How do you make a dog crate more comfortable for your beloved pet? Is it a good idea to incorporate crate training into your dog’s routine or should you merely avoid it at all costs? Unfortunately, some people have vilified dog owners for crate training their dogs. They tend to see such training as a punishment as opposed to seeing it for what it actually is. In some cases, they fear that the dog is being mistreated because they believe it’s being crated to keep it out of the way of those inside the home. The truth is, none of these things are true, at least not when crate training is being done properly.
The Truth About Crate Training
When a dog owner incorporates crate training in the proper manner, they are actually providing a place of comfort for their dog. This is especially true during times of stress. Unless the dog has been specifically placed in the crate as a means of being punished for something, it is highly unlikely that the dog views the crate as something negative. In fact, most dogs love the idea of having a place all their own, somewhere they can go when they are tired or feeling threatened. Below are several different ways you can make a dog crate more comfortable. Whether you plan to keep a dog crate in your house as a way for your dog to seek refuge when she needs to or you’re in the midst of training her not to use the bathroom in the house during the middle of the night, these methods will help you make sure that the dog crate is just as comfortable as possible. It also comes in rather handy if you’re traveling and you need to use a dog crate to safely transport your dog from one location to the next. In fact, incorporating these measures becomes even more important when you travel because your dog is likely to be less comfortable than she is in familiar surroundings. That makes it more crucial than ever to include some things that allow her to feel safe in different types of environments.
Add a Blanket
One of the most practical things you can do is add a blanket to the bottom of the crate. Dog crates are notoriously hard on the joints. It’s no surprise when you consider the fact that the overwhelming majority of them are made from hard plastic. In addition, the blanket you choose can have sentimental value to your dog. When your dog is feeling uncomfortable, she may want something that is familiar to her that she can snuggle. Some dogs prefer a chew toy while others far prefer something like a blanket that they can simply cuddle. The best blanket will be one that’s thick enough to provide some genuine cushion in the bottom of the kennel. It’s also a good idea to choose something that smells like you. If you just happen to have an old blanket lying around, it might be a perfect fit for your dog. If you don’t have something suitable lying around the house, consider buying a nice thick blanket and then sleeping with it on your bed for a few nights. By the time you put it inside your dog’s crate, she’ll be able to recognize your scent. This in turn may help her stay calm, especially if she routinely struggles with anxiety.
Put a Favorite Toy Inside
Of course, another way to make the crate comfortable for your pup is by making sure that her favorite chew toy is inside. If the crate is big enough, it’s okay to add a couple of other toys just to make sure that she feels comfortable enough to use it. However, you don’t want to put so many objects inside the crate that your dog is struggling to find a place to lie down comfortably. Typically, one or two of her most treasured toys will get the job done and keep your dog entertained and comforted. It’s okay to leave them in the crate and allow her to spend time next to them when she decides to go inside. If she wants to bring them out to play with, encourage her to do so. When she’s done playing with them, they can go back inside the crate so that they are there waiting for her the next time she needs to use it.
Partially Enclose the Crate
In some cases, you might choose to partially enclose the dog crate simply because it’s more comfortable that way. Some dogs have a tendency to relax more if they can’t see everything that’s going on around them. In fact, dogs that are in an enclosed crate will often find it much more relaxing. Therefore, they have a tendency to calm down more quickly when they’re inside. There may also be practical reasons that you decide to enclose the crate. Some dogs get into a bad habit of biting at the sides of the crate, essentially latching their teeth on the wires and pulling at the sides of the crate. There are a couple of obvious problems with this. One is that the dog could end up getting a tooth caught on the wires and then doing damage if they pull too hard to get loose, especially if they start panicking. This can result in broken teeth under the right circumstances. It’s best to avoid the possibility of anything like this happening altogether.
In addition, dogs can pull on the sides of the crate hard enough to dislodge it from its locking mechanism, effectively bringing the entire crate down on top of them. Obviously, this is not what you want when you are trying to create a safe space for your dog. It only succeeds in terrifying them and it could potentially cause harm. Therefore, you might decide to pad the sides of the dog crate so that they can’t get ahold of the wires with their teeth. Depending on your individual dog’s nature, you can buy special products that are designed specifically for this purpose. On the other hand, you may simply choose to throw a blanket over the top of your dog’s crate and let it drape down on three sides if he is less anxious.
Use Lighting Appropriately
It’s always a good idea to use lighting appropriately. You might think that lighting doesn’t really make that much difference to a dog, but it can make all the difference in the world. The truth is, your dog wants to be comfortable just like you do. Have you ever thought about what it feels like when you walk into a room that has the lighting just right? When there is enough light to see where you’re going without it being so bright that you feel like you need sunglasses to walk into that particular part of the house, you’re probably a lot more likely to stay in that room because you’re more comfortable. It’s not really that much different for your dog.
