“I’m not locking my dog in!”
it is usually full of outrage when – for whatever reason – it is suggested that a dog be accustomed to staying in a box.
Apart from the fact that of course it is not intended to just put the dog in the box and then let it growl in it for hours … what actually outrages us about it?
If dog life starts well, it does so in a litter box that the puppies cannot leave. If they become mobile, many breeders set up puppy stalls in their living room, or offer the puppy the – naturally fenced! – garden.
For most of the puppies, the experience that there are limits to their freedom of movement and drive is nothing new.
We lock up our dogs in our apartments, although they might much prefer to roam with a couple of dog buddies, we fence around our gardens escape-proof (the more thorough, the greater our dog’s love of freedom) and especially then we keep them on a short leash, if they would much rather do something different themselves.
We don’t have any problems with that.
So why the box?
We put our children to sleep in cribs. We strap them to portable cradles.
There is no outcry …
But we don’t lock our dogs in boxes!
Maybe because we know that we restrict the freedom of movement of our dogs in many ways and therefore want them to be able to move freely at least around the house. Anyway, as long as they haven’t learned to open the fridge …
Perhaps also because we have to think of the room arrest, which used to be a tried and tested means of punishing children. Dogs, however, are not sent to their boxes as punishments, on the contrary, they have come to know them as a pleasant place. Locking up is usually associated with social isolation and for many dogs only a box offers the opportunity to be stress-free. To be honest, I have no idea why the minds of the box heat up so much. And it is not the main subject of this text.
In order to be able to approach the topic impartially, I would like the outraged outcry to have subsided for now.
So what should such a box be good for?
- If, for example, you cannot keep an eye on your highly creative young dog for 5 minutes, it can prevent it from converting parts of your home that you have become fond of into chew toys.
- It can also prevent your inconsiderate visit from harassing and patting your dog, although you have more than made it clear that you do not want this.
- It can help your over-the-top dog to calm down.
- It can be a place of safety to which your anxious dog can retreat.
- If your dog has a problem with visitors, a box can make management much easier.
- If your visit is afraid of dogs, everyone can still be in the same room.
- When bringing together several dogs, it can help enormously if everyone has their safe retreat.
- It is a mobile home like a caravan: Should you ever have to leave your dog alone in a strange place (e.g. hotel room), it will feel much safer in it.
- You don’t have to worry about service personnel who may be afraid of dogs. And you don’t have to wonder if your dog might want to defend the room against room service …
- Last but not least: If you want to transport your dog in the car, it should either be buckled up (= tied up!) Or be behind a protective grille in the rear (where it also has no more space). Or just in a box …
Which box for which purpose?
Fabric boxes are light and can (if they are good) be assembled and disassembled in a few simple steps and folded flat so that you can carry them with one hand. They are ideal as a “mobile home”, but are not suitable for transport in the car (unless you can secure them securely). A bored young dog takes less than five minutes to shred a fabric box.
Hard plastic boxes are suitable for transport in cars and planes, are easy to clean and almost “indestructible”, but the air circulation is not particularly good.
Metal cages remind people of prisons, but they combine the advantages of plastic and textile boxes: they can be folded flat, are airy and still cannot be broken.
Size and location of the box
Please do not look for the box to fit in the corner next to the sofa or under the side table! If your dog can’t sit in it without pulling its head, it’s too small!
The location should be chosen so that your dog can come to rest in it, so gladly that someone does not constantly walk past it. The hallway with guest toilet may seem practical, but clearly doesn’t meet these criteria.
Getting used to the box
Many dogs appreciate the cave character of a box and seek it out on their own – especially if their cozy blanket is already waiting for them there.
Hard plastic and lattice boxes often have a shelf that can clatter when the dog steps on it – please place a towel or blanket under it so that your dog is not scared! Please secure the door of the box at the beginning so that it does not hit unexpectedly and can scare your dog.
If your dog is not that open to new things, the box can be left in the living room for a few days without paying much attention to it.
To practice getting into the box, you can throw in individual pieces of food, for example, or you can guide your dog with a piece of food in your hand. If he is skeptical, it is sufficient if he first goes near the box.
