I know the word “should” is in the title, but I don’t mean to presume to tell you this is the only way to train your dog…because it isn’t! I’m taking this opportunity to talk about the positives, particularly because I know a lot of people seem to be instantly put off by the thought of “locking their puppy in a cage” – deeming it unfair and cruel. I do understand how it may appear to be the case, but there are a lot of misconceptions about crate training that I hope to dispel right here.
When used properly there are many benefits, but when abused it is cruel.
What does it mean to crate train a dog?
It means to teach your dog to be comfortable in a crate. It is typically used as a way of house training, teaching him or her bladder and bowel control. You don’t just set up a crate, coax your dog in, shut the door and job done. It’s important to introduce your dog to it slowly, in order to increase the chances he will like it. There is a process involved and you can find my step by step guide here. Although the title says puppy, the process is the same no matter how old your dog is. It just may mean you will spend more time at each step.
Even if you aren’t planning on house training your dog using a crate, there are other instances where being comfortable in one would be beneficial.
♦ It is a safer way for a dog to travel in a car
♦ If you will be flying with your dog in the cabin or cargo, he will need to be in a crate or carrier
♦ Your dog may have come from a difficult background, and is anxious or downright petrified being out in the world. A crate or carrier is the safest way to get him to the vet, even if it is just walking from the car to the front door
♦ If there are times your house gets a bit chaotic, having a nice den to retreat to will be welcome
♦ Your dog may require surgery one day or be injured and need to rest. A cage is the perfect way to ensure he stays put. One of my dog’s had become paralyzed suddenly, and although his surgery was successful, his recovery was long and required absolute bed rest. Other than his short walks during the day, he stayed in his crate for 4 months. We were very lucky he was so comfortable he didn’t mind, and I know it made a massive difference in his recovery
NOTE: A crate is not a substitute for training, so if your dog has behavior issues, locking him in a crate is not the answer. Please find an experienced and qualified trainer to help.
Is it cruel to crate train a dog?
There are definitely plenty of people who believe that crate training a dog is cruel, and there are scenarios where I would agree with that belief.
♦ When a crate is used for punishment
♦ When owners are gone 10-12 hours a day and their dog is kept in a crate that entire time
♦ When the dog is in a home where he or she is not wanted, abused and locked away because no one wants to be bothered
♦ What about if being used for house training or keeping a dog safe when no one is home for short periods of time? Would it still be considered cruel? Many people would still say it is cruel and that leads us to the next section.
Is crate training necessary?
I would answer that by saying “it depends.”
If we’re talking about using a crate for house training, or to keep your dog safe when home alone for a few hours than I would say no, it is not necessary because there are alternatives which I’ll talk about in a moment. If you’ll be flying with your dog, then it is necessary to get him to the point where he’s at least okay being in a crate.
Alternatives to the use of a crate
If you don’t like the idea of crating your dog when you’re not home, here are some options (when possible.)
Set up a comfortable area in your kitchen, den or spare bedroom – have a bed, blanket, favourite toy and water bowl with pee pads if he’s still very young or a senior dog with health issues. A baby gate will ensure he can’t get out, but can still see at least some of the house.
Hire a dog walker or ask a friend, neighbor or family member to pop over and take your dog for a walk or two during the day.
For days when you’ll be out several hours maybe someone you know will have him over, or drop him off at doggy daycare. It will be fun for him to have play mates and you won’t have to watch the clock.
If you are interested in crate training, or researching some of the potential benefits, here are 11 for you to consider.
Imagine how a small puppy might feel when he’s brought home and has an entire house to explore!! You may be saying you live in a small apartment but even that can prove to be overwhelming. Setting up a crate to limit his access, at least in the beginning, can be a source of comfort. If you’ve just welcomed an adult dog into the family, giving them added security in a new environment may help them adjust.
A dog isn’t going to pee and poop in his “home” if he can help it, which is why a crate can be a good way to teach him bowel and bladder control. Having said that, it doesn’t mean he can be left in there for hours every day, and expect to not have an accident. Doing that would be cruel on many levels.
A port in a storm
I don’t mean that literally…although I sort of do!! For dogs with a fear of thunder, fireworks or other really loud noises, a crate can be a sanctuary. Some dogs freak out so much their owners put the crate in the bathroom, or even the closet. There’s isn’t necessarily a need to shut the door, just make sure he has a bed, some blankets and a calming spray can help as well. Putting a crate cover over it can make it feel even more secure.
A place of his own
I don’t know about you but I definitely need alone time, and so do our dogs! Even though Jack likes to be on the couch with us, he also enjoys having a place of his own. Now it’s a bed under the dining room table, but when I had his crate set up he would happily hang out there in the evening.
A stand in when you can’t supervise
Until a puppy is trained he needs to be supervised so he doesn’t pee or poop in the house, chew everything in site and just generally not wreak havoc. For those times when you are unable to keep an eye on him, the crate is the next best thing, but for short periods of time not hours on end.
The same could be said for rescued older dogs who either have never lived in a home so aren’t house trained yet, or have been in the shelter for awhile and haven’t quite figured out they will be getting regular walks.
A place to recover
It may seem impossible to imagine now, but at some point your dog may need a quiet place to recuperate after surgery or injury. Remaining still and calm is a critical part of recovery, and a crate is the perfect place to do just that. Getting him used to one early on, will make that so much easier.
A travel buddy
If you’re traveling and will be staying in a hotel, crating your pup, even if you’re just going downstairs for breakfast, is the safest option. If someone comes in to clean and doesn’t notice your “do not disturb” sign, there’s a risk your dog could escape. The hotel might also have a rule that dogs are not allowed to be left alone in the room.
I’m sure we’ve all driven with our pups on our lap, or even loose on the back seat and thankfully we’ve all arrived safely at out destinations. It’s better to start thinking in terms of “better safe than sorry” and that means putting him in a crate while in the car. It increases the chance of him surviving an accident, and he won’t be the cause of one.
Of course you should include your pup on a family day out, but when it’s time to eat or he’s ready for some down time, the crate is a perfect way to keep him safe. Be sure to put it in the shade!
What a ruckus!
Whether it’s a few guests over for dinner, or your daughter’s 6th birthday with every kid invited, noise – okay chaos – may make your pup over excited, anxious, confused… Not only that but with the constant door opening there’s a chance your dog can escape without anyone noticing. A crate will not only provide him with a spot away from the chaos, but it will also keep him safe in the crowd.
Keep your pup part of the family
Don’t be the person who locks the dog in another room, the basement or even outside. What’s the point of having a dog if that’s the way it’s going to be? He is part of the family and should be treated as such, so a crate in a well trafficked area of your home will do just that.
Did you crate train your dog? How old was he or she? Did you do it for house training? Travelling? If you haven’t crate trained is it because you think it’s cruel or never considered it was necessary. I would love to hear your thoughts, so you’re welcome to share them in the comment section below.
To learn more about my online training and dog care consultancy service, please click here.