Entering the world of crate training can be a rather confusing experience. Chances are, you have heard of crates for dogs, but may have never had a need for one or ever thought of crate training your dog. You may have heard good things about crates as well as bad. If you do decide to crate train your dog, you may be at a loss with all the options out there and deciding what crate is best for your situation. Let’s take a look at what crates are, how they are beneficial, discuss all the different types of crates available, and how to properly introduce them to your dog.
What is a crate, and why would I ever need one?
A crate is an enclosure meant to contain or transport a dog. They can be made of wire, plastic, fabric, or metal. Crates are meant to replicate a dog’s natural den, and provide a sense of security and refuge. It is a common misconception that crates are cruel and inhumane, however they are among one of the safest containment options for your dog. Providing you have properly trained a dog to use a crate and made it a positive experience, crates are a wonderful option for most management situations that you may find yourself in with your dog. They are easily transported, take up little space, and are secure.
There are many ways in which a crate can be utilized. For shy dogs, they can offer a safe place for them to retreat to. For young puppies, they are the quintessential tool for assisting in potty training. Dogs that are too hyper for guests can be managed in the crate when you can’t devote the time to train and control them. Dogs who are not friendly towards people or other dogs can be contained safely. They can also be a vital tool for dogs that are destructive when left home alone. The uses for crates are limitless, and once you train your dog to accept and love their crate, you will be surprised at how many opportunities can open for you!
Different types of crates and how to choose the right one.
When it comes to choosing the right crate for your dog, the options can be truly dizzying. If you walk into any pet store and head towards the crate section, there may very well be more than one brand, different types, and more than enough sizes to accommodate every dog from Chihuahuas to Great Danes.
The first step to choosing the right crate is selecting the appropriate size. An improperly sized crate can be dangerous to your dog. They can become anxious in a smaller crate and injure themselves trying to move around. A crate that is too large may end up being a combination toilet and crate for your dog, as they can easily do their business in one corner, and sleep in the other. A crate of appropriate size should be just large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lay in comfortably. If you are unsure of how big of a crate to get, you may opt to bring your dog with you to a pet store and use the display crates to determine the size that you will need. Most crates are universal in sizing, so it doesn’t necessarily matter that you buy the crate from the store that you put them in. Just be sure that you write down the measurements of the crate you need.
Once you have determined the appropriate size for your crate, you will need to determine what crate is best for your needs.
Plastic crates come apart in two halves and secure together with screws, they can stack together when not in use, making them easy to store. They are a wonderful option for shy and fearful dogs, as they are very secluded. They are not as easy to clean as other options as you either have to climb inside or take them apart. Plastic crates are extremely durable, however, and can withstand a lot of abuse. These crates are very hard for dogs to escape from. If you are doing any airline travel, most plastic crates are airline approved.
Wire crates are well-ventilated and very portable. They can be heavy, but they break down into themselves which can make them useful for travel. They are a great option for dogs that like to feel included in their surroundings and may be afraid of confined spaces. Wire crates are not a good option for dogs that can easily escape crates. One major drawback of wire crates is that they are much noisier than other crates, you will definitely hear your dog moving around in the crate when they do so. However, wire crates are the easiest to clean of all the crates, and many come with removable panels to adjust the size which are very useful for growing puppies.
Fabric crates are among the least durable option for crates, but they are the most portable. They can be very useful for travel and well-mannered dogs. Fabric crates can be cleaned, but it requires removing the fabric from the frame, which can be a tedious task, as well as putting them back on when they are cleaned.
These are the most expensive options of all the crates. However, metal crates are by far the most durable option. These crates can contain the most prolific escapee. If you have an exceptional destroyer of crates or a clever escape artist, these crates can absolutely pay for themselves. Some metal crates are approved for airline travel as well.
How To Acclimate Your Dog to the Crate
Alright, you have your crate, now what? This is a general guideline designed for dogs that don’t already have previous crate issues and structured around that. If you acquired a dog with crate fears, please consult with a trainer in your area to help you.
Make it a safe space
Your dog won’t want to go in his crate if it looks foreboding. Some dogs enjoy bedding in their crates. If you have a destructive dog, bedding may not be such a good idea. Use your best sense of judgement to decide. Put the crate in a quiet area of the house, preferably one that your dog already enjoys. Most dogs want to feel included and won’t use a crate that is away from the family, however some shy dogs may prefer a little seclusion. You can experiment with this and move your crate as you see fit. Leave the door open and put a chew inside for your dog so that he has the option to come and go as he pleases.
Feed meals in the crate
Feeding meals in the crate is the best way to get your dog to begin to make positive associations with his crate. Feeding all meals in the crate will ensure that your dog wants to go in his crate. You can also opt to feed stuffed Kongs and long lasting chews, like Real Dog Box Super Chews from the crate. This will prevent mess in your home as well as continue to make positive associations with the crate.
Put your dog in his crate every night
Consistency is key with crate training. While you are teaching your dog to love his crate, be sure that he sleeps inside the crate. If crying is an issue, you may opt to put a dirty t-shirt in the crate with him, as this will give him something that smells like you inside the crate. It can be very comforting for puppies. Of course, be sure that it is a shirt you don’t care too much about losing if he decides to chew it up!
Don’t give up!
Sometimes, crate training can be a very exhausting process. Some dogs will whine and cry and be generally unhappy with the whole experience initially. This is really something you just have to ride out the waves on. Don’t cave in when your dog whines. If you let him out of the crate when he makes noise, he learns that this is what he must do if he wants to get out. Instead, wait until your dog is quiet in the crate for 5 seconds before you let him out of the crate. This will reinforce that he has to be quiet to get out, and eventually he won’t even think about barking or making any noise from within the crate.
Crates can be a wonderful and safe option for travel as well as everyday use. Be sure that you choose the right crate in the right size, and use the crate wisely!