“My Dog Is Friendly…”

Have you ever encounter an off leash dog running toward you while its owner calls out “My dog is friendly”? I have and too many times. If I get a dollar for each time I hear that sentence, I would have been rich already!

As an owner of a social-selective dog (he only likes a small group of dogs) and a dog behavior consultant working with dogs who have reactivity issues, “My dog is friendly” is the last sentence I want to hear especially if an off-leash dog is present.

Oftentimes, in my experiences, when a dog owner needs to tell me their dog is friendly is usually their dog doesn’t have a good reliable recall. Let me give you two examples that really resonate with me thus the reason for this article.

One time, I was walking my fearful dog on a hilly winding street without side walk. We saw an off-leash Labrador looking dog coming towards us. For my dog’s sanity and safety, I picked him up and I looked for an owner to that dog. No person was in sight. I called out “Can you call your dog?” and was hoping the owner would hear me and call the dog back. Then, I heard the owner called out “My dog is friendly!!!” as the dog gave us a low and deep warning growl while we stood at some distance away. How would that be a friendly dog? Can you imagine what that dog would do if he got closer to us? The owner was NOT apologetic at all when I told him my dog wasn’t friendly toward big dogs.

Recently, I was just finishing up a training session with a client and her dog near a busy strip of a street in a small town. We saw a big Cane Corso standing in the middle of the street, no owner, no leash, nothing. People nearby saw the dog and they tried to get the dog’s attention so he would come back to the side of the street for safety but he didn’t respond to any of those nice people’s calling. Then, the owner showed up, trying to call her dog. No luck. By this time, the dog moved to the local park with grassy area and peed, still not going back to his owner. At the time, where were a few people enjoying their afternoon in the park. One of them was a petite woman who acted very afraid of the dog and wanted to move away from the dog. As she moved away, she kept saying “I am really afraid of dogs! Don’t come over!” The owner of the dog still didn’t call her dog back but replied “my dog is friendly”. The dog was happily running around on the grassy area with the freedom he gained. I worried the dog would go back to the traffic or approaching that petite lady so I called for the dog and showed him some treats. Luckily, he was actually friendly and liked my treats so he came to me. He had a prong collar on so I didn’t want to just grab on that collar. As I gave the dog treats, one after another, the owner stood at some distance away from us beaming with smile and said “He is friendly”. I had to remind her to come to us so she would leash up the dog. Because I was able to keep the dog by my side, that petite lady was able to move further away without getting more stressed out.

Now you see why I would think “My dog is friendly” means “My dog doesn’t have a reliable recall”. It’s great that your dog is friendly. However, the truth is (1) the dog should not be off-leash in a leash law enforced area (city street in both cases) (2) there are people and other dogs who are afraid of the dog no matter how friendly this dog is. When you allow your friendly dog approach someone without invitation or consent, your dog is invading that individual space and adding on stress that is unnecessary. We don’t teach our children to run up to any strangers to interact with them. We don’t allow strangers run up to us and touch us. We always keep a polite distance so we don’t intrude each other’s space. We should do the same with dogs.

One thing I really enjoyed during the pandemic was the social distancing. It made walking my dog so much more enjoyable and stress-free because we kept social distancing from each other. With effective COVID vaccinations, we no longer need to keep the social distancing. However, I would still strongly encourage my readers to keep your distance especially if you and your dog see other people and their dogs. This is a way to show our consideration and care to others when using a public space.

If you don’t own a sensitive dog, you never know how many of us have to join the “midnight walking club” just so we wouldn’t run into other dogs while walking our sensitive dogs. You also wouldn’t realize how stressful and disappointing we may feel when we couldn’t provide safety to our sensitive dogs.

I, as one of the many owners with sensitive dogs, would really appreciate your support if you can help keeping your dog away from my or my clients’ sensitive dogs.

If you are the owner of a truly friendly dog, please consider to do the following:

(1) Keep your dog on-leash when walking in a leash law enforced area.

(2) Keep your dog close to you, away from the other dog as you pass each other.

