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Jessi teaching crate training! And explains the importance of teaching companion animals to be comfortable in a crate or carrier. Featuring not just a dog and cat, but a skunk and parrot too!

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Have you ever felt that amazing feeling when you've been out doing a thing and you make it back to your home and you feel this weight lift off your shoulders. You've made it to your safe place and you can finally relax.

Having a safe space to go to is important for your mental well-being, and animals also benefit from having their own safe space.

Today, I'd like to talk about the benefits of crate training and how you can help an animal feel comfortable and even enjoy their special space.

(Animal Wonders intro music and animation)

The basic idea of crate training is to have an animal go inside a crate and stay there without getting stressed out. The goal of crate training is to have an animal enjoy being in their crate, and the benefit of crate training is that the animal has a designated place to go when they're feeling stressed out or when they need to be crated for their own good.

Before I teach you how to make the crate a wonderful place to be, I'd like to share a few examples of when you might want to use a crate.

1.) Traveling in a car.

Anytime an animal is driven in a car, they should be in a crate. This is for their own safety. I've known too many cases where a dog dies in a car accident where their owners were fine because they were wearing seat belts. A dog in a crate has a much better change of surviving a car accident because even if they're ejected from the car, the crate can help protect them from the impact.

2.) Fireworks, gunshots, construction work.

Loud noises can be scary and stressful for an animal. Having a designated safe place to go to will help them mentally adjust to the situation without having the need to panic and bolt.

3.) Vet visits.

Going to the veterinary clinic can be a stressful event. You can make it easier on them by taking them in their crate, so essentially they are surrounded by a bubble of safe. You'll know just how much the crate is their safety net when they run back inside after the vet is done with them.

4.) Visitors.

Sometimes you want to invite friends over, and sometimes that can be stressful to the animal so giving them the option to opt out of the situation is the perfect solution. Sometimes you just need them to not join in the fun, and putting them in a crate is a great way to keep them out of trouble while not making it into a punishment. If they enjoy their crate it's like giving them a nap, which sounds pretty good right now.

5.) Unexpected life changes.

Moving? New roommate, animal or human? Injury? Natural disaster? You never know when having a mobile safe space will be essential to an animal's well-being.

So you can see the benefit of crate training for many different situations, both for the animal and for the humans who care for them. The best time to teach an animal that crates are wonderful things is when they're young, but that's not always an option-- especially if you're adopting an older animal.

At Animal Wonders, we have many older rescues that have successfully learned that crates are great.

The first step is to learn about positive reinforcement-- we have a video on that. You want the crate to be a safe space, so you need to pair it with good feelings. The easiest way to pair good feelings with the crate is to feed the animal inside their crate.

If they don't want to go inside right away, feed them near it and then slowly move the food further in until they're all the way inside. Do this multiple times until they are completely comfortable going in and out of the crate. 

If you're working with a dog (or any mammal, for that matter) you can ask them to sit or lay down while they're inside their crate and then offer positive reinforcement that way to increase the good feelings associated with the crate.

If you're working with a bird, you can mount a perch inside the crate so they have a specific place to be. Birds like things to be very straightforward, so place them on the perch, let them turn around, and then offer them a treat.

If they don't like doing into the opening, that's completely normal. It's a scary, dark place! Remove the lid and then ask them to step on the perch that way. Now, move the lid further and further forward until they're completely comfortable with the whole process.

It's very important that you never try to rush the process of crate training. If an animal is unexpectedly trapped inside their crate, the good feelings quickly turn to bad feelings and you've taken a step backwards.

Alright, once your animal is comfortable going in the crate and have associated the good feelings of eating with it, the next step is to get your animal to feel relaxed while inside their crate.

Begin by shutting the door for a short period while they're eating. Then, extend it to one to two minutes after they're done eating. And then, extend that to ten or fifteen minutes. But don't leave them in there for too long after they're eaten because they will need to get out to poop or pee.

The reason that we use food to get them comfortable inside their crate is simply because it's an easy way to do it.

The next step I usually take is to have the animal spend a sleep period inside their crate. If they've already associated good feelings with the crate and have resolved to spend some time in there, it's a natural step for them to relax fully and take a nap, so this is your ultimate goal.

The process of crate training should always be fun and rewarding for the animal. It can take time and patience but the end result is worth it for the animal and you.

And my last bit of training advice is to always end on a good note. And with that, I'll say goodbye.

If you'd like to go on an adventure with us every week, subscribe to our YouTube channel Animal Wonders Montana and if you'd like to celebrate safe places, tweet me a photo of a happy animal in their crate and good luck training.

(Animal Wonders outro music and animation)

(from Mink Rescue!)

And I was expecting him to feel defensive because he'd probably feel trapped in such a small space. Instead, he was the perfect picture of relaxation, which was awesome!