While most people think of how loving, funny, and soothing dogs can be, they can also be difficult – especially if you have other responsibilities, like a job or errands to run. Now, of course we love dogs. We also want to give them the best possible life without having to dread coming home to see what’s still intact after a day of them being alone. There are plenty of places to get guidance or help, but crate training while at home also has a big impact on your dog’s development.

What is crate training?

Crate training is getting your new (or old) pup used to spending more time in their crate. This means that they can spend much more time by themselves without getting into things that you don’t want them to chew or eat. We’ve discussed ways to keep your pup entertained while you’re gone, but those tips can be used in combination with crate training to make both more effective. 

While there are pros and cons, crate training is backed by research to be beneficial to both the dog and their owner, and should be part of initial house training. However, we’re going to go over both sides of the argument so you can decide what’s right for your pup.

Common criticisms (and misperceptions) of crate training

Solitary confinement

One of the primary points against crate training is that it seems like they’re in jail. Left alone in a cage is certainly not how anyone would want to spend their day. Pups also need social interaction so leaving them alone in a cage takes away from that aspect of their growth as well. This is a very valid concern if you’re planning on leaving your dog in their crate for eight or more hours without a break. However, this argument is based on the assumption that crate training is used as a punishment rather than giving them a safe space that they feel comfortable in. When used appropriately, a dog's crate can become their safe haven. 

Don’t get exercise

Another similar criticism of crate training is that your dog can’t get the exercise they need because they’re locked up. A dog needs plenty of daily exercise, some more than others, and laying down all day definitely isn’t good for their health. While this is all true, it depends on the same assumption as the previous point that owners leave their pup in the crate all day without letting them out. Crate training is supposed to be an option and supplement, not the sole environment a dog lives in, so let’s discuss the benefits of it.

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Benefits of crate training a puppy

Safe space

As we alluded to earlier, dogs view a crate much differently than humans. If they’re comfortable in it, it’s much more like a cozy den that they can bring their toys or hide in if they’re scared. It’s a great idea, even if you decide not to crate train your pup, to have their crate available for them to have their own space if/when they so choose. By leaving the crate door open even when they’re not in it, they have the option to hang out or nap in there if they want. In addition to it feeling safe for them, if you have to go out for a little while, you can feel comfortable knowing that they’re safe and can’t get into anything potentially hazardous. This way it helps both of you feel secure about each other at all times.

Potty training

Crating using a properly-sized crate can also help with other training such as potty training. The rule of thumb for crate size is usually one that’s big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in, but not bigger. This makes sure they have enough space to adjust and not feel cramped, but not enough where they can use a corner of the crate as a bathroom. Dogs don’t like being near that anymore than we do, so if they can’t find space to go that’s not right next to where they sleep, they’re more likely to learn to hold it.

Dependency training

One big challenge that a lot of adopted dogs in particular face is separation anxiety. While it can be difficult not to always be hugging and spending time with your pup, some alone time can help them to learn to be more independent. Whether your dog gets separation anxiety or not, crate training will likely help prevent or reduce it over time as they get more comfortable spending time by themselves. One way to practice this is to crate them for a little while when you’re home so they don’t just associate the crate with you being gone. However, when you are gone, you can use a webcam app to check on them and make sure they aren’t upset and barking or whining.

Easier travel

Some dogs hate their crate, which makes any traveling – on vacation or just to the vet – very difficult. Crate training will allow your pup to get used to and want to be in their crate, which will help situations where they need to be transported and lead to less stress and frustration for you.

Reasonable crate training schedule

Lastly, the biggest thing to remember is to keep the time they spend in their crate reasonable. The criticisms of crate training are very valid if it becomes entire days where they don’t get enough exercise or socialization. Don’t keep a dog crated any longer than they can be expected to hold their bladder, which will depend on age and type of dog. It is also best to exercise and tired your pup out before crating for an extended period of time, so they don’t have pent-up energy to let out.

Harmful if not done properly

While the initial idea of leaving your dog in a cage while you’re away might seem like a punishment, that’s only the case if done maliciously or improperly. Don’t rush into crate training, and try to associate good things like feeding and toys with the crate. Don’t scold your pup while in the crate for the same reason, and don’t use the crate as an excuse to not take them out for walks and the bathroom. Your dog shouldn’t live in a cage night and day, but giving them a safe place to feel comfortable with a bed, toys, and food can help them learn to be less destructive, more mature, and a better companion.

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