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Tips to make crate training your puppy easier

To those who have never crated or even owned a dog, the idea of crate training often comes off as cruel and unusual punishment. In reality, many dogs have a natural need for a den-like enclosure, and a crate satisfies that need, improving the animal's life as a result.

Crate training can also help dog owners housebreak a puppy. Dogs are reluctant to soil their sleeping places, so it can be easier to housebreak a pet that is crated than one that isn't. In addition, crating prevents destructive behavior and helps owners rest easy when they leave the home, knowing that their pet is safe in its crate and not likely to be exposed to harmful items around the house, be it household cleaning products or electrical wires.

While the benefits of crating are numerous for owner and dog alike, that doesn't mean the process will be easy. In fact, many dog owners struggle to get their best friends acclimated to their crates. When starting a dog's crate training, owners should consider the following tips.

* Crate the dog from the get-go. The earlier crate training begins, the more successful it is likely to be. Dogs who are crate trained when young often see their crates as a respite or a place to relax and hangout throughout the rest of their lives. So the earlier owners get started the more likely pets are to enjoy their crates.

* Never use the crate as punishment. A dog will likely never grow accustomed to or comfortable with its crate if the crate is used as a punishment for bad behavior. Owners are not buying the crate to act as a jail cell, but rather a comfortable and safe place for dogs to spend time during the day or sleep in at night. Using a crate as punishment, even if it's only done once, could make it impossible for owners to ever acclimate their pets to a crate.

* Make the crate a place the dog will want to be. A crate doesn't have to include just a bed and some bowls. A crate can be furnished with some of the dog's favorite toys and treats so the crate is a place the dog loves. When placing such items, place on the opposite side of the door opening. Because dogs will spend most of their time in the crate when their owners are away, it's best to only place larger toys that cannot be swallowed to prevent choking and illness. Inspect the crate daily to ensure no items have been chipped or broken and become choking hazards as a result.

* Don't isolate the crate. A crate should not be isolated from everyone in the home. When home, move the crate so the dog and crate are near you. If watching television in the living room, carry the crate into the room with you. This makes the crate more attractive and won't instill feelings of isolation in the dog when it's in the crate. In addition, the dog won't associate the crate with feelings of isolation when you're not home. At night, place the crate near your bed to further ensure the dog does not feel isolated when in its crate.

* Don't place the dog in the crate unless absolutely necessary. A dog should want to enter the crate. Owners who push or pull their dogs into the crate may find their dog will always be reluctant to enter the crate. If bed time arrives and the dog is genuinely reluctant to enter the crate, then owners might want to gently place the dog inside the crate. In such instances, make sure the crate is close to your own bed so the dog does not mistake being placed in the crate as punishment.

When crate training a dog, owners can easily grow frustrated. However, the more a dog associates the crate with positivity, the easier the process becomes.