We’re advocates of rescuing and adopting dogs and puppies from animal shelters and rescues. We believe that if people have the tools they need to make their adoption successful less pets will be returned to shelters or tossed out on the street. Watch Tyson the rescued pit bull and Sonny the 2-legged Chihuahua play!
This article discusses three topics:
- Crate Training
- NILF (nothing in life is free) and
- Beginning socialization techniques that adopters of pit bulls (and most dogs) can use to start building the bond to creat an awesome relationship with their new family member. To read the first article in this Pit Bull Series, click HERE.
So You’re Getting A New Pit Bull – Part 2
This series is aimed at new pit bull parents but everything you’ll read applies to ALL dogs.
Pit bulls are not monsters and they require the same thing all dogs do: love, food, water, shelter, safety, veterinary care and good guardians. With the high numbers of pit bull puppies being bred, sold and given away, I really, REALLY want to help give people the tools they’ll need to make sure they’re up to raising their new dog or puppy.
A very important tip I can give you is this: puppy or adult, the first month we encourage you to confine your dog to a properly sized crate when you can’t keep your eye on him constantly. We’ll explain why shortly.
The crate should be big enough so he can stand up and turn around. It should be long enough so he’s got a little extra room so he can stretch out his legs, but not large enough so he can eliminate in one end and sit at the other. If you’re starting off with a puppy, you might need to block part of the crate to restrict his access.
For safety reasons, we suggest that while your puppy or dog is in his new crate, you remove his collar or leash.
By practicing the tips I’m presenting, you’ll decrease the number of accidents your puppy has in your home. You’ll set your puppy up for success, not failure. You’ll save your couch from getting chewed up. And you’ll save yourself a LOT of headache.
In saying that, practicing this isn’t for the weak of heart…your new dog will whine, cry and probably try to get out. A word of caution: NEVER force a dog in a crate that hasn’t been crate-trained! Not sure if your new friend knows what a crate is? If he acts like the contraption is the plague or some big scary monster then he’s probably not familiar with it.
Crate Training 101
The crate should be in a prominent place in your home. If you spend the majority of your time in the living room or kitchen, place the crate in one of these rooms. Setting the crate up in a room of your house, away from you, creates frustration and boredom in your dog. Frustration and boredom leads to behavioral issues. By keeping your dog near you, he can watch and learn from you and the other people (and pets) in the household.
Also, if you have other dogs, your new dog will have time to get used to his new buddies and your original dogs will have time to safely acclimate to the new guy.
Keep the crate clean. If your dog is pottying inside of it, use a enzymatic cleaner specifically for pet urine. Take your new dog outside to potty more to prevent accidents. NEVER yell at your dog while he’s in the crate for having a potty accident.
Make Crate Fun
Simple tips to getting him to dig his new digs is to feed and treat while him while he’s in the crate. Both of these should only be done while he’s calm, not bouncing off the sides, barking or acting insane! Only reward with food or treats when all 4 paws are on the floor. Never reward when the dog is anxious, hyper or scared. He needs to be relaxed so he learns to associate calmness with receiving his reward.
Tips On Feeding/Treating In Crate
Once you get the crate set up in the house, leave the door open and toss a few treats in. Ignore your puppy for a little bit and see if he goes in without being coaxed. Don’t call his name or yell at him to go inside. If he goes in on his own, he’s got the first step down. He’s worked through the fear and now gets a treat.
Feeding in the crate can start by tossing a few pieces of food in and letting the dog go to it on his own. Leave the crate door open so he doesn’t feel like you’re forcing him inside.
Once he’s comfortable retrieving the small amounts of food, put a little more food in. Again, NILF is practiced when you toss treats in and he walks in or goes in on his own.
Eventually you’ll put the bowl down so he can eat. Tossing treats in like described above teaches him that you’re a safe person and you reward him for doing what is expected.
Potty Time and Exercise
After your dog has eaten or taken treats in his crate, take him outside to potty immediately. By getting in the habit of taking him out immediately after he’s finished eating, you’ll start establishing the potty routine. Take him to a spot in the yard that you want him to use the bathroom and do this consistently until you start seeing him go there on his own to potty and poop.
Most dogs benefit from consistent dog walking. If you’re only letting your dog run in the backyard, regardless of size, you’re doing a huge disservice to your dog. Walking at a brisk pace with him by your side, not pulling on the leash and acting crazy, takes a lot of work. But it’s worth it and so rewarding for both him and you.
We recommend at least 30 minutes of brisk and controlled walking every day. Controlled as in he walks next to you, in a heel position and focuses on walking, not sniffing the ground and peeing every 5 minutes. If you run into scheduling problems and need to hire a dog walker, we can help.