(3) Don’t let your dog stare at the other dog for a prolonged time. Eye-staring is threatening in dog’s body language. If the sensitive dog is already stressed, the prolonged eye stare can really set the fearful dog off.

(4) Don’t let your dog run up to anyone or any dog. Have a structured greeting after you get the other owner’s permission and their dog’s consent.

If you are the owner of a not-always-friendly dog, please consider doing the following:

(1) Keep your dog on-leash and away from other dogs when walking in a leash law enforced area.

(2) Figure out the safe distance so you can keep your dog feeling safe and happy without needing to get unfriendly. Utilize treats or toys if your dog likes such.

(3) Keep your dog close to you, away from the other dog as you pass each other.

(4) Don’t let your dog stare at the other dog for a prolonged time. Eye-staring is threatening in dog’s body language. If the sensitive dog is already stressed, the prolonged eye stare can really set the fearful dog off.

If you are the owner of a sensitive dog, please consider doing the following to help your dog feel safer:

(1) Check out “Sniff Spot” (https://www.sniffspot.com/) so you can enjoy a location that’s free of distractions and threats.

(2) Consider enrolling your dog in a group class if he/she can handle the environment. Otherwise, consider hiring a dog training professional such as myself to learn more techniques to help your dog cope with the situations.

(3) If your dog likes treats or toys, bring them with you on the walk so that you can engage your dog with something fun while keeping distance away from other dogs.

(4) Learn to read your dog’s body language so that you can help de-escalate their stress before they get too scared or too stressed.

Let’s be considerate to all others while using the same space. No one should feel unsafe when they are out and about.

The Power of Mat Work

Recently, I have met several dogs who are constantly jumping for attention and don’t understand how to modulate their energy. These dogs are like Energizer Bunnies that are always on the go. Their body is constantly experiencing cortisol overflow and this makes the dogs have a hard time to settle down and relax. These dogs would benefit from learning how to relax using mat settle exercise to teach them the on/off switch.

Mat settle, mat work, stationing, place, etc. call it whatever you want. This is a very useful training exercise and tool to help a dog to learn to relax and dial back on the energy powerhouse. I also think this is one of the most under-utilized and practiced behaviors when talking about obedience training by the owners. There are several benefits to teach dogs this exercise:

  • When you have multiple dogs in the household, teaching the dogs to got to their mats help ensure safe space from each other so you can manage resource guarding or a young jumpy puppy annoying a slow/senior dog.
  • With a designated location (mat or platform), it serves as a visual cue to the dog so they can stay within the boundaries. This would help when working with dogs who lack of impulse control and always want to chase moving objects.
  • For a shy/fearful dog, this serves as a safety blanket/safe zone. When the dog is in the zone, he learns he can be relaxed and feel safe. The owners is responsible to ensure the safety of the dog in the zone. It also serves as a visual boundary so people walking by can be aware of the space without getting too close to the dog.
  • When you have a busy-buddy dog who is always ON, this teaches the dog to relax on the mat thus he can get into a relaxed state faster. It is also a good default behavior for a dog to learn so that he doesn’t always need to participate in action or seek attention from others.
  • You can certainly use the location of the mat to teach your dog positioning in other more advanced training.
  • For a Service Dog team, this is an important default behavior while in the public so they can be calmly staying by their handler’s side without interrupting others.

There are many ways to teach the mat settle exercise. The detailed version is explained in Dr. Overall’s Relaxation Protocol (you can do a simple Google search to find the info). I usually start with a simple treat tossing onto the mat/bed to introduce the mat settle exercise. There are two key concepts: (1) reward the dog when he’s on the mat. This makes staying on the mat valuable. (2) place the reward treats on the mat without using a clicker/marker. This is to encourage the dog to relax. The licking behavior is also a self-soothing behavior. This helps to get the dog into a relaxation state quicker than just rewarding the staying on the mat itself.

