Crates - Why They Are Important

Nov 7, 2018   Tracey Aston   Training

To crate or not to crate, that is often a question for new pet owners.  Crating is an essential training tool, and as with any tool, crating can be abused and those horror stories often make new pet parents wary of crate training. However, the positives of crate training far outweigh the negatives and could even save your pet. Yes, you read that correctly, save them.  Crating your pet keeps them safe, is helpful in house training, gives your pet a place of their own to relax and destress, and can aid in preventing destructive behavior.

As fur parents, we often see crates as tiny jails for our pets, but if used properly and positively, your dog will see this space as a den type atmosphere. Even after all the tens of thousands of years we have been fortunate enough to share our lives with dogs, a dog's natural instinct is still to be in a den.

There are a few things to consider when choosing a crate for your dog, such as making sure the crate is the proper size for your pet – you want the crate large enough for your pet to stand up, move and turn around but not large enough that a puppy or smaller dog will use a portion of the crate to eliminate. Several crate makers are now offering “grow with your dog” crates that come with dividers to keep a puppy safe but can be removed to make more space as your dog grows.

The main reason for crate training is pet safety. Puppies are essentially babies, and, like all dogs, love to explore with their mouths, even when not teething. This means a free roaming puppy can get into many potential dangers when left unsupervised.  Would you allow a toddler to walk around your house without supervision? I didn't think so, but leaving a puppy to do so puts them in the same danger. It's an unfortunate fact that a large number of pets are injured or even killed by getting into poisonous substances, chewing wires, suffocating in bags, chocking on objects left lying around or rugs, carpets, couches and beds from chewing them.  Even if you adopt an older dog, who doesn't chew, they won't come to you knowing what is expected of them. Also, as loving as you are, a new dog won't know you yet and may be stressed in a brand new environment that is their home but not yet familiar. A crate allows you to leave your pet while you're away and know they are safe while you are unable to supervise them.

Next, crating makes house breaking much easier as dogs won't do their business where they sleep and/or eat. Shortly after a puppy eats, or when you arrive back home after a short trip, immediately take the puppy or dog out to potty. Make sure to praise your puppy after they go potty where you want them to eliminate. That teaches a puppy where they are to correctly potty. While some puppy potty accidents are inevitable, keeping them to a minimum helps them know where to go and reduces the chance of them eliminating again where they had an accident. This by no means is a free pass to leave a puppy unattended in a crate for hours and hours and not expect an accident! Obviously, adult dogs will be able to hold their waste much longer than puppies.  Still, when used correctly, and within normal time restraints, crating can greatly help with house training.

Lastly, dogs benefit from having a safe and private space of their own, whether to decompress when anxious, stressed or tired, or as a retreat to just relax.  As mentioned above, dogs have a natural instinct to want to den in a safe, protected space. Everyone needs a place to get away once in a while and dogs are no different. Many dogs are fearful of storms or fireworks and will retreat to the safety of their crate to feel protected and safe.  When you're house is busy, or people are visiting, your dog can easily become overwhelmed with all the people and commotion. This is a good time to let your pet decompress and not become destructive with attention seeking behavior. Also, when family or friends are visiting, this is a high risk time for your pet to get out of the door and become lost and crates can keep them safe. When your pet is in their safe place, they are to be left alone – they need to know this is their safe place, a place they can go and not be bothered. This is not the time to introduce new people or allow kids to put their hands through the crate to get the dog's attention. When your pet is ready to come out to greet people, they will.

Whether you are crating as a means of safety or to help with training, or simply give your furry baby a place to call their own, crates can be a very positive addition. As you can see, when used correctly, and positively, the positives far outweigh the negatives. 

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