DireWolf Dog Containment
Containment is a way for your puppy to remain safe while you cannot watch him/her. This includes while you are sleeping, in the restroom, away from home, in a different room, up stairs, in the basement, working, and not focused on puppy. Containment may include: a crate, exercise pen, gated or closed off room, fenced backyard, leash, and/or barricading off spaces in your home.
A Basic Understanding
First of all, we can learn a lot from the domesticated dog's wild cousin, the wolf. So, let's take a look at the natural boundaries that wolves and their puppies possess. Wolves in the wild are highly territorial. They have specific areas in which they sleep and other areas in which they hunt. This territorial system is quite large for the wild wolf. It is not uncommon for territories to be as large at 50 square miles but they may even extend up to 1000 square miles in areas where prey is scarce. Wolves often cover large areas to hunt, traveling as far as 30 miles a day. They mark these areas so that other wolves will know when they have crossed the boundaries set out by a particular pack of wolves. Sometimes, wolves venture into one another's boundary and warning calls and vocalizations are used to ward off offenders. If the warnings are not heeded, fierce fighting, sometimes to the death, can be experienced.
Luckily, for the average person living today, most domesticated dogs do not require that much space to be happy and well cared for. However, different dog breeds require different ranges of space and amounts of exercise to function well in their environment. Siberian Huskies (and other racing dog breeds) often do very well running for a thousand miles and when in top condition can do this in the fiercest weather conditions. Bloodhounds have been known to stick to a trail for 130 miles. According to rabbit hunting experts at BassPro, only the best Beagles can keep up at a steady pace all day. Some dog breeds do not require a lot of territory or exercise in order to do well, such as the pug and the French Bulldog. The American Alsatian is the first, and so far the only, large breed of dog specifically bred to NOT require a lot of exercise and space in order to be happy and healthy throughout the day and over the years. With each passing generation, we continue to choose puppies that are the calmest, mellowest, and quietest puppies in their litters, even before we choose for the looks desired by the Dire Wolf Project and other American Alsatian standards of the breed.
Now, what if the domesticated dog breeds mentioned above were to roam or break out of their backyard containment. Let's see how each breed would fair if not contained. According to "Siberian Huskies: What a Unique Breed" written by AskMyVet.com, the Siberian Husky, "has a tendency to escape, wander, and roam." When let out, the Bloodhound, as assessed by YourPurebredPuppy.com, "will wander away." This same website also assessed the Beagle and determined that they need a yard that is "FENCED because Beagles are explorers and chasers and will follow their nose wherever that fascinating sight or smell takes them..." In a review of the French Bulldog from Dogtime.com, this breed of dog is "less prone to wander." Just like the French Bulldog, the American Alsatian is bred specifically to desire a strong and tight boundary or territory. Currently, they are the only large breed of dog to not NEED a large area to run and roam. In fact, they desire a small, intimate, and familiar area to feel safe and secure. Most are leery of being away in unfamiliar places without their people and do not have a tendency to wander and roam. Their space and their people act as an invisible anchor of security.
Now, let's examine the puppy. Again, let's take a look at the wolf and how it uses containment as a means of raising puppies in safety and security as well as systematically expanding their puppies' territory until they are old enough to roam and hunt in the expansive pack's territory when the puppies become adults.
Wolf puppies are born in a den. Depending on the weather conditions in the area in which they are born, wolf puppies can live in dens up to 8 feet underground with tunnels over 20 feet long. The den itself where the puppies are whelped is small by human comparisons. According to Plumpton Park Zoo footage, the whelping area of an Arctic Wolf's den is around 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet high. The bottom of the den is concave which allows the puppies to slip down into a smaller area and remain underneath the mother while they nurse without the mother squishing them when she lies over them. Puppies remain in this area for the first 3 to 4 weeks of their lives and only come out to the entrance of the den for very brief periods to peek out and explore only the entrance of the den at first. As they grow in confidence outside the den, at around 8 to 10 weeks old, the adults abandon the den, but the pups return to the den regularly when the adults are away. According to Shaun Ellis's book, The Man Who Lives with Wolves, a younger member of the pack is often found taking care of, watching over, and guarding the pups while they explore and play several feet away from the den during the day. Even as late as 12 weeks old, the puppies still regularly utilize their den area to sleep during the night. The International Wolf Center states that when the puppies reach an age of 4 to 6 months old or so they are allowed to begin tagging along while the older wolves hunt. Puppies do not actively hunt with the pack until they are at least 7-8 months old. They become fully functioning adults and may even venture out and leave their family pack at around 1 to 3 years old.