Fenix is a dog who always seeks attention and he doesn’t know how to relax. His mom told me that he would never relax and didn’t know how to stay on his bed. We worked on the mat settle exercise in our first session. Within 15 minutes, Fenix started to offer a down behavior on his mat. By the end of the session, he preferred to stay on his mat rather than jumping on me for attention or to earn his treats. His mom worked diligently with him after our session. His mom shared these photos and was impressed on how Fenix has mastered the relaxation; not only would Fenix choose to go onto to his bed without being told, he is also showing more relaxed body posture while he is on his bed. This gives his mom more free time to focus her attention at work rather than constantly trying to find ways to manage Fenix or find outlets to entertain Fenix.

From top left/top right/bottom left/bottom right, it shows how Fenix gets more relaxed as the days go by. Photo credit: Kelly

Kalani is another dog who benefits from mat settle exercise. Kalani is food motivated. But sometimes her eagerness for food leads to competing for free food when there are other dogs nearby. In the video, we worked on ignoring the food tossed on the ground. She worked on staying on her mat and ignore free food. Her reward comes from mom hand-delivers yummy treats to her!

Kalani worked on advanced mat settle with leave it. Video credit: Kat

How to Make Homemade Dehydrated Chicken Jerky

It’s the 5th month that we are still under Shelter in Place order with limited business reopen. While I am not fully back to provide in-person dog behavior consultation and training, I continue to use this time to improve my knowledge on canine behavior by attending webinars and online workshops. As much as I can read and observe from my canine learning materials, I still need other things to spice up my daily routine which leads me to explore the fun of homemade dog treats.

My dog, Bailey, always enjoys homemade treats more than store-bought. Chicken jerky is one of the few items he would eat if I get it from stores. Because of his age (going to be 11 years old in 3 months!) and teeth condition, I notice he doesn’t like store-bought chicken jerky as much as before. He would still eat them but requires the jerky to be cut into small bits for easy chewing. So, I decide to make homemade jerky for him so I can control the thickness and hardness of the jerky.

What you need to make homemade chicken jerky:

  • A dehydrator (I have this one: Nesco Professional 600W 5-Tray Food Dehydrator, FD-75PR)
  • 2 packs of frozen chicken breasts
  • 8-12 hours drying time depending on the thickness of the meat

You can use pretty much any meat protein that your dog likes to make into jerky. I have tested with beef, chicken, chicken hearts, chicken gizzards, smelts, calamari and squids. I used to get these ingredients from a local Asian supermarket but due to COVID-19, I haven’t been to my favorite Asian supermarket for as long as we are in SIP. Because these proteins are raw, it is recommended to freeze for at least 3 weeks to minimize any potential parasite risks. Store-bought, human-grade meats are pretty safe because most of them are pre-frozen, but I still like to freeze it for 3 weeks before I get it ready for jerky.

Once the meat is frozen for 3 weeks, I take the meat out of freezer to defrost. While it is semi-frozen, that’s the time to cut the meat into the desirable thin layers. After the 2 packages of chicken breasts are all cut to size, place them on the dehydrator trays with space between each piece. This time, I made some thin chicken chips and chicken twists, just for fun.

Raw chicken pieces are ready for DH~

The temperature to dehydrate protein is set at 160° F or 71° C. Depends on how thick the pieces are, it would take at least 8-12 hours for chicken. For oily meat or fish, you will need to keep it for longer time. If you are doing bully sticks, it can go up to 36 hours.

Nesco Professional 600W 5-Tray Food Dehydrator, FD-75PR

So, while the meat is in the dehydrator drying, I have time to listen to quite a few webinars and learned about dealing with dog-dog aggression cases and helping fearful and anxious dogs through play.

After 4 hours in the dehydrator,the meat is already looking like a jerky but still soft in some parts that are thicker.

I kept checking on the meat and finally, they looked DONE after 9 hours!

Chicken jerky & chicken twist

Once the jerky is done, let it cool on a cookie rack for at least 2 hours. Don’t rush to put them into a plastic zip-loc bag or a mason jar while the jerky is still warm. This would make it go rancid quickly.

I like to let the jerky cool off for at least 2-3 hours, sometimes overnight, before I store them in a zip-loc bag or a cookie jar. Since it is a relatively big batch when I make jerky, I usually leave 1/3 of the portion out for a week to use. Keep the 2/3 portion in an air-tight container for up to 6 weeks.

