When talking to people about crate training, you may often get either extreme support or extreme disapproval.
This is unsurprising as the idea of being able to control fido at all times can be appealing to some time-starved owners, while others may consider it inhumane to put their dog in a cage.
Responsible crate training should be neither of the two extremes. Dogs don’t need to be in large areas constantly. Showing your dog the limits of what he is allowed to do and where he is allowed to go in the house through crates, puppy pens or baby gates can be beneficial for both of you in the long run.
In this four-part series, we will not only describe crate training benefits you and your dog will enjoy when you teach your dog to love being in his crate but also how to train and use a crate responsibly.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is confinement training?
Owners are often unsure whether they need to crate train their puppies or newly adopted dogs, or whether to simply confine them in a dog-proofed area during the initial weeks. Hence, it’s important to understand the difference between the two.
There are two kinds of confinement. Short-term confinement involves an area small enough for your dog to hold their pee. Long-term confinement, on the other hand, involves bigger areas where your dog will most likely be happy to pee and/or poo when in them.
When training your dog you may switch between long and short period confinement areas, depending on how long you are leaving him or what it is that you would like him to do.
For example, if you want him to settle and sleep, you should put him in his crate but if you want him to play, you should use the long-term confinement area.
Crate training is one of the most common forms of short-term confinement training.
Crate training benefits:
1. A safe den: Most puppies and dogs instinctively like small confined spaces to sleep in
2. Non-excluding confinement: You can move a crate to wherever you are. This means that your dog doesn’t have to be excluded from the family when confined.
It helps train him to like confinement and also teaches him self-control (as he may be exposed to situations that would usually drive him to instinctively perform unwanted behaviours) and frustration control (as he will learn that he can’t just do whatever he pleases around you)
3. Flexibility: Moving the crate to anywhere you prefer provides flexibility and also teaches your dog to accept change and to not get stuck in a routine
4. Housetraining: The crate prompts your dog to hold his bladder and bowel when unsupervised to expedite housetraining. Also, it is much easier to clean up if he gets it wrong or if he gets diarrhoea
5. Anti-chew training: It prevents the dog from chewing furniture, walls and everything else except the chew toys in the crate, automatically forming good habits
6. Settling down: It conditions your dog to be inactive when alone and teaches him to relax
7. Play good guy: By decimating housetraining and anti-chew training mistakes, your dog partially “self-trains”, reducing the amount of reprimanding and “bad-guy stuff” you have to do
8. Preparation: Dogs who are used to confinement are less likely to be stressed when caged during a hospital stay or a visit to the groomer. If your dog is crate trained, travelling in cars and planes will be much easier and safer
9. Less stress: When your dog is crated, you are certain that he can’t do much damage and that he is safe
Crate training series:
Please read: important rules for responsible confinement training
Your dog should never be confined for many hours at once. Slowly increase the amount of time your dog spends in a crate to a maximum of 5-6 hours a day.
1. Balance confinement with freedom
All dogs need mental and physical stimulation and companionship. If you are teaching your dog to be in a crate at certain times of the day, you need to make sure he also gets daily walks, playtime, time to run free and time with you.
2. Keep your dog close
When using a confinement area for long-term management, it is important that this area is close to the family – exposing the dog to experiences with us. Confinement training involves including your dog in family life and not excluding him from social companionship.
3. It’s about fun, not punishment
Confinement always needs to be fun (give things for entertainment), never punishment.
The aim of confinement training early on in training is to prevent your dog from learning bad habits and to teach him to be comfortable being confined when necessary. As your dog’s behaviour gets more trustworthy you can then allow him more freedom.