Crate Training for Your Dog: Good or Bad?
A crate can serve as a home away from home for your dog. Here are some of the main benefits of crate training!
Crate training - is it right for your dog? It's a question most dog owners ask. It can seem sad and isolating but when making this decision, it's important to remember that dogs are denning animals. As such, they do not have negative feelings regarding crates, unless they've had a traumatic experience with them in the past. In fact, dogs are actually inclined to seek out these types of den-like areas. "A crate may become a safe haven for a dog, acting as her 'apartment' inside the home," says Amanda Landis-Hanna, a veterinarian.
And there are several benefits of crate training that will help both you and your dog. "I recommend teaching your dog how to use one," says Tonya Wilhelm, a dog trainer and behavior specialist. She gives seven reasons why it will help your dog - as well as the maximum amount of crate time.
- Serves as a Great Management Tool
You can use a dog crate in much the same way as you would use a playpen with a crawling baby: Think of it as a safe place to put your puppy for a short period of time. If your dog is overwhelmed by large groups or is still learning how to interact with others, you can put him in the crate when people come by the house. This will keep "him safe and out of the way," says Wilhelm.
- Lessens Anxiety at the Veterinarian's Office
When you board your dog or take her to appointments, she will have to spend time in a crate. "If your dog already has some anxiety about being away or in the vet's office, and she isn't crate trained, her anxiety will be even worse," says Wilhelm. Crate training at home can help your dog be more comfortable in these unfamiliar environments.
- Good For Travel
When you're driving, your dog can be a major distraction. He might walk around or even try to sit or stand on your lap. "Using the crate when you travel in the car is safer than having your dog moving around," says Wilhelm. Crates are also useful when you take your dog with you on vacation. In this scenario, a crate can serve as a comfortable and familiar home away from home, which will help your dog feel less overwhelmed by new environments and the traveling process.
- Facilitates House Training Efforts
Crates are ideal for house training because dogs don't like to soil their sleeping place. "This method allows you to learn your dog's routine and continue training with consistency. If your dog is taken outside to urinate at the same time every day, she learns to expect that schedule and routine," says Dr. Landis-Hanna. Crates are also useful house training tools because they allow you to know your dog's exact location. "You need to know where your dog is 100 percent of the time to prevent accidents," says Wilhelm.
- Makes a Good Sleeping Area
Dogs, and puppies in particular, need lots of sleep. "Puppies are a lot like kids and can act up when they're over tired," says Wilhelm. To make sure that your dog gets to sleep and stays asleep, you can move the crate to a quiet place during the evenings. Wilhelm recommends playing "Through a Dog's Ear," a calming piano CD, at bed time. "That's what I play when my dog goes into his crate."
Don't Overuse the Crate
Wilhelm says that puppies shouldn't be in the crate for longer than four hours at a time. If you can't be with your puppy for an entire eight- to 10-hour workday, you should arrange for a family member or dog sitter to take her out of the crate once or twice during this time period. But adult dogs can stay in the crate for longer periods of time. For older dogs, "eight to 10 hours is generally considered the maximum time in a crate without a urination break," says Dr. Landis-Hanna.
Your dog probably won't be asleep for the entire time she's crated. As such, "it is a good idea to provide her with a prized toy, a comfy bed and an entertaining treat, such as a carrot stick, to enhance her enjoyment of her crate," says Dr. Landis-Hanna. "Remember, her crate is her home within your home."