By: Liz Reyes, CPDT-KA, B.S.
It’s a Dog’s World K-9 Academy President
A common misconception in the dog owning community arises from the usage of crates. Many loving pet owners fear their dogs may establish a negative relationship with their crates, causing anxieties for both the pet and its person.
Dogs are descended from wolves, and actually crave those dark, snug places. To build a positive relationship, owners must understand how to gradually introduce the idea to your pet. By being aware of why a crate is a good option, what type to use, how to introduce the crate, and how long your pet can be inside, the anxiety for pets and their people can be alleviated.
Associate the crate with treats, praise, long naps and protection. It’s the owner’s job to make sure the crate is introduced and kept as a positive, safe and comforting place.
Why use a crate?
Crates are great for puppies or new dogs being potty trained. Healthy dogs will not usually go to the bathroom where they sleep, so a properly sized crate can teach them not to soil in the house.
A crate can also be used when you cannot provide immediate supervision to your puppy and can prevent them from chewing the furniture or digging.
Crates are also great to easily and safely transport your dog.
Types of Crates
There are molded plastic and collapsible metal crates. Plastic crates are permitted by airlines for shipping and can provide a darker, more preferred environment for your dog.
Make sure the crate is large enough for your dog to stand, turn and lie down in. Make sure the crate isn’t too large either, as your dog may go to the bathroom on one end while staying on the other.
If you decide to give your pup or dog a blanket or towel make sure they are not using it to go to the bathroom on.
Introducing the Crate
When you first bring a crate home, don’t just put your dog in it and close the door. Introduce it slowly. Put a few treats in the crate, and allow your dog to go in and out. Praise your dog when he shows interest in the crate. Once your dog willingly goes in and out of the cage, close the door while it’s inside. If your dog remains calm and is not pawing at the gate, then praise, open the door and let the dog out.
Your dog may cry while in the crate if it’s still adjusting to the crate or if your dog needs to use the bathroom or becomes bored. Have the dog go potty before going into the crate, that way you know that the whining is not from needing to eliminate. To help get your dog adjusted to the crate, try leaving a chew toy or bone to keep your dog busy.
How much time can a dog be in the crate?
Every dog needs sufficient play and exercise time, so they cannot be in crate all day.
If you crate your dog at night, make sure you don’t exceed 8 hours. If you’re keeping your dog in a crate during the day, don’t exceed 4. Your dog should never be in a crate for more than a combined total of 12 hours. If you have a puppy younger than 16 weeks, they will need potty breaks throughout the night.
For pups 8-12 weeks, it may be up to 3 times a night, but as the pup gets closer to 4 months of age, he or she should only need to go out one time at the most and eventually should be able to sleep through the night.
While it is OK to use your crate as a “time out” place, don’t put your dog in the crate after using an angry tone. This can cause your dog to resent or fear the crate. Keep your voice as neutral as possible even after they do something bad.
By knowing when and how to use the crate properly, it can be a great option for your pet.