Your heart may sink every time you see a dog inside its plastic crate at the vet. How can dog owners be cruel enough to cage their beloved pets like this? Despite how it may look, condemning this practice as cruel is applying a human perspective to the issue. Dogs possess an innate quality that makes them seek out enclosed spaces for shelter.
Furthermore, crating can provide immense benefits to both owners and dogs alike. The former can enjoy some much-needed peace while the latter has a secure space to retreat to.
Read on to find out why crating is so widely practiced and how to crate-train your dog so that you can kick back from the stresses of being a pooch parent.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- To Crate or Not to Crate?
- The Merits of Crate Training your Dog
- What to Look for in a Dog Crate?
- Types of Crates for Dogs
- How to Make your Dog’s Crate More Inhabitable
- Where you Put your Dog’s Crate Matters
- Steps to Effective Dog Crate Training
- Potential Dog Crate Training Problems
- Ease of Crate Training by Dog Breed
- Good Dog Crate Training Practises
- Dog Crate Training: No-Nos
To Crate or Not to Crate?
Thousands of years ago, feral canine ancestors roamed the vast wilderness. Although they weren’t true den animals, they did possess an ingrained urge to burrow. This could have been triggered by a need for shelter, slumber or solitude.
To the human eye, crates appear to be these suffocating spaces surrounded by bars. However, to the dog, they represent its early formative years spent in a safe refuge with its mother and siblings. Hence, denning in a protected place like a crate can bring a deep sense of comfort.
Moreover, depending on how well you manage your dog while training, crates can either be a sanctuary or a nightmare. Crating your dog is not inherently cruel. It is only when the crate is misused as an instrument of punishment that it can be called cruelty.
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The Merits of Crate Training your Dog
Between managing the stresses of life and caring for pets, everyone needs to be able to take a moment to stop and take a breath. Fortunately, crate training your dog means you can do just that.
Here’s how crate training helps you and your dog:
#1. Chewing practically everything including your furniture is an ingrained passion in young puppies. Dog crate training ensures that they can’t get back to this hobby whenever you aren’t around.
#2. At times, the house can get a little too loud for comfort and this can stimulate anxiety in dogs. Crates give your dog that safe haven when they need to relax and de-stress.
#3. Dogs are enthusiastic creatures. It would be tragic if your dog decided to jump out of an open car window during traffic out of curiosity or boredom. With crates, you ensure that your dog does not pull these dangerous stunts while traveling.
#4. Your dog may suddenly decide that the sweet smelling, poisonous chemical on your kitchen counter is worth a taste when you are away. A crate keeps your dog from trying to do so.
#5. Once your dog gets comfortable in the crate, it becomes home. You don’t have to worry about your dog getting anxious anytime it is put in the crate. Consequently, visiting the vet will no longer be a challenge.
#6. Sometimes your dog may require a surgery due to injury, disease or old age. After surgery, your dog will most likely be kept from exercising to protect the stitches. You can keep your dog in a crate to aid its recovery.
#7. Dog crate training prepares puppies for the kind of behavior that is expected of them in the house.
Dogs do not urinate or defecate in their enclosure. When your dog is in a crate, access to the rest of the house is cut off. This prevents them from damaging household items or soiling the floors.
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What to Look for in a Dog Crate?
Now that we have established how beneficial crates can be, it’s time to discuss what you should look for in a crate. Below are some pointers to help you pick out the best crate for your pet:
#1. The size of the crate should allow for your dog to be able to stand upright, lay down and turn around while all of their limbs are outstretched.
#2. Keep in mind that the bigger the crate you choose, the greater the possibility that your dog may decide to soil one of the corners.
#3. When it comes to small puppies, get a crate with adjustable partitions. You can widen the space by adjusting a partition wall and this allows the crate to grow with your dog. This saves money so that you don’t have to buy another crate at a later stage.
Now, let’s take a look at different crate types.
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Types of Crates for Dogs
Dog crates or dog kennels come in a variety of materials. Some of these include:
1. Plastic, Portable Dog Crates
These crates are constructed almost entirely from plastic. The sides, bottom, and top are solid walls. The front door has bars to let air in and to allow the dog to look outside. This crate is also portable as the top portion has a handle attached to it. It is ideal for transporting dogs in airplanes and cars.
2. Wire Dog Crates
These crates are very common. They come in a range of sizes and the structure allows the dog to get a completely unrestricted view of its surroundings. They are also very easy to clean. Unfortunately, this crate may be too large at times which encourages the dog to urinate in one corner and lie down in another.
3. Soft Dog Crates
The main materials of this crate are nylon or canvas which are easily destructible. If your dog has a tendency to scratch or is just beginning his crate training, then it is best not to go with this type of crate. However, if your dog has a calm nature, these crates make a comfortable and breathable enclosure.
4. Heavy Duty Dog Crates
If you own a massive dog with immense power to destroy any crate, then this is the one for you. The metal bars in this crate are resistant to scratching or chewing. Nonetheless, this crate should not be purchased if you are having trouble keeping your dog inside the crate. You may have to restart the training process if your dog dislikes his crate that much. The purpose of a crate is to be a safe refuge and not a jailhouse.
