Crates are a wonderful management tool that can provide a sense of comfort and a place for your dog to call their own while you can have peace of mind when you can’t be with them.
There’s a variety of reasons why you should crate train your dog, but here are the most important:
For Potty Training Puppies
When you can’t be there to watch your busy puppy, crates can be lifesavers. A crucial rule for potty training is to find a place your puppy doesn’t want to eliminate and then build on that. The crate can quickly become that spot as long as it’s big enough for them to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. If the crate is bigger than that, they might pee in it and still be able to get away from it. Wire crates come with an insert that allows you to adjust the size as your puppy grows so you don’t have to invest in multiple crates throughout puppyhood.
For House Training Adult Dogs
You can also use the crate to potty train a newly-adopted adult dog. Even if the dog had impeccable manners in his former home, the upheaval of being in a shelter environment and new home can cause your dog to forget his training. A crate helps him acclimate to the new rules successfully while he gets used to his forever home.
To Teach Relaxation
Crates are a great way to teach puppies to relax and self soothe. Part of potty training is to get your puppy onto a schedule and to build in some down time in their crate. Getting them used to being separated from you is important, so make sure to give them some down time both when you are home and when you are out of the house. Once your puppy is comfortable in the crate, they’ll be able to relax in their crate throughout their life.
If your dog has had surgery or is getting creaky with age, their crate is also a place they can go to relax and get the recovery space they need.
To Make Time for Yourself
Sometimes you just need a break from your dog. Using a crate allows your dog to settle while you take a nap, go to the bathroom or eat dinner without your dog staring at you the entire time. This space is your dog’s own, so make sure that kids and guests know that when the dog is in the crate, he needs his quiet time and shouldn’t be disturbed.
Use the Crate as a Safe Space
If your dog gets excited when guests come over, or gets anxious during a party or family holiday, the crate is a great place for them to relax during these events. Once all the guests have arrived and your dog is calm, you can let them come out to greet everybody. The crate also ensures that your dog isn’t practicing any undesirable behavior around guests, like jumping up.
Think of the crate as a place where you can put your dog and they are safe. If you are having the repairman come over to fix something, put the dog in their crate. That way, the repairman is safe from your dog and your dog is safe from misunderstandings.
Use the Crate as a Bed and Car Restraint
The safest way for a dog to travel is in a crate. If your dog’s crate is small enough, put it in your car when you travel and make sure to buckle it in. If you fly with your dog, they’ll also need to be in an airline-approved crate or carrier.
Additionally, it’s nice being able to go to bed and knowing that your dog won’t be getting into trouble when you are asleep. Use your dog’s crate as their bed and bring it in the bedroom if you want your dog to be close to you.
Crates are also great for emergencies. Need to go into your basement during a tornado warning and don’t want to worry about where the dog is? Put them in their crate with you in the basement. Having your dog acclimated to the crate will make any emergency evacuation a lot easier.
Finding the Right Crate for Your Dog
Crates come in many different materials and sizes. Some have fewer openings and less views of distractions, and some allow for a 360-degree view. There are even ones designed to look like furniture (a good alternative if your dog isn’t a chewer). Just keep in mind that furniture isn’t as easy to clean as a plastic or wire crate, and the standard crate has had decades of success.
If you haven’t crated your dog before, work up to it gradually, with lots of treats and praise, so that they don’t view it as a scary thing. Some dogs take to them naturally right off the bat, while others may need some convincing. Once acclimated, your dog may often seek his crate out to feel cozy and safe.
Erin Schneider, CPDT-KA and owner of Touch Dog Training, is a certified professional dog trainer who employs positive reinforcement behavior modification techniques intended to deliver results while building stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Erin practiced her craft in Chicago for many years as a Senior Trainer for AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior. There she taught dog training classes and also conducted private, in-home lessons with pets and their owners. In March 2015, Erin relocated to Colorado and is excited to share her knowledge and expertise with dog owners in the Denver/Boulder metro area.