Crating a dog too often has a negative association among owners, but it has just as many benefits for the dog as it does the humans!  It is imperative that the crate is not used as a punishment, but rather a way to get your dog to relax and enjoy his or her own private space.  Dogs do not think like humans at all when it comes to the crate.  They take well to these confined spaces and learn how to relax.  Most importantly, dogs do not get into trouble when they’re contained.  Think about crating your dog like putting a young child in a playpen – for safe keeping.

The 5 great reasons to crate your dog are:

1. Puppy training

First and foremost, getting a puppy used to a crate early on in it’s life will help to prevent many future behavioural problems from occurring.  By introducing the crate at a young age, you will lessen the chance of separation anxiety as well as avoid having to crate train later in life if your dog starts to display destructive behaviours around the house.

Dogs will seldom soil where they sleep, so a crate is essential for potty training.  By having the puppy in the crate for 20 minutes at a time with the only breaks to be to go outside to go to the bathroom, your puppy will very quickly learn that the yard is the place where they go do their business.

A puppy in a crate cannot use your couch, baseboards or shoes for teething, but rather will be using their own toys inside of their little “den” for this.

2. Household management

A dog’s crate becomes for him or her much like a child’s bedroom becomes for them… a place to escape and get away when they’d like to be alone.  Not only is your dog respecting your space when they choose to be in a crate, but they get the benefit of being left alone when they choose to relax in their own little haven.

When a dog is bored, they can display destructive behaviours and chew anything they can find,  especially the curious youngsters!  This too often will lead to the dog ingesting a foreign object which can cause a blockage of the digestive tract.  Tragically this can result in death, and always results in a very large veterinary bill.  Crating a destructive dog prevents all of this and provides piece of mind when you’re not home to supervise.  Why have to hide all of the shoes and put the garbage out of reach every time you leave, when you can put your dog in the crate?

Owning multiple dogs can be an issue for some as they don’t always get along.  By having a system in place that uses crates to manage the dogs for feeding and down time, less fighting and nonsense can go on between them.  Dog fights can be vicious and without proper management through containment, one dog could very easily end up severely injured, if not dead.

3. Safe Travels

A dog that is crated in a car has a greater chance of surviving a car crash, and less of a chance causing one!  Avoid this altogether and take a proactive approach.  Think of the car crate like a seat belt – it keeps your dog safe and prevents them from being thrown from the vehicle upon impact.  Crating your dog while in the car also prevents him or her from constantly being on alert and looking out the window for the next dog or squirrel to bark at.  Anyone who drives knows that it takes a lot of concentration, and having a dog erupt into a barking fit at any moment is less than ideal.  Travelling with a dog that feels comfortable in the car makes it so much easier on everyone.

A helpful hint: if you’re taking your dog on an overnight trip, use the crate for night time at your destination so that the dog has a little piece of home with him!  He or she is more likely to settle more quickly in a strange place if they have a familiar space to sleep in.

4. Structure while you’re gone

In a previous blog post titled “What Is Structure?” I discussed how giving your dog boundaries and rules leads to better behaviour and a more relaxed state of mind overall.  By crating your dog while you’re not home, you leverage existing training by continuing to enforce those rules and prevent your dog from making bad decisions.  A dog that has learned to love the crate will remain calm when left alone at home.  And the best part is, you won’t have to worry about which shoes you have to replace while you’re out!

5. Anxiety

An anxious dog that has free roam of the house is more likely to either pace around waiting for it’s owners to come home, or be constantly on alert for anything or anyone that may walk by a window.  This keeps the dog in their anxious state and they can get no relief.  Can you imagine what it would feel like NEVER being able to relax?  Do your dog a favour and give them a space where they lay down and go to sleep instead of staying in an adrenalized state for extended periods of time.  With this being said, an anxious dog may have have a harder time accepting the crate, so be sure to condition it properly by making it the best place in the world for them.  Time and patience will be the keys to your success.

So with these 5 reasons to crate your dog in mind, it is important to mention that the size of the crate plays an important role in the comfort level of your dog.  The crate should allow enough room for your dog to walk into it, spin around and lay down comfortably.  Feel free to use a crate liner or dog bed for added comfort (if your dog is a chewer you may want to skip this).

Be sure to be fair to your dog when using the crate and never crate a dog for longer than 8 hours at a time, or the average work day.  If it is going to be for 8 hours straight, make sure you can have a friend or neighbour visit and let your dog out for a stretch and a pee. For puppies, a good rule to start with is 1 hour for every month of age during the day.  Puppies are more likely to sleep through the night if they’re crated, so take advantage of this!

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