Unsure about what crate training is? Read this article.

In order to help pawrents who would like to crate train their dogs but aren’t sure how, Team #TWA has reached out to Charissa, AKA @theroyaltail, to learn more about what it entails.

If you’re in crate training your pet, read on to find out what it entails, along with some do’s and don’ts while crate training your pet.

Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your pets! 

Hi, I’m Charissa and my IG handle is @theroyaltail. We are a duo consisting of my 9-yr old Singapore Special named Lady-Mae and I. While Lady-Mae makes up most of our IG feed, I also have a rescued turtle named Terra-Verde. We don’t know how old she is, because a friend picked her up from the drain and was likely to have been abandoned. 

I’m a certified Gallup CliftonStrengths coach. My job revolves around training people to know how to manage and motivate their team using intrinsically derived rewards instead of externally driven ones. CliftonStrengths is founded on the principles of positive psychology. The majority of my day job drives a lot of principles that are similar to dog training, except that humans are a lot more nuanced than dogs.

I adopted Lady-Mae when she was 3.5 months old without even taking her for a walk. I knew she was the dog for me when I looked into her eyes. She’s a highly intelligent dog who my friends term as “better than having a CHUBB alarm installed at home” because she can differentiate between family, friend, stranger or foe!

Bring us through your day of training your / client’s dog 

A typical day starts with me waking up and getting my first cup of coffee brewing while I go get dressed to take the dog(s) out for their first walk. If I have a client’s dog with me, the training dog gets its walk before Lady-Mae gets hers, because most training dogs aren’t able to wait as patiently and we don’t want the dog to start barking in its crate.

Each dog gets a structured walk with unstructured times in between the walk for it to discover the “land”. Then the dog is taken home, put back into its crate and Lady-Mae gets her walk. I walk the dogs separately because most training dogs that come to me have some form of aggression or fear. I enjoy building a deep relationship with the dog individually so one-to-one time is important for me.

After all the dogs are walked, it’s feeding time and then we work on whatever that needs to be worked on, followed by putting the dog back into a crate or confined space for it to rest. Rest is very important in between training times because it allows the dog to process what it was learning earlier. Then it’s my turn to get breakfast and catch up on the other things that’s pending for me, like my individual coaching clients, their questions, reviewing their homework, replying to questions from clients etc.

We go through the train and rest routine several rounds until dinner time, and that’s when the dog gets to relax (while the humans relax too) and do whatever it likes to do like play with a toy etc. 

What is crate training? 

Crate training is a process of teaching a dog to be crated in a kennel size that’s just big enough for your dog to sit comfortably, turn around and lie down. Crate training also encompasses the dog being able to stay in its crate without the need to come out until it is given the cue to. Crate training is NOT confinement and we DO use both the crate and confinement simultaneously, especially when we have a puppy. Doing this helps to prevent the dog from soiling the home when it cannot be supervised.

Think of crate training as introducing your dog to it’s BED, like how a baby is put in a baby cot. Some owners use a crate for their dogs all their lives, and others allow their dogs to roam freely 24/7 once the dog is reliable. There are no strict guidelines on whether or not your dog should be crated forever. There are benefits which we’ll share more below.

Why is crate training important and at what age should I start? 

Crate training should begin as soon as a puppy is 5 weeks old! So if you adopted a dog like me, it should be introduced from DAY 1. Introducing a crate to a young puppy is a lot easier than introducing it to an adult dog.

Benefits

  1. If the dog needs to stay overnight at the vet or at an animal hospital, it will not be traumatised.
  2. If you have to relocate from one country to another, the dog is already well assimilated to a crate and won’t have trauma issues during transit.
  3. It helps a young puppy build stronger bladder muscles hence they are able to not soil the home unnecessarily.
  4. It prevents a dog from chewing necessary items when we are not present to supervise it.
  5. In the recent years, many Singapore Specials have been known to jump OUT of the apartment because of the rain. A crate trained dog would have prevented the dog from its death.
  6. It can help a dog that has stranger anxiety feel safe and give it a chance to observe its environment without feeling threatened.
  7. It can help a dog in a multiple dog home have its OWN space to enjoy a chew safely, without having another dog coming to steal from it.
  8. It helps to give the repair crew the peace of mind that our dogs will not break confinement if they are afraid of dogs or in our multi-religious society, where Muslims cannot have the saliva of dogs on them. 
  9. It also protects our kids from annoying our dogs when we cannot supervise our children and dogs. Most bites from dogs are targeted at children because kids just don’t know how to read a dog.
  10. It’s a designated space for the dog to decompress! Even a dog needs to be left alone to enjoy its ME time.

Are there any dogs who are NOT suitable 

Yes, I’d say ex breeding dogs or dogs that have had trauma with being crated. That would not be the wisest choice to start training a dog with a crate. It is possible for these dogs to be crated but it may not be the best choice to start one’s training with. If you have a fearful dog who likes to hide, I’d still recommend crate training but please work with a professional. 

