The crate is the easiest, most practical tool to manage a dog in the home, and if there is space for it, in the car. We see about 6-10 clients every week for a variety of problems – from basic obedience to problem behaviors such as reactivity. One of the first questions I ask is: “How often is your dog in the crate?”
The answers are mixed between:
- “We leave the door open and he/she goes in and out on his own”
- “Only at night”
So here lies part of the problem. Most dogs view space as a resource. When we allow dogs too much freedom too soon, they assume it’s theirs to do with what they want. The can guard, bark, destroy, zoom around, pee and just treat the space like romper room because no one has shown them otherwise.
Here are some reasons you SHOULD be using a crate
- To help teach calm behaviors. By reinforcing calm in the crate, the dog is learning how to self soothe and power down Anxious dogs can feel more secure and less overwhelmed, Puppies won’t get over stimulated, it reduces territorial issues and allows the dog to practice impulse control
- For the “impossible” teen dog (six months to two years), it can help with any entitlement issues of “owning” space and create a more polite dog.
- For basic obedience training. By crating your dog in between training sets, give the dog a chance to rest, decompress and think about the lesson. When you take your dog out of the crate they are fresh and ready to learn.
- For life skill. At some point in a dog’s life, it will be in a crate or kennel. Whether at a vet office, the groomers, or if you ever plan on traveling in his or her lifetime. Our lives can change quickly; new job, new baby, grandma moves in… crate training is as important as teaching a dog to walk on a leash or come when called.
- For safety and security. By crating your dog when you can’t watch him, you decrease the chances of your dog counter surfing, getting into the garbage, etc. For the car, it’s a must. If you are ever in a traffic accident, the chances that your dog will be injured, lost, or worse will be a lot less if your dog is in a crate.
- Give yourself a break. It’s ok to “put the dog away” when you want to have friends over or just enjoy some dog-free time. No guilt necessary.
How to get started
If your dog struggles going into a crate or you have a new puppy, then check out Susan Garret’s Crate Games to help you with crate training. Feed your dog all their meals in the crate. Make it a comfortable place with a bone or two. Have one crate for sleeping and one for “hanging out” in during the day. Structure your dog’s day by having crate time between playing, training, and exercise.
So when can you start to fade the crate out?
Not so fast… once a dog has matured and can move about the house and life in a respectful way, the crate can be fluid. You can crate as you need to when you need to. Teach your dog the Place command and use Place as a middle man for the crate to ease the dog into having more freedom. If you have multiple dogs, then you should plan on crating more often to rest the pack and to keep dynamics in check. The crate can be a part of your dog’s entire life. Some dogs (even old ones) really enjoy having a dependable place of their own where they won’t get bothered by owners, children, and other pets.