To crate or not to crate: it’s a key question facing countless new owners and their furry friends. The answer is yes, crate training is important. Your dog needs the comfort, warmth, darkness and quiet of a crate. Crates simulate a den that, in the wild, dogs/wolves would seek out to feel safe. In our world, they serve an important purpose of helping your dog or puppy settle and feel comfortable in his or her new home with you.
The crate, like the den, is your dog’s safe spot. It shelters them from toddlers, noises, other house pets and visitors that he or she is not fully comfortable around; it also prevents your dog from getting into mischief that can lead to a pattern of bad behaviour as he or she grows up. If you’re on the go, the crate is an important travel companion as it makes the transition from one place to another more familiar for your dog. When it comes to toilet training, the crate is a great management tool. As dogs prefer to eliminate outside of their sleeping areas, crates can help speed along good toileting habits.
We recommend getting a crate that’s just large enough for your dog to be able to stand up and turn around in. If you get a crate that is too large, you may find your dog uses a far-off corner for toileting. With puppies, you can partition the crate off to replicate that small and cozy sleeping area all dogs need. Plastic moulded crates are best: they are sturdy, light and provide dogs with the maximum level of comfort. To make a wire crate more den-like, partially cover it with a blanket to make the interior feel safer.
Position your dog’s crate in a peaceful place out of the activity of the household (a back hallway, laundry room or office are good ideas). To introduce your pup to his or her new home-within-your-home, first leave the crate’s door open until your pet becomes comfortable and trusts the new space. Keep the door open and allow your dog to go in and out as they want, providing treats to find, so that your dog develops positive associations with the crate. Close the door when she is calm and settled and practice putting her in the crate at various times when you are home so she doesn’t associate it only with you leaving. Let her out only when she is calm, never when she’s making a fuss.
Allow adequate toileting outings so that your pup doesn’t soil her sleeping area. An hour per month of age is an approximate amount of time you can expect a puppy to last before needing to relieve herself.
The crate cannot be used as punishment as your puppy will not understand the connection between her behaviour and being put in her crate.
If your dog appears stressed in the crate, she may have separation anxiety and could require professional help.