Puppies at seven or eight weeks old are very insecure about changes in their lives. Removing them from the safety of their mother, litter-mates and the only home they have ever known, is unsettling. So, for your young puppy, it’s a good idea to create a new safe place where he can feel secure. Feeding the little fellow in his crate will help start him off on the right foot, because at this stage, food is his solace. You can add a couple of indestructible toys to the crate when you introduce your puppy to this new environment to help put him at ease.
If you plan to have your puppy double as a pet and a hunter, you’re going to want to house train him. My wife, Dana, wrote a book on this subject and it can be purchased on Amazon (Housebreak your Puppy in Two Days, and Make Him the Family Star).
When you introduce your puppy to his crate for the first time, it should be a pleasant experience. At his young age, it’s doubtful that he will offer any resistance other than stiffening up as you place him into this new home. All puppies, and even adult dogs, want a comfortable and pleasant place where they feel safe and it’s your job as an owner and trainer to create that place for them.
As the puppy gets older, he may become reluctant to enter his crate. This is not a character flaw, he is just beginning to feel a bit independent. Later, as he matures, an open crate can become a comfort zone when he needs a place to be alone or take a nap. A washable towel or mat in the bottom of the crate is a good idea because later, you can remove it and use it to train your dog to stay in a desired place. Mat-trained dogs are easy to take into motel rooms, for example, and that training begins at home. Dogs relax when they know what’s expected of them and staying on a mat is a good way to introduce the idea of obedience.
A friend of mine was very critical because I used a crate to house my two young puppies overnight. On several occasions she voiced her opinion that it was cruel to have a young puppy spend his nights in a crate. “I only put my dog in her crate for short periods of time, mostly when I’m in my car,” she huffed. Then there came a day when she could not find her dog in the house after searching for quite a while. Just as panic was about to set in, she finally found her dog. She was asleep in a traveling crate that had been placed in a hallway with its door left slightly open. She was astounded to see that her dog felt safe and comfortable in the confines of her traveling crate while inside the house. Now she leaves the crate door open all the time for her dog to enjoy at any time of the day.
It takes a bit of work, fellow trainers, but the rewards of providing a safe haven for your dog will be realized when you hunt over a now well-adjusted dog in the field. Always have fun training.
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Grady’s articles generally appear in WON every other week and he can be reached at reibar.com.