Crate training is just about the best thing you can teach your dog.
We know many people resist the idea. And if you truly hate the concept for daily use – you should still train your dog to be comfortable and not stressed while confined to a crate or cage.
Crate training for safety
Today, as I (Hope) write, I’m sitting in my kitchen at home, waiting while our new hot water heater is installed. After 25 years, the old water heater gave up the ghost on Saturday. Today, Tuesday, it’s taking a few hours to get the new one installed with the new gas and water piping. The installer is in and out of the house – getting his soldering iron, more pipes, the right tools – all the stuff that normally happens during a repair.
And our dogs? Safe and comfy in their crates in another room. Where they always are when we have workers in the house.
Are our dogs friendly? Yes, they are! Do they want to see the workers? Yes, they’d love to “help” with the installation. Would they be of help? Absolutely not!
They’re safely out of the way while the door opens and closes, people are in and out, up and down. I don’t have to worry about them escaping, getting in the way, going into parts of the basement where they don’t belong.
Having your dogs safely out of the work zone is just one of the many reasons we’re fans of crate training.
What if you’re having guests at your home? What if someone is afraid of dogs? Most of your friends probably love dogs as much as you do, but you can’t choose your relatives. What if you’re hosting a family gathering where dogs aren’t welcome? It could happen.
Eventually all dogs will probably have to be crated – either at the animal hospital, boarding facility, or even a grooming salon. Minimizing stress for our dogs in any of these stressful situations is our goal. If they’re accustomed to being in a crate, if they know they’re in a safe place, their stress should be lessened.
What if you’re visiting out-of-town family? And your dog doesn’t get along with theirs? Or they’re not crazy about letting your dog have full access to their house? Even if you’re staying at a hotel. Many allow dogs these days – but only if they’re confined to crates when you’re not in the room. Even if you just go out to grab some take-out, your dog must be crated.
We’re also big fans of crating our dogs in our vehicles. A friend of ours was t-boned on a major Chicago expressway, going 55 mph. Her vehicle was totaled. She and her dogs, safely crated in the back, were fine.
Learning to love the crate
What if your dog hates the crate? You can turn that around. It won’t happen overnight, but you can gradually change your dog’s attitude toward the crate.
As a first step, especially if your dog’s a chow hound, feed your dog in the crate. Regular meals, at regular meal time. Don’t make a big deal about it, just place the bowl in the crate and say whatever you normally do when you give your dog his/her meal. Don’t close the crate door – your dog should be free to come and go as normal.
Give your dog a special treat that he only gets in the crate. When our dogs see their “stuffing toys” come out (we load them with treats and a bit of peanut butter), they all dash for their crates.
Leave the crate out where it’s part of everyday life. If you have a comfy cushion in there, and leave the door open, you may find your dog using it as a great spot to relax, be with the family, but out of the way. Many dogs choose their crates as resting spots. It becomes your dog’s “room.” Dogs even will gather their favorite toys and bones and “hoard” them in their crates.
Don’t shut the door on crate training. Keep your dog accustomed to the crate throughout his/her life. You may not need it for any of these situations, but if you do, it’s peace of mind knowing your dog’s okay in his crate.
Frequently asked questions
You don’t necessarily have to crate your dog regularly, but he should be comfortable in a crate. If he ever needs to be hospitalized, or visit a groomer, he will spend time in a crate or cage. If he’s familiar with being crated, it will minimize anxiety in a stressful situation.
Not at all! The cage or crate can have a comfy bed inside, and your dog can certainly have a chew toy in it. Many, if not most dogs, enjoy being snuggled in a secure place. There is a theory that, since dogs are descended from wolves, who are den animals, that they actually feel safer in their own “dens.”
Think of all the ways your dog can get in trouble in the kitchen. We personally know someone whose dog jumped up on the stove, accidentally turned it on, and the house burned down. (Firefighters did save the dog.) Think of all the cords your dog can chew on. The cabinets he could figure out how to open. And all the poisons stored under the sink. The kitchen floor may be easy to clean, but the room isn’t a safe place for your dog.