For dog lovers, seeing a canine locked up in a crate (let’s be honest – it looks like they’re caged) can be a disturbing image. We want to see our furry pals out and about, running and playing with wild abandon.
However, there are those who say that dogs are “den-dwellers” by nature and that crating your dog is beneficial to your dog.
You might be surprised to find that dogs do tend to find a crate a safe place, and many enjoy sleeping in a comfortable crate (yes, you can outfit a crate so that it’s “homey” for your dog).
Let’s take a look at what crate training involves, and why it can be beneficial to your dog.
Crate Training – The Basics
Crate training is basically teaching your dog to accept a crate as a safe place, a familiar place that the pup can stake out as his own. Many owners begin crate training almost immediately after bringing a puppy home.
Let me stop and say that dogs of any age should not be locked away in a crate all day and all night. Owners have multiple positive reasons for placing a dog in a crate while they are away, but a dog should never be locked in a crate with very little time outside the crate. However, crate training can provide a safe and comfortable place for your dog while you’re away at work. Many dogs will even choose to sleep in their crates at night because they feel safe inside the crate.
It’s important that owners understand the crate CANNOT be a place for punishment or a place where the dog feels threatened or trapped.
Another reason that many owners crate train their pups is to prevent chewing or otherwise destructive behavior when they are away. Some owners even use the crate as a means of housebreaking.
So, the objective of crate training is to get your pup to accept the crate as a safe place.
First, you’ll need to select the proper crate. It is important that you choose a crate that will allow your adult dog to turn around inside comfortably, so picture what your puppy will look like as an adult before choosing a crate.
Next, consider the type of crate you will purchase. There are plastic crates, metal crates, and fabric crates that rest on a collapsible frame. Dogs tend to like the metal crate that offers dogs the ability to see its “people” (metal crates feature a wireframe that is open with a removable tray at the bottom so that you can clean up after Fido – that’s a bonus for pet parents). Keep in mind, however, that some dogs like an enclosed crate such as the plastic crate.
Some animal shelters will allow you to rent a crate. If so, you can choose a crate that is “puppy-sized” and just big enough that Fido can stand up and turn around in the crate. If you are able to do this, you can always swap the rented crate for a larger size as your puppy grows. Then you can make a final investment in your adult dog’s crate.
Crate Training – How and When Do I Begin?
Let’s talk about preparing the crate first. You’ll want to make it as homey as possible for your puppy. Place a blanket and a few toys inside the crate. Advocates of crate training state that you should place the crate in an area of your house where you and your family frequent, such as the kitchen or the living room.
On the first day of crate training, take the door of the crate off and let your puppy sniff and check out the crate. Some dogs will naturally take to the crate, and they may hop right in and get comfy. However, if your dog seems a little timid, carry on in the following manner. First, any time your dog is near the crate, talk to him in a soothing manner. You may want to place treats inside the crate (if your pup really needs encouragement, you may want to make a trail of sorts around the crate that leads into the crate).
If your puppy won’t’ go all the way in the crate, even with treats inside, do not force him.
You may have to commit to doing these first couple of steps over and over until your pup is no longer intimidated by the crate. You may also need to let Fido see you throwing treats in the crate so that he’ll be eager to step inside. Don’t be discouraged if you have to do this part of the training for several days.
Once your dog seems comfortable around the crate, begin placing his food bowl near the crate. However, if your dog WILL go in the crate, place his food dish at the back of the crate. Keep in mind, you may have to go about this slowly as well. You may have to place the bowl just inside the crate at mealtime, then each day place the bowl just a little further back inside the crate.
When your dog will go into the crate to eat his meals, you can begin closing the door on the crate. NOTE: The first few times you do this, you should open the door and release him as soon as he finishes a meal. Observe your dog. If he seems to accept this, then you can begin to leave him inside for a few extra minutes after he’s completed eating. Lengthen this time slowly so that he never feels trapped inside the crate.
Conditioning your dog to see that he is safe inside the crate is the goal.
