We get asked quite often what exactly the point of crate training is. There are so many misconceptions and incorrect information about crate training so we decided to write out a Crate Training 101 blog to hopefully answer any questions you may have.
First off, let’s begin with this: crating your dog is not cruel nor is it a punishment. In fact, according to the Humane Society of the United States, “crate training takes advantage of your dog’s natural instincts as a den animal. A wild dog’s den is their home; a place to sleep, hide from danger and raise a family. The crate comes your dog’s den, where they can find comfort and solitude while you know they’re safe and secure.” But in order to create this happy and safe escape for your dog, it’s important to take the proper steps in introducing your dog to the crate.
So let’s go through a few dos and don’ts:
- Get the right size crate! Crates should only be large enough for your dog to stand up, turn around, and lay down. Too large of a crate gives your dog enough space to potty in the crate, and we don’t want that.
- Get a crate strong enough to hold your dog. If you have a high energy or anxious dog, it probably wouldn’t be the best idea to get a weak plastic crate that could easily break.
- Introduce your dog to their crate properly. Make the crate a happy place where good things happen. Feed your dog in the crate, give them treats every time they go in, leave bones for them, etc.
- Gradually increase the amount of time they are in their crate. Don’t go out and buy a crate, put the dog in it, and leave them there for 10 hours. This will likely cause your dog anxiety leading to a crate aversion.
- To avoid any negative associations to the crate, never use your dog’s crate as a punishment. This will lead to your dog hating their crate and this can take a lot of time to reverse.
- Don’t keep your dog crated all day and all night. A dog who’s crated too long to the point where he/she isn’t receiving enough exercise or human interaction can spark up anxiety or other unwanted behaviors.
- Don’t make it a huge deal every time you’re putting your dog in their crate before you leave. Making a big scene every time they go in their crate can cause separation anxiety and destructive behavior when you’re gone.
Now that we’ve discussed how to introduce your dog to their crate, let’s discuss why we should crate our dogs! First, crating ensures your dog has a safe place to escape to when they are uncomfortable, tired, sick, etc. If you have a dog who is nervous when new people are in the house, their crate serves as a safe escape route that will help calm them in stressful situations. Second, crating makes travel easier! If you are going on a long road trip with a full car, having your dog ride in the crate helps keep them confined and can again, help calm them on the road. Third, and probably the most obvious, if your dog is crated (properly, might I add), they can’t cause any damage around the house or get into things they’re not supposed to! Getting into things can sometimes be life threatening. Dogs that like to ingest socks, eat pills, inhale candy, etc. get away with those behaviors when they are allowed to roam freely. Crating ensures they can’t get themselves into any trouble while you’re away!
All in all, crating your dog gives them a more healthy, stable, and relaxing home life. When done properly, your dog’s crate should be their go-to happy place!