I used to feel conflicted about using a crate for my dog. After all, we want our dogs to be happy, and giving our dogs freedom to go and do and be dogs brings them happiness, doesn’t it? Here is what I have learned about the benefits of teaching your dog to love its crate:
Like it or not, there are several reasons our dogs will need to be confined to a crate at some point, so it’s only fair that we teach them to enjoy the experience.
Perhaps our dog becomes ill or has an accident requiring it to stay overnight at the veterinarian’s clinic. Or, we go away on vacation and decide to board our dog while we’re gone. Additionally, dogs are likely to be crated at the groomers’, while participating in dog sports and receiving training at professional training facilities. It’s also important to recognize that crates offer a much safer way to transport our dogs in cars as opposed to being loose in the event of an accident.
Teaching our dogs to enjoy being in a crate makes these inevitable life experiences much more pleasurable and safe for everyone.
Crates are a great management tool for preventing destructive behaviors, such as chewing on furniture or clothing.
Chewing, for instance, is a natural behavior for dogs. The trouble is that dogs aren’t able to discriminate between what we do and do not like them to chew on. If we give them too much freedom and they chew on something we don’t want them to, it’s our fault for allowing the bad behavior to happen. Unfortunately, it acts as reinforcement to the dog for the behavior, setting up the likelihood that our dog will chew on our belongings again.
Any rehearsals of a behavior are likely to be repeated, so by allowing puppies too much freedom to access undesirable chew things, we set them up to make mistakes. If we allow a puppy to make a mistake by giving it too much freedom, then raise our voice in anger when we discover the mistake, the puppy only learns not to trust us.
Limiting the dog’s space in crates can help prevent unwanted behaviors, allowing us to set up opportunities to teach and reward behaviors we want, creating greater relationships between us. Be sure to provide chew toys for your dog while it’s in their crate for something positive to occupy their time alone.
Crates are also a great management tool for house training.
Use a crate to confine your puppy while you are not able to watch or interact with it, then take it outside often to do its business and praise it lavishly when it does eliminate outside. This will prevent mistakes from happening and build your dog’s trust and confidence. A good rule to follow is one-hour in a crate for each month of age. For instance, a 3-month old puppy should be confined to a crate no longer than 3 hours.
Train your puppy to sleep in a crate at night.
Place the crate directly beside your bed during the first few nights you’re together, so your puppy won’t feel lonely or frightened. That way it can also wake you easily in the middle of the night when it needs to go out for a bathroom break. Like with children, you will have to accept the fact that you will lose some sleep when you have a young puppy.
In our busy households, there are times when our dogs just need a place to feel safe, where it can relax and chill.
Dogs can get overwhelmed with the activities and noise of a busy household, with strangers coming and going, children running around screaming, doorbells ringing, pots and pans clashing, washers, dryers and vacuums running. Crates can be used to teach puppies and excitable dogs to enjoy down time and learn to relax with a safe chew toy or stuffed Kong.
The rewards of crate training are great – not only for you, but for your dog, too. Remember to take it slow, use positive reinforcement, and be patient. If you follow these rules of thumb, you’ll find both you and your dog are more confident and better able to relax. And that’s The Life of Riley.