Recently, Akasa Airlines followed Air India in allowing pets on board. However, whether your pet is flying in the passenger cabin or the cargo hold, it must travel in a crate. This is just one of the many advantages of crate training your pet. Some pet parents, though, misinterpret crate training as putting a pet in a cage or prison. In fact, it’s equivalent to giving your pet a room of its own, a secure place where it may unwind or rest.
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According to Sahil Sharma, a canine trainer, behaviourist, and co-founder of the Koira Club Pune, which provides dog training, behaviour modification and boarding, “The cornerstone of crate training should be building a positively conditioned emotional reaction to the crate.” He advises beginning crate training early, at the puppy stage itself.
Sharma says there are numerous advantages. Crate training speeds up toilet training because dogs prefer not to soil their sleeping areas. Additionally, the crate is a secure area for the pup to sleep in and stops it from exploring the house unsupervised in the middle of the night. It is feasible to move the crate into other settings if the pet is taught that a crate is a place of calm, which can be a game changer for anxious dogs. Invariably, it becomes a tool that can prevent the development of separation anxiety in some dog breeds.
Similarly, getting cats accustomed to a crate can be helpful in many situations other than travel. It is simpler to take them to the vet when they are at ease in their crate.
When I was visiting a friend in the US, I noticed that she had crate-trained her four dogs. They would go into their own crates, where they would sleep or play with their toys while she was away for a few hours. When she returned, they would be let out. It allowed for a schedule, prevented fights between the dogs when they were left alone, and at the same time, ensured that they were content even without her being present in the house. If your pet feels secure in a crate, it makes it easier for you to handle situations like car travel, emergency evacuations, and recovery from surgery.
The secret is in executing the training correctly. The following are some dos and don’ts for crate training from Sharma. Get a right-sized crate: one that allows the pet to easily circle, stand, and sleep on one side. Getting one that is too big for your puppy can actually delay the process of toilet training as it allows it to sleep on one end and soil the other end. Gradually introduce the crate to your dog—never push or force it into a crate. Making it a happy place with satisfying experiences is the goal. Initially, leave the crate open and place their toys or treats inside. They should be able to enter and leave of their own free will. Feed meals inside to help establish a favourable relationship. Ensure that the interior is cosy by placing bedsheets or a dog bed. To maintain your scent and calm an anxious dog, you can also use one of your old T-shirts. During the initial stages of training, make sure your pet is being actively monitored. As they get used to it, start closing the crate door for short periods of time.
Even with cats, leave the crate door unlocked at all times—don’t take it out only to go to the vet. To help them get used to it, let them investigate it—keep their food and toys inside.
Keep your puppy in the crate for no longer than he can be expected to hold his urine or bowel movements while you are crate training him. Do not ever use the crate to punish your pet. Put the crate somewhere quiet, so your pet can see you without being excessively stimulated. Additionally, be careful not to leave your pet inside a cage with a collar on since it could become entangled between the bars. Never shout at or agitate your pet when it is enjoying some downtime in the crate. Spend some quality time with them while they are in there.
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Starting early, being consistent, and making sure your pet associates this area with comfort are the keys to successful crate training.
Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai.