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Crate Escapes

For easier house-training, tap into your dog's denning instincts

a white dog rests in a dog crate in the back of a truck.Teaching house rules to a new dog can be a challenge, especially when it comes to puppies.

Limited time in a crate (no more than a few hours at a time) can expedite house-training and keep your pet out of trouble while you're working together on rules such as chewing and other destructive behaviors.

After your pup has mastered inside manners, the crate can serve a new purpose, providing a familiar space when traveling or a cozy getaway from noisy guests.

But to get to that point, you and your pup need to share the same view of the crate.

A hand holds a green ball with raised pink paws and blue bones.To start, you need to get your dog comfortable with the crate. To pique his interest, celebrated dog coach Tamar Geller suggests tossing a chew toy or favorite treat inside or placing his food in the back of the kennel. "You teach them to associate the crate with really, really good things." This can be reinforced with rewards for going in but not for coming out.

For puppies younger than 3 months, start with two-hour increments in the crate. "It's like when you have a baby and put them down for a nap." To expend his youthful energy, give him a chew toy. If he whines, toss a magazine next to the crate as an annoying distraction. When he eliminates outside or on the pee pad after his nap, provide lavish praise, a favorite treat and 30 minutes of playtime outside the crate. If he doesn't go, re-crate him for 10 minutes and try again.

A spaniel rests in an elegant crate.Once the dog is fully trained, the door to his crate stays open. He can use it to get away from a high-strung housemate or curl up inside for a power nap. "Whenever I tell him to go in the crate, he runs into it with his tail wagging, like he's getting ready for a party," says one dog owner. "He knows it means we're going somewhere or getting a treat."

See more Tips for Crate-Training Success

allanimals Vol. 16, Issue 1, January/February 2014 © 2014 The Humane Society of the United States. All rights reserved. Article by Ruthanne Johnson