5. Wooden Dog Crates
These crates serve a purely aesthetic purpose. They are pleasant to look at and are consequently quite expensive. Their overall look resembles a wooden cupboard. They can be a bit of a hassle to clean.
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How to Make your Dog’s Crate More Inhabitable
When crate training your puppies, always start with bare floors and some chewable toys to keep it entertaining. If you go with soft items like a teddy bear or blanket, your dog may tear them apart by chewing, and swallow the pieces. This will result in either choking or intestinal blockage.
Once your dog learns that only toys should be chewed, throw in firm bedding that is not too soft. Ensure that the bedding material is water resistant and easy to clean if your dog soils it.
Additionally, you can get chew toys that accommodate dog treats. If you want to leave water in the crate then place it in a bottle attached to the crate walls. Do this only if your dog has to stay in the crate for a while. Never leave a bowl of water on the floor unless you want a mess.
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Where you Put your Dog’s Crate Matters
The next important thing is to decide where the crate should be kept. Although it may not sound like a big deal, it matters quite a lot. If your dog isn’t completely at ease in its crate, then training will become a process fraught with anxiety.
You should consider the following when you are trying to pick out the perfect place for your crate:
#1. Choose a place far from outside disturbances or irritating noises.
#2. Don’t place the crate beneath direct sunlight, or near in-floor cooling or heating vents. This is especially true if the crate materials consist of metal which can easily become too cold or too hot depending on the outside temperature.
#3. Keep the crate as far away as possible from electric wires, plugs or poisonous substances. Your dog may be able to reach out from the spaces between the crate wires and reach them if they are near enough.
#4. You could place the crate in your own bedroom as well but make sure that you are comfortable with the arrangement.
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Steps to Effective Dog Crate Training
Now onto the actual training. The training process is broken down into smaller steps so that the progress is gradual. Remember, the beginning is never pleasant for your dog since unfamiliar surroundings might arouse fear or anxiety.
The following steps are mentioned below:
Step 1: Release Pent-up Energy
Energetic dogs will have difficulty if they are suddenly confined to a small space. Help your dog release this energy by taking it out for a walk or letting it play outside for a significant amount of time. Ensure all of nature’s calls have been answered before it is put into the crate.
Step 2: Build an Optimistic Attitude Towards Crates
To reduce feelings of fear, begin by throwing in some toys or treats to encourage your dog to explore. Promote this behavior by saying a marker word like “great!” every time your dog enters the crate to let it know that you approve. You should praise your dog and give him treats as further motivation to continue. Accustom your dog to the crate by giving it meals inside the crate with the door slightly ajar. If your dog is initially afraid to go in, place the bowl as close to the entrance as you can. Every day, inch the dog food bowl a little closer until it is eventually inside the crate completely.
Practice closing the door during the meal and immediately open it after your dog is finished.
Step 3: Increase the Duration of Stay
This is where the real challenge begins. How do you begin building your dog’s endurance to an extended stay in its crate? Start by letting your dog play in the crate with its favorite toy for 15 seconds and after the time is over, hand a treat to your dog. Feed them for five seconds while you keep the toy out of reach. Stay close to the crate for 10 more seconds then repeat the step.
Keep doing this but extend the length of stay until it can stay inside the crate for 15 minutes.
Things to keep in mind while training:
#1. If your dog becomes anxious or shows open displeasure such as moaning, howling etc. you are doing it wrong. You may be moving too fast with the training.
#2. Give your dog a good incentive like cheese, red meat or liver pieces to amp up their enthusiasm to get into the crate.
#3. When your dog begins spending more time in the crate, giving them too much food may lead to unnecessary weight gain.
#4. Opt for non-food items like toys or cut up their meals into small parts and feed it to them throughout the day.
#5. Sneak in shorter stay periods like 20, 40 or 60 seconds amongst longer durations.
#6. You can talk to your dog in soothing tones to put it at ease when it shows signs of fear or hold your dog’s favorite toy while he plays with it in the crate. Keep up this behavior until your dog becomes comfortable playing alone.
Step 4: Dog Crate Training When You Aren’t Around
So, your dog is adjusting to being in a crate and you’ve finally decided you want to see how well it fares in your absence, especially since you’ll have to be away at times. Start by walking across the room for a couple of seconds and then back to the crate just in time to give your dog some treats for staying in the crate.
Increase the time by 15 to 30 seconds until the time away is five minutes. Begin increasing the time by five to 10 minutes. Your dog should remain comfortable. Reduce the progress pace if your dog gets anxious. Once the dog can spend 15 minutes alone, lengthen the distances you walk. You can try walking around the house out of sight.
Increase training difficulty by slowing your return until your dog has finished his treats to test its composure. You could also try leaving it in the crate without toys. Doing this ensures your dog doesn’t get stressed if these things are ever unavailable.
If your dog is accustomed to spending 30 minutes alone in its crate, then you can now begin leaving the house for short periods of time.
