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 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 den for any dog to enjoy but there are dos 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.
A place to send your dog or puppy as a punishment. (Correctly executed time-outs are permissible.)
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 a 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:
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 instill 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:
Traveling 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.
Starting out with a crate:
Ensure your crate is large enough for the adult version of your dog. Please check your requirements with me.
Whilst much of this information is aimed at a new puppy, with common sense, the same principles can be applied to an older dog:
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.
Your dog may prefer it if a large blanket or towel is placed over the top on the outside to give it a feeling of greater security.
Put your new puppy’s bedding in the furthest end of the crate.
Have fresh water available in the crate, either in a heavy bowl or a custom clip-on metal bowl.
Put either your puppy’s food or a tasty tidbit in the crate. Feed your dog in the crate.
Let the puppy into the room - don’t try to get it into the crate or pay any attention to the crate at all.
Encourage your puppy to play with a toy and slowly move the game closer to 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.
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.
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.
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. 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, very quietly close and latch the door without waking it.
As soon as 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” so that in a short time your puppy will go to its crate when told to do so.
Get in the habit of putting your puppy in the crate at all sorts of times- not just when things are busy, as it may become resentful of the crate because it feels it is being left out.
Always remove your puppy’s collar before putting it in the crate as it could get the buckle 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.
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. Some difficult dogs may need brief ‘time outs’ and specific guidelines should be followed. I provide these.
Getting your puppy used to a crate will take time and patience, don’t rush things and never loose 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 told 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 also.
Do not leave your puppy or adult dog in the crate for long periods, for puppies a couple of hours 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.
This information is provided as a guide, but as always; please call me to discuss any requirements or issues regarding your dog and its care and behaviour.
Please note: Crates can be purchased and delivered through me at lower rates than you would pay in the pet store. They are of a high quality, with two doors and a metal tray in the base. Please contact me for prices.