How do I introduce crate training to my dog (ideally in steps) 

HIRE a trainer even before your dog arrives! BOOK your trainer to train you on how to crate your dog the day it arrives in your home. I don’t want to give people a 10 step process because crate training is very nuanced, and when it’s not done right, it can cause a dog to develop issues.

There are many things to consider. The crate size, the location of where to place the crate are some of the first things to consider. What type of crate is suitable? I like crates that are IATA approved ones because that’s the safest crate for a dog. My advice would be don’t save money on this, work with a professional and you’ll not regret the money spent. 

What are some common things that you hear pet owners asking when it comes to crate training?

I often get many pet owners with the view that crating is cruel especially when I was fostering dogs. It’s simply because they do NOT understand how crate training works and the deeper nuances it can bring into their training programme with their dog. It’s because their understanding of it is very simplistic – just a place of confinement. People don’t realise that crate training a dog helps a dog learn boundaries! Boundaries are very important to a dog because a lot of how they react to the world begins from this. Boundaries help a dog gain better impulse control. Impulse control leads to a dog who thinks before it acts! A dog who has good boundaries is able to understand why another dog needs its space. A dog who has good boundaries will back off when a dog communicates that it’s annoyed.

Many times when I’m dealing with a dog with behaviour issues is the result of a dog that has POOR understanding of boundaries. 

Are there any “cons” to crate training? 

Yes, a human abusing it and keeping the dog in there longer than necessary or a human that’s lazy and resorts to putting the dog in the crate without intent on working on its problem behaviours. 

Confinement 

What is confinement? 
Confinement is giving a dog a DESIGNATED space – like how we give our kids a room. A crate is like a cot and confinement is like a room

What is the difference between crate training & confinement? 
The difference is that in a crate – the dog has no ROOM to walk about. It can only sit, stand, turn around or lie down. Confinement offers the dog space to walk around. 

Benefits for each 
Everyone should transit a crate trained dog to confinement. It’s a great way to introduce a young dog or a newly rescued dog to your home without it tearing the home apart. I use both the crate and confinement training simultaneously. For a puppy, I start out with a smaller space, but larger than a crate to teach the puppy what is expected of the dog. I do NOT put a pee pads or a pee tray in the confinement area because I want the dog to know that it’s not a place it CAN potty. I take the dog to the potty even if it’s pee pad/ pee tray trained. So my pee trays are in a separate location and I physically take the dog TO that location in the home for potty. In this way, a young dog will not have confusion when it’s put in a confined area. As the dog matures becomes reliable with each space it’s given, the confined area is enlarged appropriately.

Confinement training is an intermittent training process that we teach our dogs how to coexist with us in our homes. Freedom is a very high reward for ANY dog. Give it wisely and appropriately.

If your dog does not do well with the area you’ve given it, it simply means that it has not learned to be able to handle freedom in that AMOUNT of space. So go back a notch and solidify the previous amount of space given before enlarging it. 

For me, I crate / confine a dog that I cannot supervise until the dog is 2 years of age. During the first 2 years, I take this time to introduce my dog to the freedom it gets in my home. This is regardless if you get a puppy or an adult rescue.

Summary 

What’s your motivation when it comes to sharing your experience when it comes to dog training? 

As a veteran owner who trains dogs part time, I see many half baked trainers these days. People also tend to think that they can get answers from GOOGLE on how to train their dogs. Dog training is highly nuanced. My motivation is to give people awareness that dog training is not as simplistic as they think it is. There’s a lot of grey involved and it differs handler to handler. When I was learning to train dogs, basic obedience class was 12 weeks long and there were like probably 8 modules of 12 week classes. People today are way too impatient and because of that trainers are also pressured to teach them in very short periods of time.

Behaviour modification is even harder and MORE nuanced! I hope that with my perspective, dog owners can have realistic expectations and value WHY they SHOULD put money to find a good trainer that can help them yield results. 

Do you have any parting words for the readers?

Don’t take my word for it. Always do your own research even if a trainer told you so. Learn to question your trainer and if the answer isn’t good enough, be brave to speak up and out! Don’t be afraid to have a difficult conversation with your trainer. Your dog trainer is training YOU to train your dog. Your dog trainer isn’t training your dog FOR you.

Don’t be afraid to TEST your trainer!

And lastly, I challenge you to go on a crate and confinement training for 30days. Crate when you’re sleeping or not at home, confine for times that you are home but aren’t interacting with your dog. I’ve put people on this challenge and they have NOT failed to tell me that they see improvement in whatever that they are trying to work on. 

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A big thank you to @theroyaltail for sharing her experience about crate training to aid other pawrents!

if there’s other styles of training that you think are important for pet owners to know, let us know in the comments below!

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