Some leaving etiquettes to keep in mind:
#1. Usher your dog into the crate with a treat and a favorite toy. Leave quietly and don’t leave them for too long.
#2. Vary the time for letting your dog into the crate, from anything between five to 20 minutes each time before departure. Make sure your dog hasn’t been in the crate for very long when you leave.
#3. When your dog becomes hyper after seeing you return, don’t respond enthusiastically. Pretend as if you never left at all. Don’t make partings an emotionally draining affair for your dog.
#4. Crate your dogs at home as well so they don’t relate being crated with being abandoned.
#5. Don’t leave your crated dog alone when you are at home. Crate it in a place where you or at least someone is present so it doesn’t feel isolated.
#6. Keep the crate as near as possible to you at night. Your dog may need to urinate so you should be able to hear its whine.
Additionally, your dog may get lonely if they sleep alone. Sleeping close to you helps strengthen your bond.
Step 5: Apply this Practise to your Daily Life
Once your dog has progressed through all the previous steps, it’s time you make crating a habit. Consistently crate at night before bed, when transporting your dog, when guests are over or in any other appropriate situation. Furthermore, if your dog becomes excited to leave, allow it to calm down first before letting it out of the crate. If your dog shows any signs of discomfort, release it and start over. You can restart by making your dog stay in the crate for the greatest duration it was comfortable with during previous sessions.
Potential Dog Crate Training Problems
Sometimes you could be going too fast with the training and your dog may be unable to catch up. When left in the crate, it may howl or whine. At times, it may be testing your conviction, seeing whether you will let it out or it could be because of an urge to relieve itself. If this moaning has gone on previously and not for the purpose of urinating, then ignore it. If you let them out, you’ll encourage this behavior. However, if the problem becomes uncontrollable, you may have to restart the training process all over again.
To check whether they want to urinate, state the command you normally use for this purpose out loud and see whether they respond enthusiastically.
Another issue is elevated anxiety levels due to separation. The dog may respond by causing self-injury. Although crating prevents this behavior, your dog can still get hurt by bumping against crate walls or cutting itself on a sharp wire. A possible solution is visiting a canine behaviorist.
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Ease of Crate Training by Dog Breed
All dogs are different and so is their learning process. Some dogs are comparatively easier to train than others but nonetheless, they all make loving companions. For best results in training, try to be as kind as possible. Remember, your canine friend is trying its best. It just needs more guidance. Patience is key.
Here are a few breeds that easily adapt to dog crate training:
Although they are fearsome in appearance, bulldogs are softies at heart. Unfortunately, they are difficult to train but with a little compassion they can go on to become excellent guard dogs. Try adding their favorite activities in training sessions to aid their progress.
2. Bull Mastiff
Bull Mastiffs are massive dogs that can weigh up to 60 kgs. Their headstrong attitude makes them difficult to train but try being gentle when commanding. These dogs thrive on kindness and love. Additionally, short training sessions make it easier for them to learn.
3. German Shepherd
German Shepherds are a marvelous breed especially because of their intelligence and adjustability to any situation. They are very easy to train. You can see these dogs in the military, police force and even regular household settings.
4. Golden Retriever
From drug detection to aiding the disabled, these dogs can just about do anything. They are affectionate, incredibly easy to train and massively popular as a result.
Good Dog Crate Training Practises
To keep your dog healthy inside a crate, you must set some rules for both yourself and your dog. Remember, forcing your dog is never the answer.
Here are a few things that are considered as good crate practices:
#1. Let your dog freely explore the crate to acquaint itself to its new living quarters. The idea is to let your dog develop a positive outlook on the crate.
#2. You must oversee your dog at all times to discourage negative behavior such as chewing or howling unnecessarily.
#3. Nurture good behavior by rewarding it often. An especially rare, tasty treat is a great incentive for the dog.
#4. Wash the crate bedding once a week in very hot water with a mild, fragrance-free detergent to get rid of germs and dirt. This keeps your dog healthy and odorless. Don’t forget to wash the toys too!
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Dog Crate Training: No-Nos
Here’s a rough idea on what NOT to do while crate training your dog.
#1. Don’t let your dog walk in the crate with a collar, ID or any other accessory. It may get caught in the metal wires of the crate and cause injury to your dog.
#2. Don’t leave puppies in the crate for longer than three to four hours since they have frequent urges to urinate and need to relieve themselves.
#3. Don’t ever use crates as punishment. This will create a negative image in your dog’s mind and dog crate training will become far more difficult than it was. Not to mention that it is also animal abuse.
#4. Never abandon your dog in the crate. An unwanted prolonged stay can lead to anxiety and depression.
#5. The crate is also not a replacement for hiring a dog sitter. Get a dog sitter to care for your dog if you are frequently away.
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Dog crate training is a gradual process which may take about four to six months or even longer depend on the breed of dog. Nevertheless, seeing your dog expertly obeying every command will make it all the more rewarding. Moreover, you will never have to go home to a hyper dog that’s chewed on half the furniture and peed all over the floor.
Now both you and your dog can get that much-needed rest.
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