Dog Crates Are Safe Havens
Many times, I meet a dog owner that has a negative outlook on crate training. To them, a crate is seen as a “cage”, and can be used cruelly on a dog. While some people can misuse a crate, this is not the intention of crate training. For most dogs, it would be nice to just let them freely roam the home or yard anytime they want, and not have to worry about them getting into trouble. There are dogs where it would be impossible to leave them alone for even a few minutes, without them rummaging through trash, destroying some furniture, digging a hole in the yard to escape, or urinating inside the house.
Puppies are often introduced to crates in early on because their human owners are teaching them potty training. It may take a few days before the puppy adjusts, but when used appropriately, not only will a puppy learn housebreaking, but will start to feel more comfortable and secure in their crates. An owner that successfully crate trains will show the puppy or dog that the crate is positive association, not a negative one.
Crates can be useful tools to help dogs succeed. If your dog is dealing with some separation anxiety, the crate can be used to prevent bad habits, like destructive chewing. Also, if you’ve created a safe association with the crate, your dog might feel more at ease being in there, especially when you’re not home or when other stressful things are occurring, such as a thunderstorm or several guests coming into the home. The crate is not meant to be a punishment tool, but rather a positive management one.
Three weeks ago while training with a dog trainer in Buffalo, I began working with a dog named Sai, who was marking in the home and experienced severe thunderstorm anxiety (which sometimes would result in submissive elimination in the home during bad weather). Sam’s owner tried crate training him, but weren’t sure how to make it a positive association. Whenever they attempted to put Sai in the crate, he would howl anxiously and frantically paw at the gate, as if begging his owners to let him out. For Sai, he only saw the crate as place that he was confined in when his owners had to leave the home. So it was important for Sai to get desensitized to the crate, where there was more control and less stress happening. His owner began crating him occasionally when they were home, so that Sai could see it wasn’t just a place he was sent to when he had to be left alone. Any un-calm behavior in the crate was corrected, and the owners did everything they could to make it a more positive place, like putting his bed and bones in there, feeding his meals in the crate, and just letting him nap in there after some exercise and playtime.
When the time came to put him in the crate when the owners had to leave, Sai strolled right in and fell asleep. He saw it a relaxing place now, not a place of worry and complete isolation. To take it a step forward, Sai’s owners wanted to try to lead him in the crate when the next thunderstorm happened. When the day came, Sai beat them to it and immediately went to lie down in his crate. While he wasn’t thrilled over the weather, he was remarkably calmer compared to before — no opportunity to pace, less panting and no drooling, and NO submissive accidents!
Dogs a lot of the time will not immediately take to the crate, especially without some guidance from their owners. Crates should not be used as punishment place, otherwise the dog will never feel secure being in there. For any dog with any quirk or behavior issue, the crate can be a handy tool to help them feel calmer and overcome their problems. If your dog is perfectly fine, a crate can still be a nice thing for the dog to have — a place they can call theirs, and where they feel at peace.
Crate training can go smoothly for some dog owners, while others struggle with it. If your dog hates his crate, or you’re at a dead end with your dog’s crate training, call us to learn more about our in-home training and we’ll find a way to help! We can be reached at 800-649-7297 or e-mail us using our contact form!