security; when Pup feels secure and calm it makes housebreaking much easier. If Pup is punished at the wrong time he may NEVER housebreak!

The box is for the first week or so of nighttime mistakes. Mistakes also can be controlled. Some puppies are just like toddlers, some can hold it and some can't. Again, remember, no feed or water too close to bedtime. Nearly all pups will cry the first night or so. If Pup seems frantic he may need to potty. Take Pup out and if nothing happens, put him back in the box and ignore the cries. AND resolve to let Pup outside BEFORE he hears you up and about in the morning and demands release.

Although Pup is shipped with shredded newspaper in the floor of the crate, which reduces skin contact with what can't be controlled while shipping, her new home will be carpeted (you sure don't want to shred paper for the crate, Puppy will string it everywhere). Fill a hot-water bottle and tuck it into a corner. Remember the bathmat or old towel. Give Puppy a stuffed toy that is really soft. Give Puppy a chew toy. You will quickly learn his favorites. Give Puppy a ball, preferably one that rattles or jingles. I know you're not supposed to do that (small objects that a pup can swallow), but, a little puppy has to chew a l-o-n-g time before that bell falls out; chances are that Puppy will loose it before that time. Just check it for damage while you are tossing it across the room for Puppy. Puppy will very soon bring it back for you to throw again. Guess What? You just taught Puppy to retrieve! SORRY, BACK TO THE BOX SUBJECT.

TURN THE BOX ON ITS SIDE DURING THE NEXT DAY. Place the toys in the crate. Let Puppy go in and out. Yes, the same as the crate. If you need a door on this box (anytime you're not in the room to keep an eye on Puppy), simply turn it back upright. Throw out the box just as soon as Puppy learns to like the crate.

Puppy WILL soon relate punishment to the box. This is just a temporary night box, and only used until Puppy discovers the crate. Play with Puppy by tossing the ball or the toy into the crate, let Puppy go in and out. Remember the treats. Keep the box and the crate in close proximity. Puppy will soon CHOOSE the crate. It will happen when Puppy can't be found and is finally located sound asleep, with his paw on his stuffed toy in his crate!

And by the way, by this time Pup has learned to keep your hours, whatever they may be. It is amazing to me how easily a pup can adapt to the varied schedules of different families. You will soon learn to prepare the coffee pot the night before, switch it on, open Pups door, put down the water bowl and soon head for the door. By the time you're back the coffee is ready and so is PUP. What did you do before you had Pup for company?

In any case, if you keep Pup or Dog inside too long, the fault lies with you and not Pup or Dog. Be careful not to punish for YOUR errors. Pup will know it and will resent it. AND that will make it harder to teach other things.

Just remember that it will all be worth the effort. Just knowing that both Puppy and your house are safe while you are away will make it all worthwhile.