As it turns out, dogs might enjoy proper lighting as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re after the same type of atmosphere that you would prefer, but it does mean that they have a tendency to feel more comfortable under certain lighting conditions than others. Remember, a dog’s eyes are very light-sensitive. It’s not at all difficult for them to see under very low light conditions. In a room where you’re struggling to make sense out of anything, a dog is capable of picking out the smallest details with very little effort. Creating a room that works well for them might involve incorporating a couple of night lights or a lamp that puts out some soft white light. It’s just enough to make space feel like home without being so bright that it could potentially keep them from relaxing.
Did you know that most dogs love music? Some even have a favorite genre that they seem to prefer listening to when they’re stressed. You don’t need to blare the speakers as loud as they can possibly go. In fact, you’ll want to do just the opposite. Some soft instrumental music may be just what your dog needs when she’s trying to relax. Therefore, you might decide to keep some music of that type playing in the room where your dog’s crate is so that it creates an entire atmosphere of comfort. It’s also worth mentioning that having this type of music playing can potentially distract her from other things that might upset her, such as loud noises that are going on outside. It also works well if you have a house with a rather large family that tends to get loud from time to time. If this makes your dog feel overwhelmed, she can go into the room where her kennel is, go to her safe spot, and be comforted by some soothing music as opposed to focusing on the sounds that are causing her anxiety in the first place.
Give Your Dog Her Own Space
Obviously, the whole idea of using a crate for your dog is to give her space of her own. When she voluntarily goes inside the crate, it’s best not to bother her. Allow her to have that space without moving the crate or constantly reaching inside to pet her. You can even keep her food and a water bottle or dishes nearby. The idea is to allow her to get used to the fact that when she is inside the crate, she is safe from anything that is causing her stress. Therefore, it’s vitally important to give her the opportunity to go in there of her own accord and come out when she’s ready to do so, not when you want her to. It’s also worth mentioning that she may choose to use her crate more as she gets older, especially if she has pain from arthritis or something similar.
Make it a Place of Refuge, Not Punishment
This goes back to giving her her own space and how to make a dog crate more comfortable. Training your pet to see his dog crate as a comfortable place for him only works if you allow it to be a true place of refuge. The last thing you ever want to do is force your dog on going into the crate and then slam the door shut because you’re irritated with her for something. If you punish her by forcing her to stay in the kennel all by herself when she doesn’t want to be, she will come to see it as a punishment. More importantly, she will grow to resent the crate as a whole. If you do it often enough, she might even start to resent you for putting her in there. When your dog does something that makes you unhappy, it’s much better to gently correct her and then use positive reinforcement to train her to do the type of behavior you want as opposed to punishing her for something that hasn’t pleased you.
Now that you have a better idea of what it means to crate train your dog and how to do it, you might decide that it’s time to start doing it in earnest. If you’re still undecided, consider reading through some of these frequently asked questions that are listed below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I put a dog bed in the crate?
If you can find an appropriately sized dog bed that will easily fit in the crate without making the space too cramped for your dog, there is certainly nothing wrong with doing so. In reality, it’s not that much different from using the aforementioned blanket. The thing you want to watch out for is making the crate so tightly cramped that your dog can’t move about freely. If she’s not comfortable inside the crate, it’s not likely that she’s going to want to go in there, much less spend any time inside.
Is it cruel to crate a dog at night?
There is nothing cruel about crate training. In fact, dogs that act out at night are usually doing so because they’re uncomfortable and they feel insecure. This is especially true with puppies and younger dogs. Putting a dog inside a crate at night can give them the sense of security they’re looking for. It is their own space that no one else is bothering. If they have something that they can snuggle with, they’re likely to feel more comfortable. This means that they’re less apt to yip or cry out through the night.
What should you put in a crate with a puppy?
As previously mentioned, you can put one or two favorite toys inside the crate. It’s also a good idea to use a blanket that smells familiar to your dog. If you decide to put a dog bed inside, you can still use a blanket that has your scent on it. It just doesn’t need to be as big or bulky. You might even consider throwing an old sock or t-shirt of yours inside so that your dog feels like they are close to you, even when they’re inside the crate.
What should you put in a puppy crate at night?
The only thing that you might want to add at night is a few puppy pads until your dog is house trained. If she’s already trained not to use the bathroom inside the house, you don’t need to worry about adding anything special for the night. Just make sure that she has access to a clean water bowl.
Where should you put a dog crate in the house?
Ideally, the crate should be somewhere that provides your dog with her own space. You don’t want to keep it at the other end of the house because you don’t want her to feel isolated. At the same time, it’s best not to keep it in the foyer where it’s constantly going to be bumped or where foot traffic in and out of the house is almost endless. Consider putting the dog crate in a room that you frequent, preferably in a corner or at the end of the couch. This allows her to have her own space while simultaneously signaling to her that she is still very much a member of the family.