Last week a woman came into my store with a little dog that looked like a mix of terrier breeds. We began talking about how her dog came into her life. Her and her husband went to a local shelter with hopes of finding a new addition to their home. As they pulled into the parking lot, a stray dog actually bolted across the street and ran right up to them! It was definitely a circumstance where the dog chose them and that was that. As she was telling me every detail, she snuck in a comment about how she does not crate him. I could feel the judgement in her words. We all have different opinions on the way to raise our pets, and I feel like crate training has a lot of negative connotations associated with it. The thought of putting their pet in a cage freaks some people out. However, there are actually many benefits to it. By using positive reinforcement, crate training can have a beneficial impact on your pet’s life.
- Safe haven.
A crate can become a dog’s own little sanctuary in the house by using positive reinforcement during training. It is where they can go to unwind and relax from the day. Unless your pup has their own bedroom, a crate would be the next best thing. Plus, dogs are naturally den animals, so a covered crate is the perfect place for them to go where they won’t be disturbed. Having the crate covered with a blanket or choosing a plastic flight kennel creates a comforting atmosphere, especially for puppies who are learning to sleep through the night. There’s a website called www.thisiswhyimbroke.com that I like to browse. It’s a compilation of some of the most obscure and random items found for sale on the internet. I’ve never actually bought anything I saw on there, but recently they posted an outdoor, underground dog den. It’s such a genius product! You dig a hole, and place this big plastic den into the ground. It slopes down with a small staircase; perfect for dogs to find solitude out in the yard. Since it’s half underground, the ground keeps the den at a comfortable temperature all year round. I think it would be a great idea for dogs and cats, alike.
- Reduce anxiety.
Crate training could potentially prevent or help ease the symptoms that anxiety can cause. This applies to how the dog may feel while home alone during the day and even at daycare. No one wants to come home to destroyed furniture or the contents of your garbage can sprinkled around your home. If you have a dog walker who is providing exercise midday or while you’re at work, and your dog is still destructive, then a crate may be a comforting solution, with the help of positive reinforcement. The goal is to help your dog understand that the crate is not a punishment, but rather their own personal space to relax. Dogs can feel the stress of busy lifestyles that their humans have established. We’ve asked our pets to live in city settings and small spaces with us, and that alone can cause stress and anxiety for them, not to mention that they are sensitive to our anxiety as well. Dogs with a lot of energy don’t always know when to stop and take a break, which can lead to anxious behaviors, so that can be a great time for the crate to come into play. Giving them 10-15 minutes breaks while you’re cooking dinner or winding down at the end of the night can help calm their minds.
- Help with potty training.
Depending on who you ask, some people will tell you that the primary use for crate training is to help with potty training. The theory is that dogs will not mess where he sleeps. This may be true, to an extent. Keep in mind, that this is merely a tool in the training process. Your pups should still be taken outside on a reasonable and regular schedule, or they will have accidents and be very confused about what is acceptable. Just because the dog is crated, doesn’t mean that they can hold it all day while you’re at work. They still need potty breaks, mental stimulation, and exercise throughout the day.
- Make travelling or boarding easier.
All of these benefits are intertwined and this reason is a good combination of the first three. Whether you are travelling or your dog is travelling with you, different factors can cause anxiety. Having your pet trained to find comfort in their crate will be the best thing for you and them. My cat does not do well when we travel in the car, so when I moved down here from New York, I knew I had to be strategic about how to drive down alone with him. My solution was a dog crate covered with a blanket that he often slept on. It smelled like home, while comforting him during the move; plus it kept him contained to one area of the car. Otherwise, he gets so uncomfortable riding in the car that he can’t sit still and climbs everywhere. The last time I had to crate him was when he was a kitten. He’s the only cat I’ve adopted that did not naturally figure out how to use the litter box. Instead, I would find little kitten poops all over my apartment. So while I was at work, I kept him in a big dog crate with a litter box and he got rewarded every time he would use it. It took some time, but he got there. (A bonus crate benefit for those with cats!)
If you leave your dog at a boarding facility or have a pet sitter, crate training would still be beneficial. There are cage-free facilities where all of the overnight boarders are loose in the daycare space, but if that isn’t the case then it’s likely that your dog will be in a crate or a kennel while you’re gone. This allows the dogs to calm their minds and get a proper amount of rest during their stay. Not being at home and with their humans can cause stress, so having that ability to find comfort in their own personal den space is a great way to keep anxiety away.
We all understand the significance or routine and ritual. Even if it’s having a morning or evening routine to prepare for the day or wind down from the day, having a routine can benefit us and our pets. Being a dog walker for about four years now, as well as working in daycare/boarding facilities, I can always tell which dogs have structure in their lives. I love when a dog brings me on their usual route during a walk or shows me where treats are before running into their crate. I can tell those dogs have the same rituals and routines every day, which makes everything run smoothly. Having a well behaved dog that enjoys their crate can also be a great quality if you are able to bring your dog to work with you!
These are steps that can lead to a happy life for your pet. Crate training is not just for puppies, though. If you adopt an adult dog from a shelter, they can absolutely benefit from basic training and crate training. They most likely did not have routine and structure in their lives before, which can bring them peace of mind when transitioning into their new life. It takes away the feelings of uncertainty and can really boost their confidence. As our pets get older, sometimes they can develop anxiety, especially if they lose their eyesight. Having their own personal space where they can feel safe at all times may be important for them in the long run.