Bailey did a quality control and loved it.

I Spy A Mask!

It’s now April, 2020 and we are in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic. According to World Health Organization (WHO), Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new strain that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.

However, first human infected case was documented in December 2019, and has since quickly spread to 209 countries with 62,955 confirmed death, as of this blog is written. Check out WHO website for latest updates: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

California has quickly issued Shelter in Place order since mid March in the attempt to flatten the curve. It is also becoming an obvious and safe practice to wear masks when going out to public space.

With more and more people wearing masks and other protective gears, it presents a new scary view to our pet dogs. Our dogs are used to seeing our facial expression. Now, our faces are covered by masks, scarves or other materials, it is an unusual sight to dogs. As we all know, any minute change in the dog’s environment can lead to stress if not properly introduced.

You may start to notice your dog gets more reactive with staring, barking, and lunging toward people wearing masks on your walks. In fact, my dog, Bailey, just barked at a small kid wearing a scarf when we stopped to chat with our neighbors while we stayed at more than 6 feet away!

Knowing that we will see more people wearing facial protection gears, it is important to help your dog understand a person wearing a mask is not scary by doing some desensitization training.

I can be scary looking!

Here are some steps you can try to help your dog get comfortable seeing a person with mask:

Let your dog check out the mask/scarf/bandanna etc first. Start with putting the mask on the floor for your dog to investigate. Every time he shows interest to sniff, paw at it or interact with it, say your positive marker word and reward him with a yummy treat.

Let your dog see you putting the mask on from distance. Next, pick up the mask and try to put it on your face a little ways away from your dog. If your dog isn’t too scared by it, you can do this step closer to your dog. When you put on the mask, while your dog is looking at you, say your positive marker word and toss him a yummy cookie. Toss the cookie behind him if he’s showing some worried signs so he can move away from you and look away from the mask.

Put the mask on and off in front of your dog while keeping some distance. You want to do this step a few more times so your dog understands it is the same you under that mask. Put on the mask, and toss him a cookie. Take the mask off, and toss him another cookie. This way, he learns, that you are playing a game called “cover my face with a mask” with him.

Let your dog get closer to you while you are wearing a mask. Once your dog is pretty comfortable looking at you from a distance, then try to encourage to come closer to you. You can utilize “Find It” by tossing some cookies near your feet or ask for “Touch” if he’s very reliable with this behavior. Don’t forget to mark and reward him when he interacts with you in a close proximity.

Working on “Paws Up on my Arm” while my face is covered.

Do your normal training routine while wearing a mask for a short session. Continue with your normal training routine while your mask is on. Use super yummy cookies to help your dog make a positive association with the mask. This is also a good time to find out if your dog truly understands verbal cue and hand cue since your voice may be muffled by the mask. Remember to keep the training session short to prevent your dog gets worried by the mask being close by.

Reward your dog when he sees a neighbor with mask on from distance. Now that you have prepared your dog with seeing the scary mask on you, it’s time to take the training outside with the view of a stranger. You can do this by just staying at your front yard or drive way while keeping your 6-feet social distance from people passing by. Every time your dog sees a masked person without reaction, say your marker word and give a yummy cookie. You can also use “Find It” or “Touch” to redirect his attention as the masked person getting closer if you are staying in place. “Catch” (catching a treat or toy in midair) is also another good game to redirect your dog’s focus so he isn’t continuously looking at the masked person. If your dog is into play, go for it. Just make sure your dog is secured and doesn’t have an access to get to a stranger.

Reward your dog when he ignores a person with mask. By doing some focus games and play, your dog should be happy to just look at you. The goal is for your dog to think it’s no big deal when a masked person shows up. When you see your dog happily ignore people with masks, don’t forget to tell him “good dog” and give him something he likes. It can be a treat, a toy or a pet, whatever he likes in that moment!

Bailey is being a good sport!

