Friday, April 27, 2012
On Crate Training
In our recent, and popular, Bergan Comfort Carrier Review and Giveaway, we had a chance to touch on traveling with pets. Many pet owners, especially those with felines, feel the need to hire pet sitters, or even board their furry friends when they travel. Travel with a cat?! I've received some pretty strange looks when divulging our dirty little secret. After all felines are supposed to be stubborn, independent, creatures, right? Well, much like the very bad and unfair stereotypes on certain canine breeds, the myths about cat stubbornness and temperaments are based on the actions of ignorant owners. Just like a child, most any cat or dog, can be conditioned towards friendly dispositions and an easy going demeanor.
We already went through the proper 'travel carrier' adjustment procedures, but there is an additional series of training that can truly add a sense of structure and versatility to your pet's relationship; Crate Training.
Now, it's a simple fact that the term alone may not initially sit well with the hardcore pet lovers. Believe me, I am so anti 'caging' that I refuse to frequent zoos and aquariums. I am not advocating the practice of locking your pet up for the purpose of neglect, nor should an animal ever be caged and left alone for any serious period of time. However, a properly crate trained animal (crate can be a simple travel carrier, hooded bed, or pet crate) is often more confident, and easier to read than those who are not. While easiest to accomplish at a young age, I've seen animals of all backgrounds and ages adjust to the concept. Many pet owners will avoid negative terminology (such as crate or cage) and often refer to the designated area as 'home' or 'bed'.
While it is true, the animal will need to be confined in the space for brief period of supervised time during the training process, the area should eventually become a welcome place for the pet to come and go. An animal that is accustomed to the crate/bed/carrier will often learn to retreat there on command, when it has done something wrong, or when it feels stressed. In our household the designated area is a safe spot where the pets know they will not be messed with. This also makes travel, discipline, and unusual circumstances (guests and house cleaning) much less stressful. If the animal has to be confined for transport, discipline, or general safety confinement, it will respond much better to the territory it is already accustomed to.
You should have 2 ultimate goals when 'crate training'; to get your pet accustomed to being confined for short periods. And to ultimately train the pet to return to the cage/carrier/bed on command. This is especially useful in multi-pet households when introducing new pets, or with the introduction of children and new family members. Animals with excitement issues, and uncertainty around strangers, will also find the 'crate' space calming and naturally 'put themselves away' when they feel threatened or too excited. The training period will vary in length depending on the age and temperament of your pet but is a process I feel is ultimately invaluable for pet and human. Always ensure your pet has access to a proper water supply, and is allowed out (or crated with proper accommodations) for restroom breaks. Most importantly, reward your pet for progress during training, and (when using the crate space for discipline) never associate the designated area with negative reinforcement. You wan the crate/pad/carrier to be a home, not a prison!
Have questions, or thoughts to share about your crate training uses and experiences? Feel free to let us know what has worked for you- and be sure to consult your veterinarian about suggested methods and tips for your particular animal!