You will have heard how it’s important to crate train a dog. But just why is this, and what are the benefits of crate training?
In this guide, I won’t explain how you do it, but I will relate to you is how crate training is important… and if you don’t do it, you might set yourself up for more problems in the future.
Before I start on the importance of crate training, please acknowledge that crates should only be used when owners are not available to supervise their dogs, or as a training aid. They should not be used for punishment or for any length of time when the owner is present.
A crate should be a happy place, the equivalent of a human ‘safe space’, where good things happen. If you can make that happen, the crate will become an important part of your puppy’s development and will help to shape their behavior positively.
Best results are achieved if you start crate training when your puppy is young, preferably as soon as it is brought home.
Why crate training a puppy is important
1. When you cannot supervise your dog
The primary reason for using a crate is to keep your dog, and the environment it is in, safe from each other. There are many horror stories of puppies harming themselves when left alone, unsupervised.
As one example, in our neighborhood, a man was in the habit of leaving his dog’s blocks on top of the stove, out of reach of the dog. One day, the dog jumped onto the stove, broke open the bag, ate his fill and left dry blocks on the stove’s plates.
Somehow, he managed to turn one of the plates on, which heated up the blocks and caused a fire in the kitchen. Fortunately, the smoke alarm worked, and help arrived before too much damage was caused.
This is an extreme case, but dogs have been known to be destructive when they are bored. A friend of mine returned home to discover a crater in her mattress.
2. A slow introduction to your home
Puppies need to get to know their environment incrementally. It is a bit overwhelming for a pup to be introduced to a large house all at once. The first thing they will do is find multiple spaces to use as toilet areas – you should not let them roam the house.
Crate training is also important for puppies as part of the toilet training process. You can use a create to help them to understand what is allowed in each zone.
A crate combined with a playpen will allow them more space in a particular area. For example, if you are cooking and cannot give attention to a pup, it can still be with you in the kitchen but out of danger.
3. Time out for your dog or puppy
Puppies are afraid of missing out on fun and can be stimulated by a falling leaf. Much like toddlers, they need to nap regularly. A short period in its crate, away from distractions, is required.
Dogs who are recovering from surgery or injury and are comfortable in their crates, will have a safe place to recuperate and prevent further pain – be careful about crating a dog with a cone on though.
Often guests are not comfortable with dogs, especially if they get an exuberant canine welcome. Dogs can be crated until they are calm and then be allowed to join the party, once the guests have settled down. It is something we have used to stop our puppies biting and nipping at visitors.
This is the primary reason we still believe crate training is important for older dogs. Our two get very excitable when the doorbell rings. When that happens I put them in their crate so I can answer the door without stress.
4. Prevent separation anxiety
Many puppies become anxious when left alone, even if there are other dogs in the household. They fear never seeing their owners again once they have left the house.
If the crate has been established as a safe and secure place to be, where the dog can feel calm, this will greatly reduce the dog’s stress and decrease recovery time.
But you can only achieve this through repetition, and that’s another reason why crate training is so important for puppies.
5. Transportation and relocation
Crating makes vacations, visits to the vet and even relocating better.
Small dogs are allowed in some airline cabins, but usually large dogs are not. The process of travelling, especially moving house, is stressful enough. It will benefit both owner and dog, if the dog has been crate trained and is comfortable with being transported in it.
Handy Hint: If you are planning on taking your dog on a plane, here are 11 calming tips to use so they relax better in flight.
Visits to the vet are so much easier on dogs who have been crate trained. Ours is a rural practice and often dog owners come in for errands, as well as a trip to the vet, so their pets can stay at the vet for a few hours.
It is heart wrenching to go into the kennel area and witness dogs who have not learnt to self-soothe.
Many vacation establishments, even pet-friendly ones, will appreciate it if you can assure them that your canine companion will not wreck the place in your absence. The crate will also help the dog to feel at home, alone in a strange environment.
It’s also very important to understand that it’s against the law in the UK and some areas of the United States to drive a car with an un-restrained dog. Crate training is important for dogs in cars, as they can travel without a seatbelt and keep legal.