A Dog Is Not Your Teddy Bear

Not long ago, Bailey was at his peak cuteness with his fur just long enough to have a bit of curl but not too long to get matted. He looked like a little lamb that many people want to run their fingers through his woolly coat.

Due to his look, Bailey often gets comments such as “Ohhhh, cute dog!”, “He looks like a little lamb.” or “He looks like a teddy bear!”. Bailey’s appearance draws people’s attention but this is also his Kryptonite. He hates being stared at or touched by strangers.

Mr. Lamb & Bailey

That day, as we were sniffing the good scents in the neighborhood, a person was walking pass us and made a comment “Oh, he looks like a teddy bear!”. Just to be polite, I replied with “Thank you” and was in a hurry to get Bailey moving while he stopped and sniffed the flower. Just as I expected but failed to prevent, the person stopped and reached her hand out to stroke Bailey’s back. Bailey ignored her for the most part but the hand was on his back for longer than he would tolerate so he growled at her. The person was surprised by his response and said “Oh, I guess he just realized he was harassed by a very nice person.” I gave no comment at that moment, however, I was upset with the common expectation that many people think a cute fluffy dog should accept stranger’s “friendly touch” without giving his consent.

As much as we want to be cuddly with a cute fluffy dog, it is not the polite way to interact with a dog you don’t know. Any dog, cute or not, fluffy or not, does NOT need to accept a forced interaction from a stranger. A dog is not a teddy bear and definitely not YOUR teddy bear. When you extend your “friendly” hand into a dog’s space, you are actually invading his personal space. For a dog who has no relationship with you, doesn’t know you, that is simply a harassment that he can’t refuse. When he uses his voice or his teeth to show his discomfort, he’s then labeled as “aggressive” or “mean”.

When you see a cute little girl running around with her parent, will you go up and touch the little girl without her consent? Will you ask the parent’s permission before you interact with the little girl? I am sure you’d get the permission before you have physical contact with the little girl. It is the same with dogs.

What should you do when you see a cute dog that you really want to cuddle and put your hands on?

First, keep your hands in your pockets. Keep your distance and admire that cuteness from distance with your eyes. Remember, don’t stare directly into the dog’s eyes.

Second, ask the owner if it’s OK to interact with the dog. Once you get the permission, you should follow the owner’s instruction on how to interact. If the owner didn’t give you instruction, you should use these non-threatening poses to invite the dog to you:

  • Get to dog’s nose level. Kneel to the dog’s level if it is a small size dog so you don’t encourage the jumping.
  • Let the dog come to you. When dog approaches you, keep your body relaxed and neutral. Don’t reach your hand out just yet. Let the dog sniff you first while you are remaining neutral with your position.
  • Don’t extend your hand out for the dog to sniff. That extended hand can be seen as intrusive. Instead, put your hands on the sides of your body, or put them on your legs. Let the dog sniff them first.
  • When the dog shows interest and wants more interaction from you, then you may do a gentle scratch under the chin or chest for 3 seconds. Then stop. This gives the dog a chance to decide if he wants more from you. If he wants more, he’ll lean his body into you to solicit more interaction. If he doesn’t want more, you give him a chance to move away without barking or snapping at you. No one gets hurt physically or emotionally.
  • Never lean over a dog, crowd a dog or put your hand over a dog’s head. All these postures are threatening to a dog. If you see a dog shying away from your extended hand, don’t continue your approach. Simply stop and give him space.
  • If the dog likes treats, with owner’s permission in case of food allergy, and toss a few yummy treats BEHIND the dog. This gives the dog no pressure to come to a scary stranger for food. Once the dog finds you giving no pressure but bringing yummy treats, he’ll be more relaxed and willing to come near you.

The very last thing you want to do is to hug tightly or squeeze the dog you don’t know. Remember, all dogs have teeth and they will use them when necessary.

Now, show your friendliness via your body language in a way a dog understands. Then you can make friendly interaction with each other.

The Importance of WAIT

Happy 2020!

