Crates, when used properly and humanely, are useful in many ways for your dog. They can be used to help with house training and keep your dog from destroying your house while you’re gone. They are useful during feeding time when you have multiple dogs. Crates are a good place to keep your dog when you can’t watch them to make sure they don’t get into anything they shouldn’t. Crates can also be used when introducing a new dog to your household.
What Type of Crate Should You Get?
There are several types of crates: metal folding crates, enclosed plastic crates and mesh collapsible crates.
We personally prefer metal folding crates. They fold down nicely when we need to travel with them, and they are also easy to clean because of the pull out tray. We also like them because they provide more air ventilation for your dog.
The plastic, enclosed crates can be a pain; if your dog has an accident in them, you’ll be going in after it. They are pretty bulky, too and your dog could get hot in them.
Mesh crates are nice for some types of dogs, but we wouldn’t recommend using them for puppies or destructive dogs. If your dog has an accident in them the mesh/cloth material will be hard to clean and over time probably won’t be very sanitary. Some puppies and dogs will chew the material and get out, not to mention they might eat it, too.
Setting Up the Crate
Once you choose the crate you’ll want to make it comfortable for your dog. Put a nice blanket or bed in the crate. However, if you are house training or have a puppy, we don’t recommend putting that fancy, expensive dog bed you bought in the crate just yet. Instead, try an old towel. It will wash well and that new, fancy bed won’t get ruined right away.
Also put some type of toy in the crate. Be mindful of your dog’s behavior though. If they are a destroyer of toys, only give them more durable toys like Kongs or hard bones (not rawhide, they can too easily choke on small pieces of it). You don’t want them accidently choking on a piece of toy when they destroy it while you’re gone.
Make the Crate a Positive Place
One of the main things you can do is feed your dog in their crate. This helps them associate it with things they definitely enjoy, like food. If your dog is hesitant to go into the crate set their food bowl next to crate and after doing this a few times and they seem comfortable eating there, start putting the bowl inside the crate. We’ve seen many dogs that will run into their crate and sit there when they know it is dinner time. You can also use treats to encourage your dog to go into the crate.
Whenever you put your dog in their crate, say a command such as “crate,” “kennel,” or “go to bed.” Over time they’ll learn that command and go right in their crate.
Whining, Howling, Barking?
Some dogs, especially puppies, tend to be upset when you first start crate training with them. They may whine, howl or bark and sometimes it seems like they’ll never stop. It can be frustrating, especially at night when you’re trying to go to sleep. So, what do you do? It can be really hard, but do nothing. If you start feeling guilty or get frustrated and go let them out you will be rewarding them for their behavior. Next time you put them in the crate they will start fussing again because they figured out that if they do, you let them out. Also, yelling at them, hitting the crate or showing them any sort of attention will encourage the behavior more. So, try your hardest to ignore them and invest in some ear plugs if you need to. The good part is that they will stop eventually and you will be able to crate them without them making a fuss.
Using a Crate to Help with House Training
When crate training to help with house training there are a few key things you want to keep in mind.
First, make sure the crate is right size for your dog. You don’t want it too small or too big. Your dog should be able to stand up and turn around easily.
Second, dogs don’t like to relieve themselves where they sleep. When you give them a crate that is too large for them they may sleep on one side of the crate and relieve themselves on the other side.
Lastly, it’s very important that when you let your dog out of the crate that you take them straight outside. Don’t get distracted with something or let them wander around the house. They’ll need to go, so take them straight out. This routine helps them figure out that they are supposed to relieve themselves outside and not inside or in their crate.
If you have a puppy, try a metal folding crate with a divider. You can buy a crate that is large enough for your puppy once they’re full grown, but use the divider to make the crate the right size as they grow. The divider definitely comes in handy and will save you money because you only need to buy one crate!
Other Uses for a Crate
Crates are also good for keeping your dog safe while you are out of the house. It takes the uncertainty out of leaving your dog home alone. Some dogs like to get into anything and everything, so keeping them in a crate while you can’t watch them is a good option. This could also apply if you have multiple dogs; sometimes it’s best to keep them separated from each other while you’re away. If you have a destructive dog, you can crate them when you leave to keep them from destroying your house. If you have a dog that likes to chase your cat, crate them to keep your cat safe.
Aside from using a crate for when you leave the house, a crate can simply be your dog’s own private space. Many dogs come to love their crate and frequently go in it to sleep or rest on their own. The crate becomes your dog’s own little den. Try leaving the crate door open all the time and you’ll probably see your dog go in it on their own.
Use a crate to transport your dog in the car. It’s much safer for them to be in a crate than loose. If your dog rides in the back of a truck always use a crate, never allow them to ride loose; they can easily jump out or fall over the side!
You can also use a crate when introducing a new dog to your household. You can have the new dog in a crate when they meet your dogs. This allows the dogs to sniff and greet each other, while making sure everyone stays safe.
Important to Remember
It’s very important to keep in mind that a crate is not where your dog is supposed to live. Do not leave your dog in a crate for extended periods of time. If you work long hours you need to consider hiring a pet sitter or taking them to a doggy day care center. Dogs that are crated too much won’t get proper exercise and may gain weight. Also, do not use a crate as punishment; your dog will only come to hate being in it or even become fearful.