New dog owners are sometimes baffled by the concept of dog crates. You might look at a dog crate and think, “I wouldn’t want to be penned up inside a cage. Why on earth would my dog?” You might even make the assumption that dog crates are cruel. The reality though is that you are not a dog, and a canine is not a human. Dogs have a natural instinct to den, and many canines sleep for up to 16 hours a day. For a dog, a crate can be a territorial refuge, a cozy little spot that feels like his own special place. This is not to say that all dogs are happy in crates, or that every type of crate is right for every type of dog. And a dog crate can become cruel if you overuse it or misuse it.
Crate training offers the following benefits to you and your dog:
- Facilitates housetraining. Since your dog sees the crate as a territorial space, she won’t want to soil it.
- The crate does help to keep your dog away from other areas of your home while you work on reducing behavioral problems like furniture chewing.
- Your dog may find a crate a cozy, optimal environment for sleep and relaxation.
- Your crate can also double as a transport method which is safe and comfortable.
Here is what a crate is not to be used for:
- Punishing your dog. Always use positive reinforcement to train your dog, not negative feedback. And never create negative associations with the crate, or the crate will become a cage and not a happy, safe place.
- Avoiding your dog. Being busy is no excuse for leaving your dog penned up in his crate. Neither is being frustrated. You took on the responsibility of becoming a dog owner, and that means giving your pet plenty of time and attention.
- Penning up your dog for your convenience. Do not leave a dog in a crate day and night while you go out and do other things. This is unsanitary and cruel, and will result in a dirty, depressed, anxious pet. Do not leave puppies under six months or housetraining dogs in a crate for more than three hours at a time. They need to be let out so they can relieve themselves.
- Do not close your dog inside the crate after he has been housetrained. Let him choose to come to his crate voluntarily when he wants to and go when he chooses.
There are a few different types of crates, including wire crates, plastic crates, soft-sided crates, heavy duty crates, and cute crates for dogs. You also will find that crates come in different sizes. There are crates for large dogs and crates for small dogs. Each type of crate has pros and cons, so you will need to research to find one that suits your dog’s size, breed and personality.
Crate training takes a few steps, and it does take patience in order to do it right. There are a number of pitfalls you can encounter along the way, so be sure to read up on it before you try it. Remember that not all dogs will take to crates. Many do though, and may prefer them to dog beds, and enjoy the sense of having a den. Even after your pet is housetrained, he may love to sleep in his crate, and may see it as a refuge during thunderstorms or a nice place to take a nap in the afternoon. There are a lot of benefits for both of you, so it is definitely a great starter supply!