I wouldn’t say there is controversy around crate training but it tends to be one of those things that people either love or hate. My opinion changes based on the dog which I’ll explain in this article. I’ll also cover why/when you might want to crate your dog and why/when you may be better off not crating your dog. So, should you or shouldn’t you crate your dog? The short answer is: it depends. The rest of this post is the long answer.
What is a dog crate?
Essentially, a dog crate is a small cage that your dog can sleep in or spend time in when she can’t be allowed free roam of the house. A big part of crate training is teaching your dog to love his crate. When a dog is effectively crate trained, they will often enter their crate on their own to nap or play much the way a child might go to their bedroom to play by themselves. You never want crating your dog to be used as (or perceived by your dog as) punishment. There are several reasons why using a crate is beneficial.
Reasons to use a dog crate:
- Potty training. Crates are a great tool for potty training a puppy because dogs will avoid soiling where they sleep so it encourages them to hold their “business” until they are outside.
- Safety. If your dog destroys the house when left alone, crating keeps your belongings safe and keeps your dog from harming himself with his antics.
- If your dog doesn’t like strangers in the house, crating her when people come over is a kindness to all concerned. Your dog doesn’t run the risk of making a bad choice and your visitors aren’t frightened. This is especially helpful if you have workers coming in or need to have EMTs in your home.
- Security. A dog who loves her crate will use it as a refuge when feeling the need for some quiet time. Perhaps you have visitors and there is lots of noise. When your dog’s had enough, she can go into her crate for a break. This allows your dog to choose to calm down rather than forcing her to become overwhelmed with nowhere to go.
- Travel. Crates are great for use when travelling giving you a way to contain your dog and a place for your dog to feel safe when in unfamiliar locations. Whether it’s a local trip to the vet or a cross country road trip, your dog will be happy to have their familiar crate along for the ride.
- Illness recovery. A crate is a great place to confine a dog recovering from illness or surgery. It’s a familiar safe place where they can rest and not be bothered as well as a way to keep them still if that is necessary for recovery.
Those are at least some of the reasons you might want to crate train your dog. I’m sure there are more that I’m just not thinking of. There are also some reasons why you may not want to crate train your dog.
Reasons you may not want to crate train our dog:
- Negative past experiences. If you have adopted a dog who has had terrible experiences with crates you may not want to try to change that view. Perhaps a dog was left in her crate all day every day or the crate was used as a punishment. Dogs rescued from dog fighting often have had very negative experiences with being crated. It may be possible to counter-condition your dog’s feelings but it may not be worth it. There are other ways to get the positive benefits of a crate without stressing out a dog with existing negative associations. You can use a baby gate to confine a dog to a small room or keep your dog leashed and near you while potty training. I recommend creating a “sacred space” for dogs whether that is with or without a crate.
- You just don’t want to. Maybe you don’t have the space for a dog crate, especially if you have a large dog, or you simply prefer other methods. You are not obligated to crate train your dog. Consider what methods will best serve you, your dog and your lifestyle together to get the benefits of a crate without using one.
- Temporary measures. You can also choose to crate train your dog as a puppy for potty training and then stop using the crate later on. You would still need to crate train your puppy so she is happy using the crate but do not need to continue to crate your dog forever. I crated Jake for the first year or so that I had him and then stopped using the crate in favor of his “sacred space.”
What do you think? Are you team crate or team no-crate? Share your experiences in the comments and stay tuned for next week’s article where I share the steps for crate training your dog.