Crate training is a hot topic among pet parents, veterinarians and animal rights activists. Some see it as cruel that a dog is in an enclosed space for hours on end. Others, like Bark Busters feel that if used correctly, crate training can be invaluable, particularly for pet parents who need to manage their dog’s behavior during the dog training process (e.g. housebreaking).
Advantages of Crate Training
- Dogs Need their own den. Remember that dogs are den animals who will always seek out warm, enclosed spaces. Dogs like their “own space” free of the hazards of the outside world and all its noise and distractions. Because dogs spend a lot of time sleeping, they enjoy a space that is small, snug and warm. They can play with their favorites toys uninterrupted and have some downtime (which puppies really need).
- Peace of Mind. If you must leave your dog at home while you are at work or for a couple of hours, a crate is a great place to prevent destruction to the rest of your house.
- Particularly for puppies who need training, a crate is a great way to teach hyperactive puppies to remain calm when you’re not giving them your immediate attention. By placing your pooch in a comfortable environment that they already love, you can ensure that they aren’t running around barking, digging and chewing. Because dogs generally won’t soil where they sleep, it’s also ideal for housebreaking.
- Safe place for anxious situations. Many dogs do not like large house gatherings, so a crate is a safe place to keep them while guests are over. Also, some dogs get anxious during thunderstorms or fireworks and feel better in a safe place.
- Many dogs like to roam around in a car or sit on your lap. A crate is a safe place to restrain them. Should you need to take your dog on a plane, they will need to be kept in a crate.
Tips for Choosing the Right Dog Crate
- Ideally, you want a crate that is small and cozy, but large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around comfortably. While your puppy is still small, you might have to create a barrier to reduce his crate’s size. If your crate has open sides, you might want to consider draping a blanket or cloth over the top to make it feel cozier.
- Location is key. Keep the crate out of direct sunlight or your dog could get too hot. Avoid putting the crate in high traffic areas as it could make your dog anxious. Remember to keep children and other pets away from the crate so your dog can fully embrace it as its own.
What to Avoid
- Never use the crate as a punishment. “Time outs” are not an effective training strategy. If you find that your dog has toileting accidents in the crate, don’t punish him. Older dogs may especially have problems with this and won’t be able to be crated for long periods.
- Never use a crate as a substitute for diligent dog training and supervision.
- Do not leave your dog crated all day (no more than 4 – 8 hours). This can cause depression, anxiety and feelings of isolation. If you must leave your dog for extended periods, consider a dog walker or doggie daycare center.
Remember that most dogs are social animals. Do not use a crate in lieu of spending time with them or you will create more problems than the crate can solve!