By Abbie Tamber
Over and over again I hear folks say they just can’t stand the thought of putting their dog in a cage (in the dog world referred to as a crate). Why?
Don’t you have a favorite chair? Whether you are sitting down for dinner or attending classes or meetings, do you tend to sit in the same place? A crate-trained dog doesn’t simply “cooperate” by going into his crate – he seeks out his crate as a place of rest and comfort.
In general your dog should not be “banished” or “exiled” to his crate; it should be place where his family spends most of their time. Once the crate becomes your dog’s haven, it becomes portable, making life much easier for you, as your dog has a place to settle and stay out of trouble wherever he and you are.
Many folks are skeptical of the value of a crate. When many of us were growing up, crates were not used and our dogs were fine. What people forget in those days, there was someone at home during the day. There were no leash laws, so dogs tended to roam freely around the neighborhood or play with the kids outside. When our dogs came inside at night, they were tired and managed to behave themselves.
Nowadays no one is home during the day, and when family members are home, they are too busy to pay attention to the family dog. This makes a crate too valuable a tool to discard for any reason.
A crate offers a safe spot to leave your puppy when you cannot monitor his activities. It prevents puppies from exploring things they should not and keeps them from developing bad habits (grabbing socks among other things from the laundry basket, jumping on the table, chewing on inappropriate items like electrical cords, etc.)
It is essential for housebreaking. Puppies (of a certain maturity) will not want to go to the bathroom. When you take them out of the crate, they should go outside to a spot where you want them to relieve themselves. If they do not, you want to put them back in the crate and try taking them outside 20 minutes later (depends on the age of the dog). Once the puppy has relieved himself outside, he may be free in the house as long as he is supervised.
One of the most overlooked advantages is when you travel. While in the car, a crate keeps the dog safe. That means that a puppy will not wiggle under the brake or gas pedal, eat the groceries on the backseat or manage to lodge him/herself between you and the steering wheel.
More importantly, if your crate is secured firmly (i.e. bolted down) and should you happen to be in an accident, your dog will be contained. This ensures that your dog will not run off, get hit by a car, or prevent rescue workers from getting to you. All of these things have happened.
In households that you visit that may not be dog-friendly, your dog will not be under foot or cause a problem. Your dog will feel more at home having his “room” along on the road. You can safely leave him in a hotel room or car (if not too hot or cold to be dangerous to his health) knowing that he can’t chew or destroy anything.
My dogs are so comfortable in their crates that they will go to their crates if they are tired and cranky or if something scares them. When I am leaving the house, my dogs run as fast as they can to their respective crates, waiting for a treat. These days the “treat” is a piece of kibble (but we had to train regularly to get to this point).
This does not mean that crates aren’t misused. Leaving a dog all day and all night in a crate is abuse. It is a tool that needs to be used properly.
Crates are the safest place for my dogs and with some training, can be the safest place for your dog.