When you bring home a new dog, it is important to supervise him as he explores and gets used to his new home. A new puppy or recently adopted dog has no idea that the sofa isn’t there for him to chew, and that the carpets aren’t oversized potty pads. While we may have ideas about what is and what isn’t appropriate behavior for a pet, try to understand that your new companion really has no clue that your houseplants aren’t for digging.
And while you may try your best to reprimand your dog when you catch him making mistakes, he may not actually be receiving the message that you hoped to send. A dog who gets hollered at for pooping in the house may have no idea why you are upset. For all he knows, you are unhappy because the accident wasn’t big enough!
The best way to deal with behavior problems is to prevent them. And because it is probably unreasonable for you to hire a person to follow your dog around 24 hours a day, you will need to create a space where he can be kept out of trouble when you need to take a shower, go to the store, or even give an unruly pooch a time-out zone. Time-outs are perfect for when pups are getting crazy and need to settle down with a chew bone. Like toddlers, puppies can get cranky when they need a break.
You can create a safe zone in your home using baby gates or connected portable fence panels designed to keep puppies and small children confined. When creating a safe zone for a dog, the area needs to be small enough to prevent him from walking around and going to the bathroom all over the place. The area also needs to be free of furniture, cabinets, or wood molding that dogs may chew on. Not everyone can construct such a space, so many dog owners decide to use a crate to help with training.
To use a crate correctly, it is important that you don’t overuse it. In order to keep your dog behaviorally healthy and physically healthy, he must have adequate exercise, training practice, and a variety of things to chew. A tired dog can benefit from the downtime that a crate can offer. However, a dog that is penned up all day long will be frustrated and harder to deal with when he is finally let out of his crate.
An 8-week-old puppy can usually tolerate being crated for 2 to 3 hours at a time while he naps. A 3-month-old puppy can handle 3 to 4 hours, and a 4-month-old puppy can handle 4 to 5 hours, provided that all of his needs are being met. If you need to leave your puppy for more than 6 hours, you will need to have someone let him out midday for an exercise and bathroom break. If your dog needs to be left alone for more than 6 hours on a regular basis, you will need to create a long-term confinement space in an area such as a bathroom or laundry room, or have someone take care of your dog during the day until he can be trusted in the house. With a puppy, this could take a year or more, and with an older adopted dog, that time could be shorter or longer depending on the dog’s behavioral history.
Start getting your new dog used to a crate by feeding him in his crate, and by putting him in there when he is tired.
You can teach your dog the word “crate” in three easy steps.
1. First, say the word “crate.”
2. Next, pull a treat out of your pocket, and toss it into the crate. When your dog gets into the crate, leave the door open, but reward with 5 or 6 tiny pieces of food one after the other for staying inside the crate.
3. After the last treat, say “OK” and encourage your dog to step out of the crate.
With some repetition, your puppy or dog will quickly learn the crate is a restful place.