Why Crate Train?

Crate training.  Plenty of people see it for what it is – a necessary and easy way to train your dog.  There are others, though, who see it as a cruel and unnecessary exercise that isn’t any good for any canine.  Some of these feel this way simply because they don’t understand the logic behind crate training – they simply imagine the crate as nothing more than a cage and who would want to be stuck in a cage?  How mean!  What people forget (quite often actually) is that a dog is a dog and a

Start using a crate at a young age to make sure your puppy is safe and secure when you can’t be with him

human is a human and quite frankly, they are really different!

Most dogs take naturally to a crate when introduced to it in the right way and when it is used properly – some are even quite attached to their crate believe it or not, continuing to use it even when the door is open and it is their free choice!  Why this strange phenomena?  Remember that dogs are really just “housewolves”.  Wolves and other wild canids “den” in the wild.  Our dogs, as domesticated as they seem to us, have retained that same behavior – a dark enclosed space is, to them, something of a heaven on earth.  A place that is theirs alone, a place they can get away from it all, a secure home in which to snooze and not worry about what might be going on outside of their space.  In short, there is nothing “cruel” about a crate so long as it is used properly.

Improper use of a crate?  Easy.  One way would be “overuse”  an adult dog should not be expected to stay in their crate longer than an 8-9 hour stretch.   For puppies the time is far less – about an hour per month old they are until they reach adult hood.  Using a crate for longer stretches

Crates are perfect for travel and emergency situations

of time is somewhat cruel and definitely not the use it was intended for.  Using a crate as punishment is another no-no.  Its not what its for and if you expect your dog to stay happily in his crate while you are gone or when you need him confined, using it as punishment will undo all of the crate training you have done thus far.  If its the place he goes when he’s bad, he isn’t going to want to spend any time there otherwise.

 

Why is crate training so important?  Let me count the ways….

  • Housetraining.  Dogs and puppies do not like to use the bathroom where they sleep and if they are given the opportunity to go elsewhere they always will.  This is why its important that your dog or puppy’s crate is large enough for him to comfortably stand up, turn around and lie down in and not much bigger than that.  If a puppy can pee in one end of the crate and sleep in the other, oftentimes that is just what they will do.  Having your dog crated also inhibits the opportunities that the dog has to potty inappropriately.  Take your pup outside directly from the crate – chances are they will immediately go and voila, you are on your way!
  • Safety.  Dogs  get into things no matter what their age.  Its just a fact.  Of course, some are less of a problem than others and the behavior usually fades with age but as babies and teenagers it is almost always a concern.  You won’t lose your belongings to a bored puppy if that puppy isn’t allowed free roam of your house!  More important than your favorite pair of shoes is the dog himself – pups don’t know what is safe to chew and what isn’t.  That electrical cord looks to be a fun toy…ZAP.  For your dog’s safety and for your sanity (and personal effects), crating a dog is ideal for when you can’t be around to say no!
  • Travel and Vet Visits.  You never know when your dog is going to be faced with a stay in a crate – even for a short time.  Emergencies that require moving ourselves and our dogs quickly can often mean keeping our dog some place where they would need to be confined – already crate trained, no muss no fuss.  Occasionally at the vet your pup may have to spend time in a recovery cage or crate – make it less stressful on him and the hospital staff by making sure he can handle it.  If your pet ever needs to fly to a destination he will HAVE to ride in a crate.  Simply put, we can’t plan for every event and its good to know that you and your pup can handle.
  • Privacy.   Its always a good idea for any pet to have a place to call their own.  A crate is a quiet safe place where your dog can relax and have some down time.  This is especially helpful in a home where there is a lot of activity, children, other animals.  Sometimes puppies can get a little too rambunctious – a crate is a perfect place for them to take a minute and calm down – nestled in with a big old bone.

Crate training is pretty simple.  Using positive reinforcement, you can quickly make the crate a pleasant place that your puppy or adult dog seeks out.  Toss treats inside to encourage your dog to willingly enter.  Feed your dog his meals while he is in his crate making a most favorable impression (crate = food…YUM!).  Attach a command to your efforts – toss in a treat and say “Crate” or “Crate up” or even “Go to bed”.  Whatever works for you.  Start leaving your dog in the crate with the door closed for increasing periods of time giving him treats to occupy his mind.  When using the crate at night, don’t separate your dog from you and the family by leaving him downstairs while you all  sleep upstairs.  Bring his crate into your room and place it by the bed.  This is especially true for new puppies who have been separated from their litters for the first time.  A more restful night is guaranteed if your new dog knows that you are right there with him.  No dog wants to be separated from their “pack”.

Remember that some dogs – most certainly baby puppies, will whine and cry their first few times in the crate.  Don’t give in and let them out at the first noise you hear – they’ll get over it given an adequate amount of time.  If you open the crate or acknowledge your dog every time that he whines, all he learns is whining gets him attention – positive (being let out or told he is “ok”) or negative (yelling, hitting crate).  He doesn’t care which – to a dog, attention is attention and its all good to him!  Also make sure your dog is calm and quiet before letting him out.  If you just came home from work and your dog is bouncing off the sides of the crate, wait for that moment when he waits quietly before opening that door.

Give your dog something to occupy his time while he’s in his crate – he’ll hardly know that you have left!

Finally, giving your dog something to entertain himself with while he’s crated is absolutely okay and generally will help convince your dog that the crate is a positive place as well as getting him over those first few minutes when you first leave him – he’ll be too busy to notice.  Using a high value item that will occupy him for more than half a minute is the key.   Food dispensing toys, like the Linkable Orb, Twist and Elbow, are easy to fill with goodies and when joined together can result in hours of puzzle solving and treat eating.  Use smaller treats like Cloud Star Tricky Trainers to put in the toy.  Alternating treats with peanut butter, cream cheese or plain unflavored yogurt will give your dog plenty to work on especially if you freeze it all together the night before.

Using a crate is a viable way of training your dog as well as keeping him safe from harm.  Used correctly it can be an invaluable tool in many situations.  Go for it – give your dog a den!  Think of it as a room of his very own!