Considering that they are one of the most useful and versatile training tools on the market, crates get an undeservedly bad reputation for being “cruel.”
Don’t get me wrong, crates used the wrong way can be cruel. Leaving a dog in a crate longer than he can realistically be expected to hold his bladder or bowel movements and forcing him to spend time in squalor and his own filth is cruel – it is abuse and neglect and should not be condoned under any circumstances.
Appropriately trained, a crate can be a dog and his person’s best friend. If you crate train the right way, the crate can become:
- 1. Your dog’s bedroom – everyone likes a sanctuary when they can go and relax when the world or household gets too crazy. Many dogs who have been crate trained correctly choose to go in their crate when they want to nap and relax.
- 2. A raw feeding diner – raw feeding can get messy. Often, I feed my dogs outside in the back yard, but sometimes weather makes that impractical. If I remove beds from the crate, the plastic surface is great for allowing them to eat their raw meals inside, as I can easily disinfect it with diluted vinegar after mealtime.
- 3. A place for management and time outs – many may bristle upon reading this, because we have been taught that the crate should never be used as punishment. This is correct, but the crate can be an absolutely invaluable tool for redirection. If a puppy is getting overly nippy, putting him in his crate with a bully stick or other safe chew toy can allow you to redirect his teething to an appropriate outlet. A crate can prevent your puppy from jumping on guests or bolting through the door when your new furniture is being moved into the house. (Wait – are you nuts? Getting new furniture while your puppy is still teething?!)
- 4. A way to keep dogs safe – puppies especially (but many adult dogs as well) are likely to find trouble if they are given the opportunity. When you are unable to supervise the dog, crating will keep him safe so that he is not chewing or choking on inappropriate items, having potty accidents throughout the house, or surfing your counters for goodies.
- 5. Invaluable in speeding the house training process – dogs naturally want to sleep in a clean environment. Unfortunately, the squalid conditions many victims of puppy mills are raised in desensitize dogs to the inherently unnatural environment of living surrounded in feces. Crating allows you to capitalize on a dog’s natural tendency to want to keep his den clean and can dramatically cut down on the number of accidents you face on the road to potty training success.
- 6.Aids in rehabilitation should your dog ever require surgery or sustain particular types of injuries. Total crate rest is often a part of recovery. This is a stressful experience for dogs and their people in the best of cases, when the dog has already been taught to love his crate; but can be a nightmare for those who haven’t done their crating homework. Uncrated dogs in recovery are at a higher risk of reinjury or increasing the severity of an existing injury.
Virtually every dog will need to be crated at some point in his life. Your dog will likely need to be crated at some point in the veterinarian’s office, perhaps even overnight. As going to the veterinarian’s and being left their without mom or dad is often stressful for a dog anyway, being crated for the very first time will only compound your dog’s stress. Many hotels only allow dogs in the rooms if the dogs are able to be crated and remain quietly in their crate when the owner is away from the hotel room.
For trainers and competitive dog parents, crating is a way of life. Your dog may need to be crated while he awaits his turn on the agility field or in the rally obedience or conformation ring. Traveling pet parents know that dogs always need to be crated on any flights you may take with your dog, either in the cabin or in the plane’s cargo hold. Trainers attending workshops with their dogs often must leave the dogs in the crates for all non-working portions of the seminar. In a new and strange environment with many new dogs and people, a crate is a way for the owner to provide the comforts of home while on the road.
A great resource which will show you how you can train your dog to not just tolerate, but love his crate, is Susan Garrett’s Crate Games. Until next time, happy crate training!