Closing Crate Door
When you’re ready for this step, be patient, don’t raise your voice if he starts to panic when you close the door. Some dogs freak out the first time they’re shut in a crate; other dogs could care less.
Here’s how to do it positively:
After your dog is comfortable walking in and out of the crate to get treats and food, just close the door when he’s eating. Only close it around 30 seconds or so and open it. Repeat the closing and opening every time he eats and slowly increase the time to 5 minutes.
This is very important – ALWAYS open the crate door when he’s calm. If you open it when he’s acting crazy, barking, spinning, etc., you’re rewarding negative behavior. Don’t do it!
Once your dog can wait for 5 minutes without flipping his lid, extend the time a few minutes.
Eventually you’ll get up to an hour, then two. We suggest you stick around close by just to begin with then stay out of the room.
Your dog needs to learn the you’ll come back to let him out, that you are GOD. He needs to learn that you supply everything he wants and needs. This can only be done with firm, consistent leadership and by practicing NILF.
This is important, when you DO let him out of the crate, do so calmly. Don’t raise your voice an octave and baby talk. Don’t cause excitement. Keep it calm and chill. AND, don’t make going INTO the crate exciting or scary. Make it calm. Every single time.
Types of Crates
There are different kinds of crates you can buy. Some are wire, some are plastic airline type kennels. There are fancy wooden ones that are designed to blend in with your furniture. Whatever you decide to buy, be prepared for it to get damaged. Many dogs will chew up the trays and cause damage to the wire. That’s to be expected. Don’t punish them for it. Just provide stimulating toys or treat filled Kongs while they’re inside.
Den/Crate Training Background
Dogs are pack animals and in the wild they seek out dens to sleep and rest. Dogs that are crate trained will often go to their crates on their own, it makes it easier to transport them in a vehicle and makes it easier if you plan to travel with your dog. The crate is their ‘den’ per se. It gives your dog a place to go if he feels scared, threatened. I’m not suggesting you leave your dog in there for excessive amounts of time, that’s cruel, but anytime your dog is not eating, drinking, playing in a monitored situation, pottying or going for a car ride or walk with you, then he needs to be in his crate for the first month.
Reasons To Keep Your Dog Confined To A Crate Immediately After You Adopt
Why do we suggest you keep your dog contained versus letting him run free in your house? Well, there are several reasons:
- Your new dog doesn’t know the rules of the house yet
- Gives your kitties time to get used to the new guy
- You don’t know what habits your new dog has
- Crating gives you time to get your dog on a feeding schedule thereby determining when he needs to go outside to potty
- It gives you time to hone up on reading your dog’s body language, if you aren’t familiar with this or need a refresher, go HERE
- Your newbie needs to see people coming/going and experience your household in the safety of his den
- You establish your role of being THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD THAT HAPPENED TO HIM when you let him out of the crate and provide everything he needs and wants
- It gives your newbie time to see your other pets (if you have any) from a safe place
- You newbie can see how the resident pets behave
- Your resident pet(s) can get accustomed to the newcomer
A Word Of Wisdom
Keeping him in his crate isn’t a convenience thing for you. It’s a safety thing for him.
It doesn’t give you a free pass to not work and train him properly.
The more love and attention you give during this month or so will benefit your new dog so much if done effectively. You represent ALL GOOD THINGS. Don’t ruin that by forcing him into his crate when he’s bad, yelling at him when he’s inside of it OR allowing your kids or other people to yell at him while he’s in there. You do that and you’re canceling everything you’ve worked on.
Please don’t abuse your dog by confining him for long periods of time.
As time progresses hopefully your dog can run the house freely while you’re away from home. Again, we do encourage keeping dogs separated and contained while you aren’t home for their safety. We’re shooting for success and not accidents.
Take into consideration how your other pet(s) will react to the new dog. Setting aside time each day to interact with each pet is important when you have multiple animals at home. And with pit bulls, treating each pet the same is important. If one dog gets special privileges, you could be setting yourself up for a conflict. All dogs should get same treatment.
Dogs will establish their pack order if you have multiple dogs. A new pit bull can mix in with your pack if you’re a diligent and responsive owner. If you’re wishy-washy and lack leadership, then PLEASE don’t try to bring any new dog into your home, stick with what ya got and work on your training techniques. When you’re confidant you’ve improved, then venture into pibble land!
Thank you for reading part two in this series. Here’s the last article in this series!
Visit our website to schedule dog training and pet sitting. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and work specifically with pit bulls.
Kelley Stewart, CEO|Pet Sitter
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