Written for Nom Nom
Some dog parents are reluctant to put their dog in a crate. Typically, this hesitation results from a belief that crates are the equivalent of prisons for dogs. In truth, a crate is a critical component of a dog’s life, not only making her life (and yours) much easier, but allowing your dog to rely on her instincts to claim a comfortable spot to call her own.
In the wild, wolves and wild canines use dens as places of security and comfort. By crate training your dog through positive means, you provide her with the ultimate level of care and safety.
A Crate Encourages the Natural Denning Instinct
Dogs are social creatures, and they want to be part of a family. That does not mean, however, that they do not need a place of their own. Imagine if you were with your family all the time, without a bedroom or a quiet, calm retreat available when you need space. Crates are a dog’s equivalent of that type of sanctuary.
A crate is a modern representation of the dens that wolves and wild dogs instinctively seek: enclosed, dark, safe spots to live. Training your dog to use a crate may provide her a considerable amount of relief; she will have a designated place of her own, and will not have to find her own in a corner, under a table, chair, or bed. Crates offer dogs a secure location to go to is they are unwell, tired, stressed, or just want some time to themselves.
The Natural Denning Instinct Equals Successful Housetraining
If you ever raised a puppy, you know the frustration that can accompany the housetraining process. Should you adopt a rescue dog, an injured dog, or a senior dog, you may face similar challenges. New places, faces, and schedules can disrupt a dog’s instincts and training, resulting in a pile or puddle of accidents in the home. A crate can make a significant difference in that it relies on a dog’s denning instinct to encourage potty training.
In the wild, wolf and canid pups are taught to eliminate outside of the den by their mother. She shows them it is not acceptable to eliminate where they sleep; not only is it unsanitary, but it can lead predators to the den. It is, in essence, a survival instinct. You can use a crate to stimulate the same instincts in your domestic dog. The crate and, by association, the house, are living spaces, and all urination and defecation must happen outside, far away from the “den.” Housebreaking a puppy or adult dog may be a much easier process with the use of a crate.
Crate Training Promotes Independence, Confidence, and Respect
Because of their hard-wiring, dogs always want to be included in the family environment. Even if they are not receiving direct attention, they enjoy being close to those they love and feel safe around. However, some dogs are too attached to their pet parents, to the extent that it is unhealthy for both the human and the pet in the relationship. In these cases, for the dog’s mental and emotional well-being, a crate may provide the balance she desperately seeks.
The key to using a crate to teach your dog appropriate social behaviors lies in making everything about the crate a positive. Make the crate an appealing place for your dog by placing it in an area that your family often frequents, and include the following items in and on it:
A blanket covering the top and sides of the crate to create a dark “den”
A blanket or bed lining in the bottom of the crate
An old t-shirt that has the pet parent’s smell on it
Safe squeaky or chewy toys
Food puzzle toys
Any other item that your dog loves and can be safely left alone with
Additionally, a crate can help a dog become more confident and independent by allowing her to understand boundaries and learn to be comfortable with herself as immediate company. Dogs who are crate trained are less likely to suffer from phobias, separation anxiety, and panic disorders. There are times when, as much as we love our dogs, we need some space, or they need to be confined to a safe location. Crate training teaches your dog to respect that she will not always be at your side, and there is nothing to fear about that fact. She can calmly wait, in comfort and safety, in her crate until you let her out.
If your dog has suffered from abuse or negative crate experiences in her past, understand that it may take longer for her to accept a crate again. With time and patience on your part, your dog can find comfort in the crate and not suffer from adverse emotional states. Take the following steps when crate training a fearful dog:
Leave the door to the crate open so the dog does not feel trapped
Place treat rewards on the inside and around the outside of the crate to create a positive environment
Move the dog’s food and water bowls inside the crate
After the dog begins to eat, quietly close the crate door for a short period of time
Increase the length of crate time as the dog gets accustomed to her surroundings
Keep a toy or treat inside the crate to keep your dog’s attention
Give your dog plenty of praise when you let her out of the crate
Other Benefits to Crate Training A Dog
There are a few other practical uses for crate training a dog that go beyond denning instinct, housebreaking, or emotional health. Crate training can be incredibly useful for any occasion in which you need to transport your dog, such as:
Traveling by car. All pet parents want their pets to be safe when they are driving with them in a vehicle. A crate keeps your dog in a confined, familiar location so that she does not get thrown around the car should you get in an accident.
Boarding facility. Should you go away on vacation, you may need to leave your dog at a boarding kennel, in an environment similar to a crate. With crate training, the experience will be much easier for your dog to handle.
Flying. Dogs must be crated on a plane, and an already stressful situation can be made more bearable for your dog if she is in the place where she feels secure and safe.
Crates keep your dog secure and safe. If your dog is injured and the restriction of her movement is necessary, a crate is a place where she can heal while also being comfortable in her environment.
Crate Training Is in Your Dog’s Best Interest
Crate training is critically important to your dog. In the interest of her well-being, emotional health, socialization, and safety, a crate is an all-around tool that works for your dog and for your family. By giving your dog a place of her own, you are allowing her to be the best dog she can be—and giving yourself peace of mind, too.