At the beginning of the new year, we always go for our routine walk in the neighborhood because Agent B (my dog Bailey) always needs to secure his territories in the new year. This morning, as Bailey busy sniffing and marking at some flower bushes on the sidewalk, we heard a loud squeak of a tire skidding to an emergency stop. Took us by surprise, an off-leash dog ran across the street to come sniff Bailey without noticing the oncoming car on the street! Luckily, the driver saw the off-leash dog and stopped the car in time or this would have ended terribly. There was no injury to anyone except everyone at the scene probably experienced unnecessary adrenaline rush!

The dog is a neighborhood dog who Bailey had met a few times previously. The owners and the dog just came back from somewhere. As the owners were parking the car on their driveway and getting out of the car, this dog saw Bailey, his friend, and dashed to get across street to say hi. The owner didn’t have time to even put the leash on the dog nor call the dog back. Everything happened so fast! I am thankful the car driver was careful with the street condition and the break on the car worked!

If the dog had a solid WAIT, it would have saved everyone from the scary heart attack. This shows how important WAIT is for your dog’s safety and it is a critical life-saving behavior to teach your dog.

Agent B waiting inside the car with leash on

It is always a good idea to ask your dog to pause at any threshold whether it is physical one like a door way or invisible one such as a car door or curbside. Self/Impulse control and handler-focus are other two key foundations when teaching WAIT.

So, what is WAIT? WAIT basically means “stop forward motion”. If I tell my dog WAIT, I expect him to pause his forward motion and stay at the location. I don’t need him to SIT or DOWN or even LOOK AT ME. I just need him to wait for me there.

Here are some steps to start training WAIT:

  • Manage the environment and your dog. This means, you don’t open door unless you have a good control on your dog. You can also make sure your dog is properly/safely leashed up before you open the door. Baby gate or x-pen is an excellent security tool to ensure your dog can’t just bolt out of the door before he has a solid WAIT.
  • Practice “handler-focus”. If your dog thinks you are the most interesting thing in the world, it reduces the chance your dog rushes to get to something else. The incident I mentioned above, the off-leash dog was eager to see his friend and totally forgot about his people and the potential danger of the street. If he had a good handler-focus, he would have waited for his person to tell him what to do without bolting out he door. To encourage and develop “handler-focus”, find out what your dog finds rewarding (food, toys, freedom, safety, attention, etc.) and use that to build the focus on you in all situations.
  • Practice “self-control”. This goes hand-in-hand with “handler-focus”. If your dog has a solid “handler-focus” and can ignore distractions/triggers because he has a good self-control, you will have enough time to get your dog away from danger. To develop self control, I often start with teaching “ItsYerChoice” game developed by Susan Garrett. When your dog understands how to make a good choice, he will have better self-control and impulse-control. A good self-control would be super important if you have a high prey drive dog.
  • Make the waiting location valuable. Whether you say “wait” or use your hand cue to signal your dog to pause, you want your dog simply stop and just waits for you on the spot. Mark when he stops his forward motion and reward lavishly on the spot. You want him to understand “waiting for you on the spot” is the most rewarding thing in the world. If you are using a doorway to train WAIT, make sure you reward your dog at the location he waits not when he crosses over the line. Note: make sure you deliver cookie to him so he doesn’t need to approach you and cross the line for the cookie.
  • Add in (mild) distraction. Once your dog has a good handler-focus and self-control, while your dog’s on leash or behind a baby gate, add in a boring distraction such as a toy. Let your dog see the toy and say your WAIT. If your dog doesn’t dash to get to the toy, mark and reward him for staying by your side. Slowly build up your dog’s self-control toward more interesting distractions. If you have a dog who chases squirrels, you do not want a real squirrel taunting your dog during your first training session!
  • Generalize this behavior and practice everywhere. Bring WAIT to the real world and practice whenever you see opportunities. You can ask your dog to wait when you are locking the door before heading out for walk. You can ask your dog wait inside the car before you let him jump out. You can ask your dog to wait just because. 🙂

I hope you will make teaching “WAIT” your dog’s new year resolution!

Happy Training~

7 Reasons for Crate Training

When I run my orientation for dog training, I always make sure to talk about the benefits of crate. Many people don’t like the idea of a crate because it resembles a doggie prison as dog is locked inside and can’t move around freely.

