If used correctly your new dog crate will become a much-loved den for your dog, incorrectly used they can encourage neglect and lack of training in a lazy or negligent owner.
The crates I recommend can be purchased here on Amazon at the regular price. They are of high quality, with two doors and a metal tray in the base. Placing some soft and warm veterinary bedding (a recommended Amazon product) inside is an excellent idea as it washes easily and is very tough indeed!
The main value of a crate is in providing your dog or young puppy with a safe place to rest and to encourage house training, particularly overnight. A crate can create a cosy, secure den for any dog to enjoy but there are some do's and don’ts of which to be aware:
A dog crate is NOT:
A place to lock up a dog or puppy for long periods; especially if you are out of the house for long periods.
A place to send your dog or puppy as a punishment.
A place to “keep” your dog or puppy.
A dog crate IS:
Your dog’s bedroom, a place where your dog can go to rest safely and without interference whenever it chooses, or when you decide it is time for sleep.
A safe place to leave a dog for short periods of time, and overnight to encourage house training, and to protect your dog from harm or when you cannot directly supervise it.
Crates and puppies:
For puppies, crates have a variety of very practical uses. Do have a read of my detailed blog post regarding puppies at night, as this will help you.
Because puppies have a strong instinct not to foul their immediate environment, a crate is very helpful in house training. Your puppy will ask to be let out when it needs to relieve itself giving you the opportunity to take it straight outside, supervise the toileting and lavish your dog with praise for being so clean.
Puppies, like small children, are full of mischief, need close supervision when they are awake and a secure place to sleep. A crate allows you the confidence to leave your puppy resting or sleeping in safety so that you can give it your undivided attention and supervision when awake.
Puppies have a very high sleep requirement; a crate is a refuge for your puppy from enthusiastic visitors, playmates, children etc. Everyone should be told that when a puppy is in the crate it is to be left alone in peace to enjoy the rest it needs.
In a busy household unused to a young puppy, routine precautions such as shutting doors and gates, putting vulnerable possessions away, being mindful of hazards to health or safety can take a while to instil into all family members. During this time an unrestrained or unsupervised puppy is very much at risk of injury. A crate provides a secure area to put your puppy whilst people are coming and going, things are being delivered or when boisterous children are around.
Crates and adult dogs:
For an adult dog, the benefits of a crate are different. A dog will still regard its crate as a safe refuge when the household gets too hectic and will want to sleep in the crate at night. When a dog has learned the rules of the household, the crate door will not need to be shut but the dog still has a place to call their own, a place to take their toys or a bone and enjoy quiet time and stress-free relaxation.
There are other potential benefits for having a crate for an adult dog:
Travelling or on holiday with your dog as it will have a familiar bedroom and you will certainly have happier hosts if your dog is not on the furniture.
If your dog is comfortable and familiar with its crate, it will be happy to rest in it should it ever need to be “kept quiet” after any veterinary treatment or injury.
Your dog needs its own bed and sleeping area anyway, and a crate keeps this contained and easy to clean.
An adult dog that is relaxed in a crate could use a fabric variety which is lighter and less industrial looking. Also easy for transportation. This variety seen on Amazon are highly rated.
Starting out with a crate:
Ensure your crate is large enough for your dog and equally, not too big for your puppy. A young dog may need more than one crate as it grows. You can check the sizes available on Amazon here. A dog should be able to stand up, turn and lie down with a straight back along the long side. In other words, measuring from your dog's nose to the base of the tail should give a good indication of the length needed.
Whilst much of this information is aimed at a new puppy, with common sense, the same principles can be applied to an older dog:
How to introduce a crate to a dog in 10 easy steps:
- Set the crate up in advance. Have your crate ready for when you bring your puppy home. Site the crate in a secure corner so that your puppy is included and can see what is going on. Make sure the location is draught free, warm and pleasantly light but avoid direct sunlight and real hot spots.
- Cover the crate with a blanket. Your dog may prefer it if a large blanket is placed over the top to give it a feeling of greater security.