After a week or two (or longer depending upon your dog’s progress), you can begin crating your dog for longer periods of time. NOTE: This needs to be done while you’re at home and your dog can see and hear you!
Now is the time to really buckle down on crate training. Call your dog over to the crate, offer a treat, and say “crate.” When he enters, give him the treat. Close the door and allow five or ten minutes. At this time, you’ll need to leave the room and see how Fido reacts. If he’s calm and seems to accept the crate, then return to the crate. However, you shouldn’t open the crate immediately! Instead, remain quiet while near the crate (make sure your dog can see you), and pause for a minute or so before opening the crate.
When your dog stays in the crate without whining for these short periods, then you can begin to increase the time he’s in the crate— with you home but out of sight— up to a thirty-minute period.
The next step of crate training is letting Fido stay crated while you are gone for short periods of time. In time, your dog will feel safe to stay in the crate while you’re away at work, and he may even indicate that sleeping in the crate is acceptable. Keep in mind this could take many days or even weeks to achieve!
Always provide a blanket or towel in the crate, and add a few favorite toys too. This will make the crate feel like a safe space and Fido’s own space.
Why Crate Train A Dog
Dogs of all ages can benefit from crate training. Believe it or not, crate training a dog actually gives him a sense of security when it’s carried out properly. A crate can be a shelter for your dog, a place he can call his own.
Crates can assist you in housebreaking. The metal crates with the removable tray at the bottom can be a boon when you’re potty training a puppy. You can place a puppy pad on top of the tray, and, when Fido uses it, you can remove the pad and place a new one there. Your dog won’t step in it or even roll in it, keeping him clean. The removable tray helps to keep your floors safe from puppy waste as well.
You never know when you might need to travel with your dog. Crate training your dog will help when you wish to load Fido in the car for a trip. They will feel safer inside a travel carrier (as a matter of fact, it’s safer for them to travel this way rather than in a puppy seat or harnessed to a seat belt). Traveling via plane also necessitates using a carrier.
Older dogs come to see the crate as a safe haven. They will go there to nap during the day, possibly take meals there, and feel safer when you’re away from home while in the crate— if they’re properly conditioned to stay in the crate.
You might be surprised to learn that veterinarians, breeders, and trainers all tend to advocate the use of crate and crate training. Some vets state that crating your dog during potty training is essential as puppies will not soil their sleeping area.
Vets also remind pet parents that some dogs may need to be created after medical procedures. Having a dog already conditioned to accept the crate will lessen her stress level after surgery or another medical service.
Crates actually help to lessen stress in dogs with anxiety. They learn to go to their crates for solitude or to get away from a stressful situation. Perhaps your dog doesn’t care for strangers, and you have company over. A dog that is crate trained will simply remove itself from the situation quietly. Consider this— having a dog crate trained helps when a family is growing and a new baby comes along (or simply if company comes over bringing their children along — Fido might not be used to children playing, so the crate will help him to remove himself from the situation).
So, crate training your puppy can help to mitigate stressful situations later in life, and you can travel more easily with a crated dog.
1. Why should you crate train your dog?
Crating your dog has many benefits, from assisting with housebreaking to simply providing stress relief to your dog. Crating makes travel easier, as it does leave your dog home alone while you’re running errands or away at work.
2. Why is crate training your dog bad?
Crate training itself is not bad. Typically, it’s the dog owner’s approach to crate training. If you take your time and are patient, your dog will learn to accept the crate as a safe space. Never force your dog into the crate, or he’ll never accept the crate as “home.”
3. Is it bad to not crate train your dog?
No, it’s not bad to forgo crate training. If you will always be home with your dog, and you don’t intend to travel, you do not have to crate train your dog. That’s a personal choice that depends on your lifestyle.
4. Is it cruel to crate a dog at night?
Not at all! Many dogs will learn to accept the crate as their sleeping area, and they’ll go there for naps as well as nighttime sleeping. Again, never force a dog to stay in a crate overnight before she’s accepted the crate as her space. That would be cruel to your pup.