Should I Crate My Dog?

So this is a topic I have gone back and forth on over the years but today and I am sure, forever more, I am an advocate of crate training and generally crates for dogs.  Let me explain why.

My Crate Story:

When I got my first pet ever, the breeder told me to get a crate to train him more quickly.  They were right.  He (Cooper) was house broken within a few days.  Also, because he was crated, he did not get into as much mischief as he could have being a very inquisitive Labrador Retriever.  One year later, I decided to get another pup to keep Cooper company.  I made a big mistake. Instead of buying a second crate for the new pup (Molly) I gave her Cooper’s crate. Two bad things happened as a result.  Cooper no longer had a “safe place” and Molly thought “heck if he does not need to be crated, why should I?”  So I stopped crating both dogs and for three years, my home became a “dog house”.  Shoes were eaten, couches were destroyed, table legs were chewed and all sorts of various mayhem occurred.  Since Cooper no longer had his crate,  he adopted the bathtub as his new “safe place”.

Fast forward to my current set of dogs; Chester and Sophy.  If I had it to do all over again, they would be crate trained, period end of story!  Eighteen months ago, my Sophy tore her ACL and required surgery.  Keeping a 3-year old lab quiet was difficult at best.  But after a few days, she took to the crate and it became her friend.  Three months ago, my other pup Chester tore his ACL.  He wanted nothing to do with the crate but when I set it up, Sophy went right in and settled down for a nice nap.

Advantages of Crating

Simply put, dogs like crates when they are used appropriately.  Here are some reasons why:

  • they keep a puppy safe
  • they keep your house safe from damage
  • house breaking is often done faster because pups do not like to soil their “home”
  • taking the crate with you while traveling with gives the dog or pup a sense of security because he has his home with him
  • they give your dog a place of his own where he can come and go when the door is left open

Disadvantages of Crating

The reason why crates get a bad rap is that people use them as a form of punishment or banishment.  I will never forget reading a book on training that said: “lock ’em up for 4-5 hours and they will be so grateful to be out that they will do anything you want”.  Well, I don’t know about you, but to me, that is just wrong.  The main disadvantages of crates:

  • Used for punishment.
  • Used to “get away from the dog”.  Not really as punishment but because the dog is “in the way”.  When this happens too much the dog is deprived of the companionship needed to form a good bond with his or her guardian

Proper Use of a Crate

Puppies will generally take to a crate quite well.  They may cry at first but that is not necessarily a reaction to the crate but more likely the result of being in a new environment.  Introduce the puppy to the crate and let him sniff if. Put a blanket or crate pad at the bottom and place a toy inside.  Once the pup gets familiar with the crate, close the door and walk away.  If the pup cries just ignore him (I know it is hard to do).  Come back in a few minutes and let the puppy out.  Do this a few times before you leave the the puppy in the crate for any extended period of time. Puppies (and dogs) should never been locked in the crate for more than 4 hours except at night when everyone is sleeping.

Once your dog is house broken and getting more mature and less destructive, consider leaving the crate door open for longer periods of time.  You will find that your dog will seek out the safety and familiarity of the crate as a routine part of life

If you have to leave a puppy or dog home alone all day while at work, do not use a crate unless someone can come in to let them out. Instead, confine them to a small room, again to keep them safe and protect your home from destructive behavior.


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