Cage or Cozy Den? The Truth About Crate Training a Dog
By: Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Nov 28, 2016
The words “crate training” may conjure up images of a sad puppy, trapped in a crate all day while its owners are at work. Animal lovers view their pets as family members, and they certainly wouldn’t lock a family member up in a cage!
While we might view a crate as a cage, from a dog’s point of view, a crate can be a safe, cozy den. It becomes a familiar and secure place where they can relax. There are many good reasons to consider training your dog to feel comfortable while crated:
When housetraining a puppy, using crate training as a part of the process makes it easier and faster for your puppy to learn not to eliminate in the house. Their natural instinct is to avoid urinating where they sleep. Selecting a crate that is just large enough for your dog to comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down in will trigger their instinct to treat it as their den.
2. Vet trips/travel.
When it’s time to see the vet or go on a trip, your dog will need to be crated. They may also need to be confined during recovery periods after surgery, or while waiting their turn at the groomers. A dog that is crate trained will not be subjected to unnecessary stress and anxiety during these occasions.
When you have to run errands and leave your dog unattended, a crate is the safest place for them. There are too many dangerous activities that inquisitive dogs can get up to: from chewing on objects that can become choking hazards to getting into cleaning supplies stored under a sink.
4. As a retreat.
Some dogs become anxious when strangers visit, particularly if they are making a lot of noise. If your household includes children or other pets, your dog can also become stressed out if they don’t have a place to call their own. Their crate is a place that they can retreat to when they feel overwhelmed.
5. As a training tool.
Crate training a dog will set them up for success when it is used to appropriately limit the opportunities they have to misbehave. Training involves working with your dog to correct a problem behavior, such as teaching them to greet visitors at the door without jumping up on them. Of course, not every visitor is going to have the time to do this with you. Management involves preventing the problem behavior altogether, such as crating your dog when a pizza is delivered.
6. To reinforce good chewing habits.
Dogs are natural chewers. Once they start, they’ll have a hard time learning not to chew on the wrong things. Giving them a special chew toy while they are in their crate is an excellent way to teach them what they are allowed to chew on.
When to stop crate training your dog? The Humane Society of the United States provides the following guidelines:
- Never use the crate as a punishment. Your dog will come to fear it and refuse to enter.
- Don’t leave your dog in the crate too long. Crate training an adult dog and puppy all day and night won’t allow them to get enough exercise or human interaction and can become depressed or anxious. You may have to change your crate training schedule, hire a pet sitter or take your dog to a daycare facility to reduce the amount of time they spend in their crate each day.
- Puppies under six months of age shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can’t control their bladders and bowels for that long. The same goes for adult dogs being housetrained. Physically, an older dog can hold it, but they don’t know they’re supposed to.
- Crate your dog only until you can trust them not to destroy the house. After that, it should be a place they go voluntarily.
Interested in learning more? The Humane Society of the United States and the RSPCA offer more step-by-step information on how to start crate training a dog.
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