It’s not often that I change my mind completely about something but on the subject of crate training your dog I have done a complete U-turn!
I used to feel sorry for dogs who were put away in crates, I couldn’t see why it could ever be useful and I got angry with people who did it.
What Changed My Mind?
I was in a dilemma when I had a nine-week-old puppy and an older dog who hadn’t taken to him. I knew the older dog wouldn’t hurt the puppy unless extremely provoked but the puppy had no boundaries and wasn’t reading warning signs.
The puppy was also at the stage where he wanted to chew everything. I would take great care to clear the floors of potential hazards (like pens, batteries, scissors) but he would always come running with that hair clip you lost months ago down the back of the sofa or your shopping list complete with a layer of puppy saliva.
House training was a complete nightmare! I can’t count the times I have stood on the lawn at 4am, shivering and waiting for a puppy to wee, when he thinks its playtime.
I also had to go to work in the afternoon and was having heart palpitations at the thought of coming home to a puppy wrapped up in electric cables, savaged by his older brother and drowning in a sea of urine!
My friend suggested a crate and I looked at her in horror!
“My dog is not being caged like an animal in the zoo”
So the friend suggested I went round to her house to see how crate training can be an absolute lifesaver. I was determined that it wasn’t for me but I went anyway.
The crate had been placed in the warmest part of the kitchen and inside was a snuggly blanket, a dog teddy, and a chew toy.
Well, I could see that it looked comfortable but there was just one thing missing.. a dog!
We chatted over a cuppa then her Sheltie wondered in from the garden, greeted me enthusiastically, then went and laid down inside the crate. I was amazed to see that he had gone there by choice and chose to stay there and have a little rest.
My friend explained that it was the dogs ‘safe place’ where he could rest and relax if the children were too noisy, the cat refused to leave him alone or he just wanted a quiet snooze. The door remained open and the dog came and went as he pleased.
So, instead of being locked away like a prisoner, the dog had been trained to love the sanctuary of his crate.
I started coming round to the fact that crate training was the only way forward.
But where do you start?
Buy a crate that is tall enough for him to stand up in and turn around comfortably but also bear in mind that puppies grow and you might need a larger one later on.
Make the crate into a ‘den’ for your dog with a nice blanket, some favourite toys and a couple of treats to entice him in.
Leave the door open and reward the puppy whenever he goes inside voluntary.
Place the crate in a spot where he can see people coming and going and won’t feel alone.
Never use the crate as a punishment when your puppy is naughty, always make sure that the puppy associates his crate with things that he loves.
Start with leaving the puppy in the crate for just a few minutes at a time, build up gradually, but never leave the dog for more than 3-4 hours.
What are the Benefits?
The dog will be safe whenever you can’t be around.
The crate can be used to aid in house training if it is done correctly.
If the dog is ever ill or recuperating from an operation the crate will offer a haven where he feels safe and will get undisturbed quiet time.
Most crates fold up easily and can be taken on holiday or placed in the car to keep the dog safe and the crate will be comforting because it will feel familiar to the dog.
Accept that not every dog will be happy in a crate and it should only be encouraged not forced.
Don’t use a collar and lead on a dog when he is crated.
Make sure the crate has no rough edges and is properly assembled.
Does Your Puppy Cry At Night?
I found that a puppy settled better at bedtime if the crate was covered in a blanket. The idea is that the blanket gives more of a cocoon effect and gives the puppy extra security.
An Alternative to Crate Training.
As I said before crate training is not for every dog, but an alternative can be found in the baby department!
A Playpen or Stair Gate can be used to keep the puppy in a safe area or room.
They are really useful if visitors arrive who are not comfortable around dogs or who have babies or small children.
Just like the crate they are portable and fit easily into the car.
What are your thoughts on crate training?
Let me know in the comments if your dog took an instant dislike to his crate or loved it from the start.
I would love to do a follow up post with all your preferences.