To Crate or Not to Crate – That’s the Question: Are Dog Crates Cruel or Comforting?

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For many dog owners, crate training can be a difficult decision. Many people equate crates with dogs that are locked away in puppy mills or left alone for hours on end by owners who do not have time for them. However when properly used crates provide a safe, enjoyable area for the dog as well as a way to keep him out of trouble when the owners are away.

First, what is meant by crate training? A dog crate is usually a metal, wooden or plastic kennel that provides an enclosed or secured area for the pet. Crate training refers to teaching the dog that this is his home or personal area and is used whenever the dog needs to be safely confined to prevent him from creating problems when he is unsupervised.

Why Use a Dog Crate?

There are two main reasons for using a dog crate. The first is to provide a way to contain the dog to prevent unwanted behavior. How many owners have come home from a quick trip to the grocery store to find the new puppy has eaten the couch? With crate training owners return to a secured pup that could not get in trouble while they were gone, providing a happy homecoming rather than a screaming one.

The second reason to use a crate is to provide the dog an area of his own. Dogs are den animals and they often prefer to sleep in an enclosed space. Providing the dog with this type of space allows him a place to sleep comfortably through the night. A crate also provides a safe place for the pooch to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the home.

It is important for new owners to realize that the crate is never to be used as a place of punishment. For a puppy, a crate should be used as a secure place for the dog to stay when the owner is not able to supervise him. For an older dog crates should be used as a place where he can escape the outside world. Crates should never be used as a place of punishment or where a dog is shoved into when he is in trouble.

Choosing a Dog Crate

There are a myriad of dog crates on the market and one style is not necessarily preferable to another. Some owners prefer metal crates that fold flat for easy travel. Others use airline style crates that are solid on the bottom and have windows on top. Crates for smaller dogs can be found made of fabric and there is even a high-end market for crates that double as furniture.

A crate should be large enough for the dog to stand, turn around and lie down comfortably. If the crate is for a puppy the owner should chose the crate that will fit him when he is full grown and use the enclosed divider to create a smaller space. Dog beds or cushions and covers are not a necessity but may make the dog more comfortable.

Creating a Happy Crate

Teaching a puppy, or even an older dog, how to use a crate is surprisingly easy. Many owners may be surprised to find their dog is perfectly content to spend the time in the crate even with the door shut. It is important to remember that a crate is a place for the dog to not only to be safely contained, but also to feel secure.

Introducing the pup to the crate sets the tone for future use. Begin by showing the dog the crate. Toss in a treat and give praise when he enters. Let him sniff the crate and freely walk in and out. Repeat the praise each time he willingly enters the crate.

When closing the crate door for the first time shut the door and step back. If he whines, say “hush.” As soon as he is quiet, praise him, open the door and let him out. This will teach the pup that being quiet in the crate earns praise. Gradually lengthen the amount of time the puppy is left in his crate and always praise him when he is quiet.

When property used, a crate provides the dog with a place where he can feel secure as well as a safe place that can prevent him from mischief while he is unsupervised. Those who begin skeptical of the whole idea of crating may find their dog chooses sleeping in his crate over anywhere else in the house. This can also solve the never-ending problem of how to get the canine member of the family off the human family’s bed!