Beyond a basic understanding of fundamental usage, many retailers are not as clear on how dog and cat trainers use crates and carriers. Armed with a bit more understanding, retailers can assist more customers in making the correct purchasing choices as well as help them use these products in a more effective fashion.
One of the most common reasons cited by cat owners as to why they don’t take their pet to the veterinarian is the difficulty they have in transporting the cat. Since almost no cat owner would dream of taking their feline friend to the doctor on a leash like a dog, this means a carrier. Why is this relevant to pet retailers? Because a high percentage of cats can be trained to tolerate and even enjoy using a carrier.
Cats and Carriers
Place the carrier by the cat’s food bowl during meal times, or if free fed, just leave it there. Prior to meals, place a super special treat in the carrier and praise kitty for getting it. As soon as the cat comes out of the carrier, toss another treat in and lavishly praise when she goes in to get that one as well. Repeat this three or four times, and do not close the door when the cat retrieves the treat. After a week, most cats will eagerly go into the carrier to get the treat.
Once the cat is completely comfortable entering the carrier, close the carrier door, praise, feed them a second treat through the door and immediately let her out. Do this three or four times a day for another week. When the cat is completely comfortable going into the carrier and having the door closed, increase time in the carrier. Start at one minute, praising and feeding through the door. If no challenges arise, add another minute after a few days. Within a couple of weeks, owners should have no trouble with their cat going willingly into the carrier, and sitting in it with the door closed for 15 minutes.
At that point, owners can pick up the carrier and gently move it around. Praise during this process and keep the movement gentle. One of the most common dislikes cats have when being transported is the rough bouncing, which if you think about it, isn’t something any of us would appreciate. Owners can start moving the carrier from one room to the next, then back and forth between rooms a few times. Reward with a special treat when you put the carrier down.
When the cat is completely used to being carried around in the carrier, which will take about a week or two, only then should you take the carrier to the car. After a week of just going to the car and then bringing kitty back into the house, owners should be ready to take the cat on their first stress-free car ride in a carrier. Slow and gentle rides are best.
Please note: The training program I just shared works best with kittens but will work with most cats. Those felines who already have negative associations with a carrier will likely take longer—in some instances, months longer—before successful counter conditioning will occur.
Crates for Puppies
Dog trainers often suggest their clients use a crate or an exercise pen as a management tool for young puppies. The premise here is that, the same way most parents wouldn’t allow their 2-year-old children to run out of the house unsupervised, a crate allows dog owners to give the puppy a quiet, safe place while allowing the owner to curtail their pups’ access to the house during times they’re unsupervised.
Crates can be effectively utilized to teach the following behaviors to dogs:
House training: Since most dogs don’t like to soil the area they have to lie in, the crate can be an effective part of a proper house-training program.
Begging for food: Dogs can be taught to go to their “spot” (the crate) when owners are eating, eliminating begging.
Intimidating guests: Large, boisterous puppies are a joy to some people and intimidating to others. Teaching a dog to go to a spot when elderly or fearful guests come to visit can be hugely helpful.
Chewing: Young teething puppies are going to chew—it’s a fact of life. Having a place for the pup to go where he/she only has a selection of the proper things to chew makes it much easier to minimize chewing on improper items.