Which dogs are good candidates for crate training?
The earlier you can train your dog to enjoy being in its crate, the better. Older dogs may be a bit difficult. The training process will take longer but it is worth persevering to reap the benefits.
If you have acquired an older dog from someone who is unable to provide you with their full history, be cautious when crate training as you will not know what the dog associates with the experience.
When should you use a crate
During the day
Dogs should preferably only be crated for short periods during the day. It is not fair to leave them locked up in a confined space for several hours while you go to work, for example. They need regular exercise, stimulus, and relief.
If you need to leave the dog alone for more than four hours at a time, consider taking them to doggy day-care or having someone spend time with them at intervals throughout the day.
Dogs are diurnal so will sleep for most of the night. Therefore, your dog should be fine in a crate, for several hours of darkness.
Be sure to exercise your dog and allow them out to do their business before placing them in the crate.
Where should you keep the crate?
Depending on the space you have available, the crate should be away from humans and other distractions. Ideally it should be in another room, especially at night.
A new puppy will cry for company and you may be tempted to comfort it by bringing it into bed with you. Do not empathise with a whining pup at bedtime. One of the objectives of the crate is to teach your dog independence.
Another reason why crate training a puppy is important is to keep your bed free from ‘accidents’.
If necessary, cover the crate by placing a larger surface over the top and draping a cover over it. You want to ensure that the pup cannot reach the covering to pull it off and chew on it.
What crate features are best?
The crate should be large enough for the puppy to stand up and turn around comfortably. It should not be large enough for the dog to create different zones as it may use one area to sleep in and another for ablutions.
Dogs do not like to sully their ‘nests’.
Some crates have adjustable frames so that you can increase the space available to the dog as it grows. Others have dividers that allow you to create different zones in the crate, e.g., a place for feeding and drinking water, separate from the sleeping area.
Yet other crates have an optional attachable play pen that will enlarge the area available to your dog. This can be useful in a new environment, such as when you are on holiday.
Your crate should be collapsible so that it is easy to transport yet sturdy enough, once assembled, to transport with your dog inside. It should also be made of a substance, i.e., metal, that cannot be chewed or otherwise bent or destroyed by your dog.
A crate with more than one door will make it easier to clean and will make your pup feel less confined when you are training it. The threshold should be low so that the pup can enter and exit easily, without tripping over it.
Why it’s important to get your puppy used to a crate
Always train your pup or dog using a lead so that you have better control during the training sessions.
However, once they are trained, do not leave them alone in the crate with a collar or lead on.
Dogs have been known to get their collars caught in between bars. This is not life threatening until the dog panics and starts thrashing around, trying to free itself.
Train using treats and toys (view on Amazon). Throw desirable toys and high value treats into the crate, creating incentive to retrieve them. First prize would be for the dog to spend time in the crate, savouring its prize.
Train your dog when it may leave the crate. Have a word that is not usually associated with other play or activities, such as ‘free’ or ‘exit’.
One important aspect of crate training is to teach the puppy that excited behavior does not equal freedom. It needs to be calm before it is allowed out of the crate.
Do not use bedding in the crate until the pup has been toilet trained. Your pup will be fine lying on the base of the cage. Put down some plywood if you are concerned about the cold.
Do not leave any soft bedding or plushie toys in the crate, alone with the pup, until it can be trusted not to destroy them. Dogs can easily ingest foreign substances, like stuffing or squeak boxes, resulting in injury and expensive surgery.
Rather use hard rubber toys or puzzle feeders (view on Amazon) to keep the pup occupied busy and stimulated.
Set your puppy up for success by removing food and water from the crate once it has had its fill. Pups have little common sense and could play or even sleep in the water. They also don’t know when to stop eating.
Also do not give them access to either for several hours before bedtime so that they have less need to go potty.
Many owners will speak from bitter experience that they never took crate training seriously enough. Crate training puppies is so important if you want a well-balanced and adjusted adult dog that doesn’t cause havoc in your home.
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Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/puppy-cocker-spaniel-pet-canine-6391982/