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Kuranda Dog Beds - Rethinking dog beds
Kuranda Dog Beds
— December 18, 2012 —

To Crate or not to crate: Part 3.
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

This week we will discuss using the crate to introduce a new dog into your home. (This week’s article should not be construed as training advice. If there is any chance that your dogs may fight, you should seek one-on-one help from a professional in your area.)

Some folks can just bring a new dog into their home with little effort. Some dogs are so affable and social that they accept the new dog with little issue. Since we have worked in rescue, however, we have had to introduce dogs into our household that have not always been the most social dogs. Often, even though the dogs in question were not truly “dog aggressive”, the initial introductions were a little dicey. In situations such as these, crating one or both dogs can be helpful.

Of course, before you can use a kennel to introduce dogs to each other, both dogs should be comfortable in the crate. Crate training is something we advise all of our training clients to do. If your dog is comfortable in the crate, it is very helpful in many situations. The following assumes that your dogs can be crated without issue.

The root cause of fighting during an introduction can be anything from resource guarding to insecurity to over-stimulation. In any of these cases, the kennel can be used to help the dogs acclimate to one another.

Just the sheer excitement of having a new dog in the house can lead to aggression during an introduction. Even if both dogs are friendly, over-stimulation can cause one or both dogs to display “bad dog manners”, leading to the possibility of aggression. This is fairly common and fortunately, it is pretty easy to deal with. Basically, if your dog is generally social with other dogs, but snaps or growls during an introduction, you may be dealing with simple over-stimulation. In situations such as this, long walks together are very helpful. This is partially why trainers recommend introducing the dogs on neutral territory. Neutral territory means there should be a nice long walk back to the house, during which both dogs have a chance to calm down.

If the dogs are still very excited when they get home, this is where the crate comes in. During the times where the dogs are indoors, one or both dogs should be crated. Once the excitement of the new dog wears off, the dogs should be able to be socialized without issue. One concern here would be “crate aggression” or “barrier frustration.” The fact that the dogs can see each other through the kennel bars, but not meet each other can cause them to display aggression. In cases where the dogs are “fence fighting” in the home, training is very important. Proper obedience training should help your dog deal with his excitement level and should be started sooner rather than later.

In cases of insecurity, where one dog is simply nervous about the other dog, it’s usually a simple matter of letting the more nervous dog be around the other dog in a neutral setting. In cases such as this, I advise long walks together. Dogs in general do better with introductions when the introduction is part of a walk. Human greetings, where we walk straight up to each other with direct eye contact and facing each other can be viewed as aggression by dogs. A long walk with both dogs defuses this dynamic and helps the dogs become more familiar with each other. When back inside, having one dog in a crate and one dog loose in the same room allows them to become familiar with each other. As they become more familiar with each other, the insecure dog will become more comfortable.

The resource guarding dog, one who views the house, humans or the food bowls as his and his alone, is another case where meeting on neutral territory is helpful. A dog that displays resource guarding may also need additional training and behavior modification beyond simply crating the possessive dog. Sometimes, but not always, when the original dog has time to bond with the new dog, these issues will get less severe. Training for resource guarding is a whole subject unto itself. While I cannot discuss all of this in this article, using the crate to keep the resource guarder away from the other dog can prevent fighting while the training is happening.

This whole series started as a way to refute the, “crating is cruel” myth that has been pushed by certain groups. I hope I have shown that if we eliminate our ability to crate our dogs, we loose a very important tool in managing them.



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