At some point in their life, most dogs will experience being in a crate, whether that is a part of their training, at the vet’s office, the groomer, or at a kennel while you are out of town. We often hear dog owners concerns about crating their furry best friends. “It’s not fair!”, “He’ll hate me if I leave him in there!”, “It’s mean to lock her in a crate!”, “It’s uncomfortable!”, “I wouldn’t want to sleep in there, so why would my dog?”. Let’s talk about why those concerns are not how your dog perceives their crate, and why the crate is great and can be an essential part to a happy and safe life with your dog.
There are many reasons why crate training is beneficial to your dog. First and foremost is your dog’s safety! If you have a destructive chewer, a counter surfer, or just a puppy that is into everything, crating them when they are unsupervised is the best way to ensure their safety. The last thing we want is for your little buddy to get into something hazardous to his health like cleaning chemicals, that chocolate you accidentally forgot to take off your kitchen counter, or those choking and obstruction hazards in the trash you forgot to take out!
When you can’t directly supervise your dog, crating for an appropriate amount of time can be a great babysitter, keeping your dog out of trouble! If you have a puppy, a crate is an essential tool while they are not yet house-trained. While we all wish we could be with our dogs 24/7, reality often gets in the way of that. So, we often encourage owners with young puppies to crate them when they can’t directly supervise to prevent those potty accidents! Dogs have a natural instinct to not want to have to lay in their mess, so an appropriately sized crate can go a long way in helping them learn appropriate potty habits.
A Space of Their Own
While you may look at a crate and think “that looks uncomfortable, I wouldn’t want to be stuck in there,” dogs see things differently. Dogs are instinctively den animals; they enjoy having a space of their own! Teaching a dog that the crate is their space (and only their space, no kids, people, or other animals allowed in there!) often reduces anxiety for them as they have somewhere of their own to go to relax when they need to. If the kids, or another dog, in the home start to play too rough with them, it allows them a place to escape from whatever is causing them stress. Many dogs will choose on their own to go hang out in their crate when given the opportunity to do so.
In training, we use the crate as a processing center between a dog’s training sessions. Following each training session, dogs go into their crate for some down time, where we generally find them napping when it’s time for their next session. This is how dogs learn and process the information we are teaching them. It is an essential part of their day, and often leads to great strides between those training sessions!