- Place your puppies bedding inside the crate. Put your new puppy’s bedding in the furthest end of the crate.
- Encourage play near the crate. Encourage your puppy to play with a toy and slowly move the game closer to the crate.
- Encourage play inside the crate. If your puppy is keen on the toy, throw the toy to the edge of the crate door and gradually just inside the door…do not try to shut it at this early point.
- Encourage looking for treats in the crate. If your puppy is not keen on the toy, use a tidbit to encourage it towards the crate and gradually throw little treats just inside the crate.
- Place water inside the crate. Have fresh water available in the crate, either in a heavy bowl or a custom clip-on metal bowl.
- Feed your dog inside the crate. Put either your puppy’s food or a tasty tidbit in the crate. Feed your dog's meals in the crate.
- Allow your puppy the freedom to explore the crate. Once your puppy is comfortable going into the crate to get a toy or tidbit finish the game, take it outside to relieve itself and then let your dog explore the room/crate by itself. It will know from earlier experience that its food and water are inside the crate. When your dog goes into the crate to eat or drink, praise it.
- Start controlled rest periods in the crate. When your dog starts to show signs of tiredness, encourage it towards the crate with a toy or tidbit and aim to get your dog sleeping in the crate during the day and then night. Eventually sometimes after a few sessions like this, it will settle in the crate to sleep of its own accord. When your puppy is asleep in the crate, quietly close and latch the door. Once your puppy wakes up, open the crate and take it straight outside to relieve itself. After a short while, you will be able to lead your puppy straight into the crate with a toy or tidbit, at this point introduce a command such as “on your bed”, or "in your crate" so that in a short time your puppy will go to its crate when asked to do so. Get in the habit of putting your puppy in the crate at all sorts of times and for varying lengths of time so that it becomes an accepted, safe and secure place to be.
Crate safety and your dog:
- Always remove your puppy’s collar before putting it in the crate as it may get caught on the bars and cause injury.
- Watch your puppy carefully until you are satisfied that it will not try to chew the bars or it could get its mouth caught.
- Watch your puppy carefully until you are satisfied that it will not try to claw through the bars or it could get a paw caught.
- Remove smaller toys from the crate that the puppy could ingest or harm itself with.
- Avoid placing bedding in the crate that has a synthetic filling. Puppies will often ruin expensive beds and pull out the filling!
A crate is only a place for your dog or puppy to sleep, it is their bedroom, not their home. If you don’t have time to spend with a puppy or dog or are not around at home during the day you should seriously consider choosing an alternative pet that needs less time.
A crate is not an excuse for not teaching your dog how to behave in the house. An adult dog should not need to be locked in their crate but should be able to use it freely with the door fixed open.
Getting your puppy used to a crate will take time and patience, don’t rush things and never lose your temper or raise your voice.
Don’t rush to let your puppy out of the crate every time it cries, if you are sure that your dog doesn’t need to relieve itself, ignore it initially as it will be training you to come when called!
If your puppy is very stubborn about going to its crate, and you are satisfied that it understands what it is being asked to do, be quietly firm, by picking it up and without talking put it in the crate, shut and latch the door and walk away without fuss. Only return and let it out once it is quiet. Covering with a blanket can help settle some dogs. Providing a small Kong with a small amount of peanut butter for dogs can make all the difference.
Exercise and toileting are both important prior to a longer crating period and the offering of a Kong as a positive distraction can help.
Do not leave your puppy or adult dog in the crate for long periods, for puppies a couple of hours (rest and sleep) is quite long enough and for adult dogs, 3-4 hours is about the maximum, the exception to this is, of course, sleeping overnight.
Always ensure that your dog or puppy has access to fresh water whilst in a crate in the day. I may advise that to restrict water access in the late evening and night with a puppy to help move toilet training in the right direction.
This information is provided as a guide, but as always; please contact me to discuss any requirements or issues regarding your dog and its care and behaviour.