Crate training is a life skill that's important for many dogs who don't have access to acres of land to roam. As much as we'd love to be with our dogs 24/7, the reality is that we need to provide them a place to rest during so many everyday life situations—when we're at work, when they're at the vet or groomer, when we're traveling, when we can't trust that they won't destroy our house when we're gone, just to name a few.
The purpose of crate training is to create a positive experience and association with the crate. Doing so sets your dog up for success, and for many dogs, the crate becomes a place they choose to decompress and get away from stressful situations. It can provide comfort in strange environments and be a safe space for a dog to retreat into.
The reason why we need to "train" them to go into or enjoy time in their crates is because like anything else in this domesticated dog world of ours (leashes, prong collars, flat collars, harnesses), our human-made crates are unnatural to them. Taking the time to teach them how to use their crates and how to settle once inside will set them up for success in the long-term.
The Benefits of Crate Training
There are many benefits to crate training, some of which are discussed below.
Potty training: Especially for puppies, crate training can help a dog learn to hold its bladder and bowel movements for longer periods of time. Dogs don't often like to go to the bathroom where they sleep or rest, so crate training can teach them to hold it until you take them directly outside to pee.
Keep in mind though, if you're crate training a puppy, it will still need to go outside fairly often, especially after a meal or after drinking water.
Safety: A crate can provide a safe and secure space for a dog when it cannot be supervised. Even if you can trust your dog not to destroy your home, sometimes you just never know what was left out accidentally. Crate training them can provide better peace of mind for you, and a safe space to rest for them until you come home.
Separation anxiety: Crate training can help reduce separation anxiety in dogs by providing them with a familiar and comfortable space. If your dog doesn't take to it right away, don't worry! That's why we train with them. You can toss high-value treats into their crate to get them comfortable with going in and out (without closing the door at first), feed them in their crates, give them bully sticks or Kongs, or many other ways to slowly get them acclimated.
Travel: Crate training can make traveling with a dog easier and safer, as it provides a secure place for the dog to stay while in transit. Car crates are the safest way for a dog to travel in a car, and crate training your dog at home can help them to generalize good associations with other crates as well.
Training aid: Crate training can be used as a tool to help teach a dog obedience and house rules. Sometimes we need our dogs out of the way, whether we have guests who are fearful of dogs, or are making delicious food they might be tempted to steal off the counters.
In addition to a management tool, crates can be a great way to teach your dog how to relax on cue by giving them their own space to do so!
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Crate Training
Here are some common mistakes to avoid when crate training:
Choosing the wrong size crate: It is important to choose a crate that is the right size for your dog to ensure that it is comfortable and safe. Your home crate should be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around comfortably
There are different types of crates, with wire crates being pretty common in homes, but if you want a more aesthetically-pleasing crate, there are more modern-looking ones such as the wooden one from Fable that fit in seamlessly with your living room furniture.
Keep in mind that the type of crate you use will depend on your dog and what will contain them safely.
Not introducing the crate gradually: It is important to introduce the crate to your dog gradually and make it a positive experience to avoid causing fear or anxiety. Find something that motivates them (food, toys, etc.) and use that to work them through their fears. Crate training should be one of the first things you work on when bringing home a new dog, especially when you don't know much about it yet.
Leaving the dog in the crate for too long: It is important to not leave a dog in the crate for too long, as they may become anxious or distressed. A general rule of thumb for puppies is their age in months plus one hour - so a 2-month old puppy could be crated for 3 hours. It depends on the dog and where they're at in crate training. Build up to a longer time, but start with smaller increments!
- Using the crate as a punishment: It is important to only use the crate as a positive space for the dog, and not as a punishment for misbehavior. Their crate should be a place they can go to decompress or relax, and if they're being sent there as punishment (such as social punishment, separation from you), it may ruin any positive associations they previously had with the crate.
In conclusion, crate training is an effective and useful tool for training and managing dogs. It can be used to help with potty training, provide a sense of safety and security, and make traveling with a dog easier and safer. By choosing the right crate, introducing it gradually, and consistently using it as a training aid, you can successfully crate train their dogs and establish a positive and healthy relationship with the crate!
Want more stories like this delivered straight to your inbox?
Sign up below for the newest The Bork Magazine articles!
Follow us on Instagram @itskonoskitchen.