Often the hind paws stay “as a precaution” outside …
If you can guide your dog with food (so he has learned to follow your hand if you hold a crumb in it) and he has no physical proximity problem, it is worth trying to turn him in the box: you lead him up to the back wall, let him make a U-turn there, so to speak, lead him back to the pit door and reward him there.
Alternatively, you can (if you use a hard plastic or mesh box) tie a pig’s ear (they usually have a hole from the ear tag) to the back wall so that your dog cannot carry it away: At some point it will be more comfortable to nibble on the hind legs Fetch box …
Of course, a slightly larger box also helps: One of my foster dogs, a little Pinscher, only wanted to go to the box intended for him with great reluctance. On the other hand, he found the big box, in which one could easily have placed a pony, just right …
If your dog is a puppy, those fabric boxes that can also be opened at the top are well suited: If it becomes sleepy, carefully place it in the (otherwise closed) box from above. Please do not leave him alone, however, but be on hand to lift him out of the box as soon as he has slept. If your puppy doesn’t sleep in bed with you (which you can decide entirely according to your taste: if you like to share your bed with your dog, that’s absolutely okay! If you prefer to have it by yourself, too!) It can If you stand in the box next to your bed at night, you can stroke it if it feels lonely, but you can also notice it if it gets restless because it needs to be done.
He doesn’t want to go in there!
Some dogs find boxes just creepy …
Fishing out a few chunks of food with a long neck, may still tackle but go in? No way!
As already mentioned, a very large box can be helpful to start with.
Many dogs find – unlike humans – cage boxes more pleasant because they allow a clear view in all directions. If the dog should come to rest, you can still cover it later with sheets.
Both mesh and many textile boxes can be opened in several places and can initially be used as a kind of tunnel.
With hard plastic boxes you can remove the upper part and first use the lower part as a basket.
You can also teach your dog to walk on a blanket for a signal, for which you will always be rewarded royally. Then the blanket moves centimeter by centimeter into the box …
Give yourself and your dog time! The more important it is to him that he finally understands IT, the more you may inhibit him: he doesn’t miss the fact that you find the whole thing very exciting.
Maybe you just put a thick slice of blood sausage in the box and leave the room …
He goes in – and now?
If your dog goes into the box with all four paws without much hesitation, you can signal this by saying “box” (or another signal of your choice) immediately before entering. With a puppy that you still put in the box, just speak the signal at that moment.
Name the moment when he leaves the box (e.g. “get out”).
If you have practiced this a few times, give the signal before the crumbs roll into the box. Let your dog “think” for a moment! If he doesn’t come up with the answer to the puzzle, try luring him into the box with his empty hand. If it doesn’t work, go back a few training steps and keep practicing.
If your dog knows clickers or markers, use them.
Linger in the box
Give your dog a filled Kong or a piece of beef jerky (e.g. beef scalp) that will keep him busy for some time. You can close the box during this time. For starters, it is enough if the door is just closed for so long that he takes note of it. The box can later be closed until it is finished with its treat. If you can move away from the box during this time without making it uneasy, do so, but please do not leave it all alone.
In the next step, ask your dog into the box if he is tired anyway and wants to rest. Close the box and stay in close proximity (possibly directly in front of the box). Read a book, do relaxation exercises or take a nap.
If he is relaxed, you can start to move away from the box even if he has nothing to nibble on.
It is okay to “sweeten” his stay in the box with a snack, but he shouldn’t link that there must always be something in the box.
He should stay in there voluntarily!
Many dogs go to their box on their own when they want to be left alone and even in exciting situations manage to stay in the open box until they receive the signal to “get out”. On the other hand, the closed box helps others to relax, even if this may sound strange at first: If the question “should I or should I not?” No longer arises, you can lie down just as well. If children are present when they are crawling, the closed box not only protects the children from the dog, but primarily the dog from prying children’s hands. And at the latest in the car or on the plane, the question no longer arises. If your dog has learned in small steps that the box is closed for a while every now and then, he will have no problem with it.
Depending on the dog, you will only be able to touch or skip training steps. Or maybe you have to practice patiently for a long time and make many detours.
If your dog is finding it difficult to rest, want to follow you at every turn, or have a problem with being alone, training can seem difficult at first.
In this case please do not hesitate to contact a trainer!