To Crate or Not to Crate
Making judgements about how people raise and train their dogs, much like making judgements
about child rearing, can be a taboo subject in our society. Of course, it’s true that there isn’t
one cookie cutter way of raising a happy, healthy dog. That being said, there are certain
strategies that have gotten a bad, and undeserved, reputation in some circles. In this case,
we’re talking about crates. Now, we have to admit, many people use crates incorrectly (or even
inhumanely) to punish dogs or just keep them from bothering the family. It’s this sort of
behavior that has led to a backlash against crates in any scenario whatsoever. That’s a shame
because when they’re used right, crates aren’t just an effective training tool; they can actually
be a place of security for your dog.
First, crates can be great for helping young puppies learn about house rules. Trainers often use
crates to teach them about bladder and bowel control, as well as to encourage calm behavior at
the appropriate time. But a crate can really be so much more than just a simple training tool.
The key term here is “positive reinforcement.” If your dog’s experience with being in a crate is
as punishment for bad behavior, there’s no doubt he’ll hate it and that will lead to serious
stress. If, on the other hand, the crate is seen a kind of safe space (remember, dogs are very
comfortable in den-like surroundings), its value is much greater.
By keeping the crate in a cozy place, putting some of your dog’s favorite toys or blankets inside,
and supporting him with treats, a crate can be your dog’s private cozy space. Dogs are social
but they need time to destress and be alone too. This is especially true if you have kids or a lot
of people in the house. A crate made up to be a den-like home can be a hugely important part
of your dog’s mental health.
There’s another aspect of having a crate for your dog that many people don’t ever consider:
safety. If you’re like most dog owners, your dog has been in the car with you several times.
Having a dog loose in a car is dangerous for everyone. They’re more likely to be injured in an
accident, AND more likely to cause an accident by being free in the cabin. A crate for the car
should be an absolute necessity – especially if you have a family. And while you’d probably
prefer to be at home all day every day with your dog instead of going out, that’s simply not
possible. We’re certainly not advocating for keeping dogs locked up in crates all day for several
hours! However, in certain circumstances, and especially with rambunctious puppies who are
still learning the rules, a little crate time while you get work done can prevent all kinds of
property damage or even deadly accidents.
Dogs crave family and social connections, but they also thrive on security and routine. You will
find that if you approach crating with your dog the right way, it will make him a happier and
healthier pup. In another post, we’ll go over how to choose the right crate for your dog and
begin the process of acclimating your furry friend to this new place in the home.