Wild wolves, however similar, are not domesticated dogs. They retain their wild instincts and have very high prey drives that allow them to successfully hunt and fend off other wolves or predators. As we have already seen, domesticated dogs have been bred to have varying degrees of need as adults, but domesticated puppies mature at a slower rate than wolves. This consequence of domestication has been clearly shown over the years through the Silver Foxes domesticated in Russia. The American Alsatian puppy is a "baby" for a much longer period of time than any other large breed of dog. As a result, an American Alsatian puppy needs to be nurtured and kept in a safe and secure environment until it can explore out further and further, with guidance and security from you. This is especially true when at 8 weeks or so they are taken from everything they've ever known and asked to become familiar with a completely different life and set of circumstances. The American Alsatian puppy needs time in which to do this. If you set an American Alsatian puppy down in the middle of your large house without constantly and consistently monitoring it or creating some sort of containment or boundary where your puppy is allowed and is not allowed to go, it will determine for itself what is and is not its space. You have, then, allowed your puppy to train itself and you may or may not enjoy the consequences.
When you receive your new American Alsatian puppy at 8 weeks old or so, take control of where your puppy is allowed to go and not go. Create a den, a space of safety that your puppy can go to when it needs a break, a nap, or when it is time to sleep. Remember, you puppy is only 8 weeks old. Even wolf puppies, who mature at a faster rate, still utilize a den in which to sleep until they are at least 12 weeks old. Your new puppy wants you to give it boundaries so that it can feel comfortable in its new environment and can get to know your house and its rules little by little. We used to call this "crate training," however, we have found that many people associated the word "crate" as the only means of containment and did not understand that "crate training" to the trainer meant "containment" training of all kinds including: crates, chain link kennels, exercise pens, gated or closed off rooms, fenced backyards, leashes, tethers, or barricaded spaces. In order to have a well-mannered, respectful, behaved, large breed adult dog, your puppy must understand that YOU are the provider and they can look to you for their safety and security. If you do not contain your puppy, it will take over your house, because it really isn't your house after all. You gave it to your puppy when you placed it on the floor and left it there.
You simply cannot watch your puppy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There will be many times when you will not be able to watch your puppy. As a result of your inability to watch and train at every moment, your little 8 week old puppy (that as a wolf pup would still be using its den to sleep with its littermates) might begin to perform behaviors that you never intended. Peeing or pooping on the floor. Chewing on the furniture. Ripping up the carpet. Barking at the door. Eating food off of the table. Because you can't be there, you can't be aware.
Also, here are several instances in which containment will ultimately be necessary for your puppy or dog in order to keep it safe and secure:
1. Kenneled at the vet's office prepping for surgery or for safety after the surgery.
2. Kenneled at the groomer's while they wait for you to return to get them.
3. Kenneled at Doggie Daycare.
4. Contained at night as a puppy while you sleep.
5. Contained in the small space in the back of your car while you drive.
6. Crated for flight travel.
7. Contained when being introduced to a new dog in a new household.
8. Contained when a visitor is over who is afraid of dogs, especially big ones.
9. Contained at a friend's house that doesn't want dogs in her bedroom.
10. Contained when you are putting on a special dress that cannot get dirty... and on and on with countless other possibilities and reasons.
In those moments, your puppy must be able to understand that containment is okay, not a bad thing, and that you will return. Without any form of containment, your puppy will associate your entire home as its territory. Containment of any kind as an adult will then be traumatic because you didn't train for it as a puppy.
Containment Training Step-by-Step
Here's how to train your puppy to understand that being contained or confined is a normal routine and you will return.
First of all set up the following spaces:
1. If you have flown your puppy home from your breeder, you already have one item of containment to use to help your puppy understand that containment is necessary and routine for a well-trained and mannered dog. Place this airline crate next to your bed, where the puppy will sleep at night. Keep a nice rug or blanket in the crate for comfort, if you like.
