What is a Crate?
- A crate is a sort of playpen for your dog – a place where she can be safe and secure (and out of trouble) when you can’t watch her. Crates come in three basic styles: plastic (airline type), collapsible wire and custom-made steel. All three have advantages and disadvantages depending on your particular needs.
Will My Dog Like Being in a Crate?
- Because dogs are instinctively den animals, they get used to and actually like having a crate. You may have noticed that when your dog is frightened or doesn’t feel well, she seeks out a closed space, like under the bed, behind the couch, or under the coffee table. A crate serves as your dog’s room – her place of security.
Why Should I Use a Crate?
- Crates are useful in a number of ways. They can be used for training, traveling and for confinement when you are unable to supervise.
- For Puppy Training: Use the crate for house training. Because dogs don’t like to soil where they sleep, you can confine your dog to the crate to prevent accidents. Use the crate to also prevent destructive chewing. All puppies chew; they chew when they are teething, when they’re bored, when they are in need of exercise, and just because they like it!
- For Traveling: A crate-trained dog can travel with you because you can always bring her “room” along. If your dog ever has to travel on an airplane where she must be crated, it will be easier if she is already used to the crate. A crate is also the safest place for your dog when riding in the car.
- For Problem Solving: A crate can help solve behavior problems such as destructive chewing or separation anxiety. In a crate, your dog will feel secure and cannot get into trouble.
How Big Should the Crate Be?
- The crate should be big enough for your dog to be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around. Puppies should have this much room and no more. Given too much room, they will soil at one end and sleep in the other. When you buy a crate for your puppy, you may want to buy the size she’ll need as an adult and block off the excess space. Give her more space as she grows and becomes housetrained.
How Do I Get My Dog Used to the Crate?
- The crate should represent something positive to your dog, so begin with a happy voice and lots of food. With the crate door open and secured in place, throw a piece of food or a toy in the crate as you verbally encourage your dog to go in. Many people like to give their dog a command like “Go to bed” or “Kennel.” Whatever you choose, be consistent and your dog will catch on quickly. Once your dog is used to going into the crate to get food, begin shutting the door behind her. Make sure to praise her every time she goes into the crate. Gradually increase the length of time she stays in the crate with the door closed. Once she is comfortable staying in the crate for several minutes, begin to leave the roomfor short periods. Then increase the length of time from there. To speed up the process, feed your dog her meals in the crate.
What If My Dog Barks in the Crate?
- Sometimes dogs will bark out of protest, boredom, or loneliness. It is very important to never let your dog out of her crate when she is barking or whining!! If you do so, she will learn very quickly that this is the key to being let out of the crate. If your dog barks or whines in the crate, give her a command to quiet her and rap on the crate or spray her with a squirt bottle of water. Only let her out when she is quiet. If your dog sleeps in the crate, have it in your bedroom or nearby. Dogs are social animals and don’t like to be isolated. She will be less likely to bark out of loneliness if she is near you. This is especially true for young puppies.
How Long Can I Leave My Dog in the Crate?
- Puppies under 3 months of age should only be crated for an hour or two; older pups can be confined for 3-4 hours. When necessary, adult dogs can stay in a crate for up to 8 hours at a time, provided they are otherwise given ample exercise and attention. Always make sure your dog has had a chance to relieve herself before being crated.
Will I Have to Use the Crate Forever?
- When used properly, in conjunction with basic training, the crate can eventually become an option for most dogs and their owners. You will probably find, however, that it is a very handy thing to have around well after your dog is trained. Some dogs will always need to be confined when left alone. Every dog is different and common sense will tell you if and when your dog can be left unattended in the house.