Where do people stand on the crating issue? It’s considered a safe place by some and a dungeon-like torture chamber by others. It’s looked at as a stress-free zone or a stress-induced nightmare on both sides of the spectrum. It seems there is a great divide among the dog loving community, and many of heated discussions on social media proclaiming the wonders and dangers of crate training with each member of the debate passionate about their beliefs. What about the new dog parent that needs a judgment-free environment to explore options? Pull up a chair. Let’s talk crates and crate training:
- Canine History 101
Back when canines ran in packs, wild and free over land and dale, they were considered den animals. They lived in caves, hollowed out trees, small dark places to curl up and keep out of the elements. Fast forward a thousand or so years, most dogs prefer small, dark den like areas to curl up in. Crates, when used correctly, can provide a safe place for a dog to chill in when he’s feeling stressed out.
- Choosing a Crate
Find a den that the dog can easily stand up in and circle around. If the dog is still a puppy take growth speed into consideration. Larger breeds tend to have tremendous spurts. Make sure the crate is always large enough for the dog. Some dogs prefer a den like atmosphere, drape a blanket over the top and sides to make is dark and cozy.
- Training Basics
The crate must never be used as a punishment. If a dog has negative associations with his den, then he will never feel completely comfortable or safe when in there. To get a dog to feel comfortable and safe, fill the area with favorite things: toys, blankets, treats or whatever the dog associates with positivity–put these items in the crate. Let the dog have freedom walking in and out of his room. Don’t lock him in during the “getting acquainted” phase.
- Safety Issues
All dogs are wired a little bit different. One dog may love his crate and be happily content locked in for a couple hours. Or another may go berserk and try to tear the door off, injuring himself in the process. Training is a slow, easy-going endeavor. Rushing into crate training without getting the dog on board is a recipe for disaster and setting the dog up for all sorts of behavioral issues down the road. Always err on the side of caution.
- Trust the Gut
There is little middle ground when the subject of crate training comes up. People either love it or despise the very notion. The only one that matters in this decision is the dog. If a dog is dead set against the crate for whatever reason, then alternatives should be considered.
After all, you can lead a dog to the crate but you can’t make him lie down.