2. Get an exercise pen and set it up in the middle of the action in your house (whether that be in the living room or dining room, near the kitchen, etc. Place it on a surface that can easily be cleaned. Inside the exercise pen, place 4 or 5 "quiet" toys, such as: chew ropes, mind teaser games, bones, other chewies, soft toys, and a rug.
3. Section off an area of a room where you will be located often (such as an office or den). You can do this with furniture or another exercise pen opened up or closed. Place grooming supplies such as a slicker brush, toenail clippers, comb, ear cleaner, etc in a basket nearby.
4. In the outside containment area, fenced backyard or other such area, place more active toys, such as: balls, frisbees, toys to carry around and chase, etc. Block off any areas that are unsafe, such as large pools or saunas, etc.
5. Carry a leash with you at all times and fit a harness on your puppy. Make sure that the leash is long enough so that you can tie it around your waist and still have room for your puppy to be attached to it without tension while it is standing, sitting, or lying next to you.
Okay, now you are ready for any situation in your house. Many of the places that you will reside in your home have specific areas of containment for your puppy so that your puppy can interact with you, be safe and secure in its own area where its toys and other items also can remain contained.
Time for the Puppy
Next, you need to add your puppy into the mix. In order to train your puppy to stay calm, remain patient and play on its own, but still be there next to you and have you close, follow these guidelines:
1. First know the rules: no jumping up on the side of the containment area (including if puppy is in a gated off room), no whining or barking in containment area, puppy must not rush out of the gate when it is opened but instead wait for you to give a command to leave the area, and no peeing or pooping in containment area (unless you have designated a specific space for this with newspaper or pee pads.
2. Do not continually keep water in the containment area, but frequently offer water, allow puppy to drink completely and then take the water back up. This is so that puppy does not spill the water inside the area.
3. Allow puppy to remain in the containment area while you are working in that room, but remember that puppy is little and must use the restroom, especially after eating and drinking. Open the containment area's door, teach puppy to wait, then signal that it is okay to exit. Pick up puppy and walk outside to potty as often as needed.
4. When you are working throughout the house and not in one particular room, you can leash puppy connecting the leash to puppy's harness and then tie the leash around your waist, leaving enough room for puppy to have enough slack so that the leash is not taunt and puppy can freely lie down, sit or stand near you without pulling the leash. Then, have puppy go with you wherever you go in the house (unless it is off limits).
5. When it is time for sleeping at night, use the crate (that is located near your bed. Make sure you have pottied puppy before bed and then place puppy in crate by stating, "kennel" (or whatever word you choose, just keep it the same word) and close the kennel door. If puppy whines or cries out, gently place your fingers in the crate holes and let puppy know that you are still nearby. Turn out the lights and if you have to, lie right next to the crate, facing the crate, with your fingers in the holes for comforting your sensitive baby puppy. After a nice long day of training and moving about the house in each area remaining near you, but safely contained, puppy should be tired and ready to sleep. Puppies can learn to hold their bladders for 6 to 8 hours, but may need to go a little more frequently for the first one to two weeks until puppy is around 9 to 10 weeks old.
6. If puppy is unruly (jumping up, bitting fence, barking, whining, scratching at cage floor, etc), you will need to teach puppy about correction for bad behavior. Just like little children need to understand "no," so do little puppies. They must understand not only what is acceptable, but also what is not acceptable. Corrections must be done in a way that STOPS the behavior. If your corrections do not result in your puppy stopping the bad behavior, then your correction wasn't done effectively and you will need to immediately step up to the next rung on the correction scale. Corrections can be verbal only, verbal and gestures, verbal with physical backing (such as newspaper on bottom, finger tap on the nose, or lifting puppies front legs up off of the ground).
When your puppy begins to know the rules for the house, you can eventually allow puppy a larger and larger space (using barricades created by opening up the exercise pen or connecting two exercise pens together or gating off a room). Each time, expect some need for continued training and work with your puppy to understand that the initial rules still apply. If you do these things and give your puppy the gift of understanding how to be contained for safety and security, then you can rest assured that your puppy will be a much better behaved and well-mannered dog because you have taught your puppy patience, submission, and how to play without having constant attention. Enjoy your new puppy and let me know if you have any questions or you need more information regarding anything on this page. I am always here for you for your puppy's lifetime.