When I discuss the concept of crate training with pet dog owners they often look a little befuddled. I know exactly what they are thinking in most cases before they even open their mouths. Pet owners think of their dogs as family members, loved ones in some cases even our furry kids. Why would we want to put them in a crate?
There are many benefits to crate training a dog, especially if you have a puppy or a young dog and you are in the process of house training. I often ask people, especially those with small children, if they ever used the baby pens. “Of course they reply, I would have never had any peace or quiet”. Well a crate for a puppy is the same concept as a baby pen. You would never leave your baby or child unsupervised, free to wander the rooms of your house where they could injure themselves. Puppies, like small children need a place they can go when you are not available to watch every move they make, a safe place where they can hear, see and smell you without being underfoot. A crate is a safe, quiet place your dog can go when they want peace and quiet, to snooze or just to withdraw into their own sanctuary. I have never met a dog that does not enjoy their crate if the crate is introduced into their world correctly.
There are many benefits of crate training your dog not just for housebreaking but also to prevent destructive behaviors such as chewing, counter surfing and trash exploring, especially while you are away. When a pet is injured or sick a crate is an ideal location for them to rest and, should you ever need to evacuate your dog you will be grateful if you can safely contain your dog on a long journey, in a shelter or in compliance with a hotel’s pet policy.
Contrary to what many may think, a crate is not a tool for punishment, or a long term confinement tool. With training, an adult dog can remain in a crate for up to 8 hours but will need plentiful amounts of exercise before and after crating and an assortment of toys for mental stimulation during its time in the crate.
There are many different sizes, models and varieties of crates. The more durable crates designed for airline travel, in my opinion, do not make the best crate for home use as they tend to be bulky and restrict the dog’s view of their environment. For my dogs, I use the canvas/mesh style of crates for their daily use and that is where they often disappear to be alone while we read or watch television. This design provides for shaded visibility, they fold easily, are durable and can be moved or stored with little problem. Many pet stores provide the metal wire crates that collapse and can be easily moved around the house. These are good crates for large dogs and dogs that may chew. They also come with accessories such as water bowls, fans to keep your pooch cool, and fabric covers to blend them into your home décor.
To start the crate training process make going into the crate a game. Dogs should be encouraged, not forced, into their crates. To generate interest feed them in the crate with the door left open, throw in the odd treat or toy and within a short period of time you will find them happily exploring the inside of their new place delighted to find a surprise. As time goes by gently close the door giving them treats for staying quietly inside, progress on to actually fastening the door and then extend the period of time you leave them in their crate. Remember, offer treats and toys to go in and do not let them out if they are barking or pawing at the door. You want to let them out when they are calm and quiet or they will learn very quickly that if they bark or paw the door opens. If you work on this and make it a fun happy place for your dog you will soon find them choosing to snooze in their crate as happy as can be.