As a dog trainer, I find crate being an invaluable tool to manage and transport dogs in so many ways.

As a dog owner of a fearful and resource guarding dog, crate has given my dog so much more peace of mind and security.

From my dog’s perspective, his crate is his safe spot and also his sanctuary. When he is inside his crate, no one bothers him, not even me!

Here are my 7 reasons for crate training:

  • A safe spot for a dog. Dogs are den animals. They like to be in a small enclosed area. When they are in their crates/dens, they don’t need to worry about what’s going on outside. They can truly relax and just chill. I always tell my students, everyone has their own space in the household. Men have their men-cave. For me, I like baking, kitchen is my space. For my dog, it’s his crate!
  • A safe carrier for transportation. We have heard so many cases of a dog running loose on a highway or a dog badly injured after a car accident because they were not secured inside a car. When you are driving with your dog loose in your lap or in the back seat, your dog has no protection whatsoever during an accident. We all know it is safe and required to buckle-up our seat belt when we drive, why don’t we do the same to protect our dogs? Keep your dog in a secured crate inside a car would give your dog most protection.
  • A home base for road trips and dog sport events. Many of us have trouble sleeping in a hotel bed because it is something unfamiliar. We may bring a pillow or a blanket from home to help us sleep easily when we travel. Crate serves the same for dogs. It is your dog’s “home away from home”. It is your dog’s “safety blanket”. With a familiar crate and familiar bedding inside, your dog can find the familiar scent in a strange and new location. It will help them settle with ease. If you have a dog who gets anxious and worried in a new location, bringing his familiar crate will help him settle and relax.
  • A great tool to manage a young puppy who is still learning potty training. Dogs often don’t soil their sleeping area except puppy mill dogs. When your pup hasn’t mastered the potty schedule and can’t control his bladder movement, it’s a good idea to keep him in a crate that is just the right size for him. When you can’t keep an eye on your puppy, the crate also lets you manage your pup’s whereabouts inside the house so he can’t just go explore and eliminate behind your back.
  • A safe location to keep your dog out of trouble when you run errands. Most dogs have to learn to enjoy alone time properly. Some dogs get bored and start to rearrange furniture if you leave the house to their own devices. Keeping a dog inside a crate (up to 4 hours a time) can prevent your dog become trouble-maker and destroy your leather couch, your designer shoes or counter-surf on food that may not be safe for dogs.
  • A safe location for a dog who finds dealing with house guests too much of stress. Some dogs love interaction with people but there are some other dogs who find interaction with humans, especially the small humans tiring and stressful. If you have a dog who prefers to be a wallflower during a gathering or party, it’s best that you keep him in his happy place, crate, with toys and chews to enjoy by himself. This way, you get to focus on being a good host and tend to your guests’ needs while your dog is enjoying his rare alone time all to himself.
  • A safe location for a dog during disaster evacuation. California has had a few fire disasters in recent years. As much as we want to be ready to evacuate during fire danger, we want to make sure our pets can come with us, too. Having a crate-trained dog means he/she can come with us when we evacuate to a temporary disaster shelter. If our pets aren’t crate-trained, they would need to go to animal-specific shelter for emergency boarding. Think of the high stress for both people and pets during that time plus being separated from each other. Your pets would have no idea what happened and why they are in an unfamiliar location without you. I’d prefer my dog is with me wherever I go!

A rule of thumb for getting the right size of crate: the size of crate should be big enough so your dog can walk in, stand, turn-around and lay down without hunching his back or purposefully curling up his feet.

Different designs and materials will need to be considered depending on how your dog will use the crate. If your dog knows how to unzip zippers, you may not want to get a soft crate with zipper. If your dog has separation anxiety, a crate may not be the optimal choice when you have to leave him alone.

Never force your dog into a crate. Take the time to introduce a crate to your dog and make the crate the best place to be. Once your dog loves it, you will find him spend more time in it without you asking him to.

After reading these benefits, I hope you are now interested in getting a crate for your dog and start crate training with him!