Monday, January 25, 2010

The Great Crate Debate.

You've read it in books, you've heard it from fellow "craters"—crate train your dog, it's the best way to go! However, you still have reservations about it.

We'll take a deeper look into the many uses, benefits and reasons why you should use a crate for your dog no matter what age he/she may be and no matter what the reason may be.

As a dog trainer, I find that many of my clients have or are in the process of crate-training their dog once we start with dog training. This is absolutely music to my ears! Nothing could be a better tool for dog owners than a dog that is properly crate-trained!

The Common Uses

The most common use for crates is for help with potty training . . . and I could not agree more! Potty training can run as smooth as silk when done properly, and with the aide of a crate. A crate provides your dog with a place he can call his own. It will help him learn to value this place, keep it clean, and teach him to 'hold it'. Healthy, well-raised dogs do not like to be in a soiled area and thus will refrain from using his new home as a potty area so it stays clean and comfy.

Another common, and wonderful, use for the crate is for confinement when unable to be supervised. This is great for growing, curious, puppies as well as for teaching an adult dog that he has a safe place to stay out of trouble. A crate is a wonderful way to teach a dog boundaries.

The Uses We Don't Always Think Of

This leads to another topic—how long does a dog need to remain crated once he's beyond potty training and puppyhood?

I often get the question: "Well she is now 13 months old, when can we get rid of the crate and have her just have free run of the house?" Let me touch on a few things to answer that question. First, crates are not designed for one single reason and they do not have an expiration date, so-to-speak. If you have ever known anyone with a Service Dog (aiding the handicapped) then you know that those dogs live their entire lives in their crates. They sleep in them and stay in them when the owner does not have the dog with them, or needs to put the dog away for some reason. The great thing about this—these dogs love it! They would be absolutely lost without their crate, as they find comfort in their little home.

The crate can be used for the life of your dog, no matter the reason or age of your dog. It is a good idea to keep your dog going in and out of a crate randomly so that when you need to use a crate he is still quite comfortable with being crated.

One of the uses a crate has, that is less often thought of, is if your dog becomes injured or sick. If you ever have a dog break a leg or need to be "forced" to be calm and relaxed a crate could save your dog's life. If anyone has ever adopted a dog or had a dog that had to go through heartworm treatment, then you know that it requires a dog to be calm and virtually inactive for 4-6 weeks. If you do not have a dog crate to use during this time, it could be life threatening for the dog.

Another use of the crate is for travel and visiting guests. If you travel with your dog or take your dog places away from home then a crate is a safe way to confine your dog when in someone else's home and in the car. Often when at a strange place (if you go to grandma's just once or twice a year), a dog may be destructive if left alone due to stress. A crate would be a great tool to save grandma's couch and a way to keep your dog safe and secure.

Lastly, a use that we rarely think of unless we get into the situation, is separation from other dogs should there be a fight or disagreement. If you ever add a dog to your home, foster a dog or for some reason your current dogs begin to argue then a crate will be your best tool during a behavior modification program. A crate would be absolutely necessary in this type of situation.

A dog is a dog. He may have never noticed the Ficus plant that has been in the corner of your living room for the past two years, but if he's left out in your house the possibility is there to explore. The possibility is there for him to be unsafe. To have access to the cat. To have access to cords, plants, cleaning solutions . . . a dog can in fact wake up one day and decide to eat the wires to the TV. Offering freedom to a dog is more of a relief for us, not the dog. We do it to satisfy our own wants, not to keep the dog happy. Dogs feel happy and safe in small spaces. They don't have the stress of having to maintain a large space.

Keep your dog's crate, or go get one if you don't have one. Let Fido have his own home, don't take it away because he reached maturity. Allowing him access to his crate will keep him happy and secure. You can also use it as his bed for as long as you wish. A crate is a safe place for a dog, a home, his very own apartment.

In conclusion, there is no reason why you shouldn't crate train a dog. Crates are used as tools during many facets of a dog's life! Many people want so badly to get to "that stage" where the dog can be out of the crate permanently. My question is always—why?

If your dog isn't crate trained or doesn't like his crate let us know and we'll help you get your dog in his crate happily and willingly!


  1. Stacy, this article could not have come at a better time. My boss just got a lab puppy and had never crate-trained a dog. He has purchased a crate this time. I will forward this article to him! Thanks so much. --Linda V.

  2. I have tried the crate - none of my dogs like it - even though I've tried to make it as doggie wonderful as possible. I totally aggree with Crate training so long as the dog actually does like it. I suppose like anything they can learn... that will be my next challenge.
    Thanks Stacy!