Here’s why you should crate train your dog
Crate training is one of the fundamental components of developing a balanced, well-behaved dog. Dogs who are crate trained feel comfortable and relaxed having a secure den-like space of their own. Some people feel that a dog would be sad in a crate, or think it’s like prison. But the truth is that most dogs who are left out of the crate are far more anxious and stressed out. They’re circulating around the house looking for ways to soothe themselves and cope with the stress – often by barking, chewing your things, or destroying your home.
Maybe you’re thinking, “But my dog is not doing anything wrong when I’m gone. They just lay on the ____ (rug, dog bed, sofa, my bed…) until I get home from work, so why do they need to be in a crate?
First of all, free roaming is a huge privilege that needs to be earned. Being loose can be a great reward after establishing a habit of fantastic behaviour and teaching your dog how to be calm. On the other hand, free-roaming can be overwhelming to some dogs who don’t know what to do with themselves, and try to cope by getting into mischief.
Permission-based training is all about creating healthier patterns and using what’s in your environment to help your dog learn how to behave well and to cope in the human world. A crate is an important tool to do that.
Crate training is a big component of teaching a dog to be calm on command. Most of the dogs who come in for training have been practicing anxious, nervous, fearful reactions, &/or bossy, pushy, bratty behaviours. Crate training helps to resolve all of these – not alone – but as one key component of creating structure and not allowing the dog to practice unwanted behaviours in your absence. It’s about the whole dog and changing the big picture for the better.
Arousal (a dog moving from a neutral, calm state into an intense readiness for fight, flight or over-excitement in the desire for something) is the main thing we want to reduce or remove in order to begin helping dogs. We do this by first changing their state of mind because a dog who is completely fixated on something else cannot possibly learn something new. What is one of the key ways to begin addressing arousal? Crate training. Teaching a dog to be calm on their own and to enter and exit the crate calmly and politely only when invited is one of the foundational exercises to begin creating a more respectful, tuned-in dog who is looking to you for direction and permission, rather than continuing to make poor choices or ignoring your guidance.
Here are 8 great reasons to use a crate.
- Free-roaming gives your dog opportunities to make poor choices based on impulse, so your dog should be in their crate whenever you are sleeping, away from home, or cannot actively participate in or monitor your dog’s activity. If your dog hasn’t earned your complete trust to have free roam of your home, then s/he needs to be crated. If you don’t crate train your dog, you’re setting your dog up to fail. Crate training means that in your absence, your dog can’t make mistakes. This is setting your dog up for success. This is being proactive instead of reactive.
- While safely in their crate, your dog won’t be able to practice bad habits, like stressing out, soiling your carpet, barking at the windows, pestering your other dog, fence fighting with the neighbour’s dog, chasing your cat, or destroying your plants, your home, or other treasures while you’re out. Stop bad habits from being practiced, or better yet, prevent bad habits from forming in the first place by using a crate.
- Leaving your dog to their own devices when you’re not around can undo the training you’ve been working on. The best way to ensure that your dog’s state of mind and good habits remain the same way you left them is by using a crate.
- The crate is NEVER to be used as punishment for bad behaviour for two reasons. a) the concept of ’time out’ does not work as an effective punishment for dogs. If your dog chewed your shoes, putting your dog in a crate does nothing to teach your dog not to destroy shoes in the future. b) you want your dog to associate being in the crate with being calm, peaceful, and relaxed, rather than being associated with your anger, frustration or disapproval. Feeding your dog in the crate helps to build their good associations with the space so they are more likely to enjoy their time in their kennel. The crate is a great option for your dog to have a safe, quiet space during parties, or whenever they need a rest. It’s not just for when you’re not home.
- A crate is a key tool in potty training. A dog is far less likely to go to the washroom in a crate. It is essential that the crate is not too large for this method to be effective. The crate must be big enough for the dog to lay down comfortably, turn around and sit up without their head touching the top. Like kids, puppies need lots of naps, or they can behave badly due to being over-tired.
- Crate training is an essential part of eliminating and preventing separation anxiety. Instead of letting your dog follow you around, pester you for attention, or continue to practice bad habits in your absence without being held accountable, practice teaching your dog calmness during rest periods when you’re home, so your dog builds the habit of remaining calm in the crate when you’re home – and then when you’re out. If you work long hours, you can hire a dog walker to exercise your dog and get your dog out for a potty break.
- Crate training builds patience, impulse control and is a key part of the non-negotiable rules and routine of daily life. It’s a great place to rest quietly between training sessions to process the information they just learned. The crate gives dogs a place to unwind. It’s not healthy or normal to remain in an adrenalized, stressful state. Dogs need down time too.
- Being crate trained ensures that your dog remains safe and can’t destroy anything in your home, or chew/swallow anything that may harm them (electrical cords, small objects, poisonous cleansers, your favourite items, etc.) while you are unavailable to supervise. Your dog could ingest something dangerous which could cost you a lot of money, which could make your dog very sick or even kill your dog.
Even if your dog is house trained and can reliably be trusted not to destroy things in your absence, a crate is an essential tool to help your dog if your dog is pushy, bratty, nervous, aggressive, anxious or stressed. All of the dogs boarding & training with us eat and sleep in a crate or kennel. When dogs aren’t actively training, they are in command – on their place cot or bed, in a down-stay, or in their crate. This kind of structure is so therapeutic to dogs. It helps them to feel safe and calm because they clearly know exactly what they should be doing, rather than stressing out or making poor choices. Crate training is a key tool in teaching dogs to be calm. It becomes a habit the more it is practiced. Calm, well-behaved dogs get included in more aspects of daily life. So, keep your dog safe and help them succeed by using a crate.