When I first heard of people using crates for their puppy or dog, I was appalled. Honestly. I thought it was such a horrid thing to do to a living being.
Putting them behind bars like that, felt – to me at the time – that we were caging them. Controlling them. Only having them around when we wanted them around, the rest of the time they can be locked away!
And I know I wasn’t alone.
But after delving in further to understand their uses, I realise that crates are a great mechanism for training, as well as providing safety, security and an escape for our little (or big) furry friends.
They have their disadvantages too, however.
So if you’re on the fence about using a crate or need a quick overview of what to and not use them for, this one’s for you….
Particularly important for puppies first leaving their mum, but equally important for rescue pups and dogs who are in a new environment, a crate provides a sense of security. A place that’s theirs.
One crucial point in your pooch being able to use the crate as his den, his place of security, it can’t be too big. While we may like lots of space around us, dogs don’t. In the wild, a wolf’s den would be small, dark and hidden.
Puppies particularly adapt to a small crate better as it more accurately correlates to the den they’ve just left behind.
If you choose a crate that’s too large, your dog may not like to be in it at all.
A quick sidebar on how to choose the ideal crate size. Your pup or dog…
- needs to be able to stand up without banging his head on the top
- should be able to turn around easily
- should be able to lie down without being squashed
- House training
Crates provide a great all-round training tool, but primarily when it comes to toilet training.
Puppies have a strong instinct to keep their den clean.
By ensuring you’ve chosen the crate size wisely (see above), there would be no extra space in the crate for him to use as his toilet.
Of course, accidents can happen if left too long (remember, a pup will have very limited bladder and bowel control) but he will do everything he can to prevent relieving himself inside his crate if he can help it.
One sidebar here too…
If using a crate for toilet training to help him learn bladder control, when you let him out, he’s going to pee the moment he’s released.
One tip is to carry him from his crate to his designated toilet area, wherever that is, rather than let him walk himself there. You may get wee’ed on initially, an unfortunate side-effect of toilet training I’m afraid, but it’s better than all over your floors.
A crate provides a great place for your pup or dog to be if you can’t be around. Though crating should only be used for short periods of time. Long stints are a disadvantage and cruel.
So many dogs get injured, or worse, because of being left alone swallowing things that are laying around. Our eyes may not catch everything that’s a potential hazard for our pooch, but guaranteed he will.
The crate is a safe way for you to go do what you need to do while he chills in his den.
- Peaceful space
Yes, pups and dogs love to play and run around and be within sight of us. But there are times when he’ll get tired, want some quiet time, or just need a time-out.
His crate is the ideal spot.
It’s also a benefit when friends or family come over. Particularly if there are children around.
Kids love playing with animals, but don’t think of the over-stimulation this creates. Whilst he’s very likely to take himself off to his crate to escape, he may not. But as long as you’re also monitoring the situation, you can take him to his crate when you feel he needs some rest.
- Travel aid
Crates provide two key benefits when it comes to travel:
- Car travel: being in a car is foreign to a dog and many can feel anxious. Having his own den in the car, creates a sense of safety and security. He’ll more easily relax. Plus, having a dog loose in the car can be dangerous, so him being contained will be safer for driver, passengers and him.
- Holidays: if you plan to go away and leave him with a dog minder or in kennels, having become used to a crated environment from time to time, will make the transition so much easier.
As touched upon earlier, crating your dog should never be for long periods of time. Sadly, there are some owners who think that is what a crate’s for. It’s not. Ever.
Professionals say that a dog should be crated for a maximum of four hours. Anything over can affect them mentally and physically.
If you do use the crate for longer periods, or even for four hours regularly, your dog may start to dislike the crate and not see it as his den any longer, but instead as a form of punishment.
This attitude will totally negate using it for training purposes, for his respite or anything else.
Do not use a crate as a cage. End of.
Crating your dog for long stints also starts to create a sense of isolation which will spill out to all areas of his life.
He’ll become wary, insular, anxious. He won’t want to socialise, will feel stressed around other dogs which could manifest in timidness or aggression.
This behaviour could be taken out only toward other dogs, or it could be towards you, your family, friends, children.
Isolation is never a good thing.
Dogs are pack animals. They want to socialise. Then need closeness. A bond.
Do not lock them away.
- Emotional distress
As I’ve already said, dogs have a strong instinct not to wee or poop in their den. But they, like us, can only hold it for a time. Eventually, we all just gotta go.
If your pooch ‘goes’ in his den, he’ll be highly stressed about it. Not to mention the potential additional health issues that arise from living in ‘it’.
Emotional stress will also be caused by both points mentioned above – being isolated and feeling punished.
Ultimately, a crate is a fantastic tool for both you and your pup, when used correctly. When not, it’s a form of torture.