The humble dog crate could use a public relations makeover. Everything from its name to the way it looks suggests a mini-prison that dog must endure, like hard time in solitary confinement. Because of that, many pet parents are reluctant to embrace dog crates as a fundamental part of their dog’s life, particularly during puppyhood. But let’s take another look at the misunderstood crate … is it an instrument of torture, or a safe space that your can learn to love? Used properly, the crate is a lifesaver for both you and your dog, so let’s show some appreciation for this humble training tool.
It Helps with Potty Training
The most common reason for using a crate is potty training; puppies rarely eliminate where they sleep. Streamlining the often confusing potty training process is reason enough to fall in love with the crate. A properly sized crate (big enough so that your dog can stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably, but not much bigger) used for the correct amount of time (for dogs under six months, each month of age roughly translates to one “hold hour,” with longer hold times at night) all but guarantees stress-free potty training. If you’re unable to keep a close eye on your pup for an hour or two the crate is a guaranteed babysitter, helping your dog to learn to hold it until you can get him outside for a potty break.
It Prevents Unwanted Chewing
Puppies can do a ton of household damage with both ends, and once again it’s the crate to the rescue when it comes to the toothy side. Puppies explore the world with their mouths, which usually leads to chewed up shoes and carpets and, in worst case scenarios, ingestion of dangerous items that could lead to obstructions. Putting your pup in his crate keeps him safe when you can’t watch him. Plus, you can help him learn to love appropriate chewing options by providing him with treat-stuffed activity toys, which provide a much more delicious payout than an area rug.
It Encourages Nap Time
Some pups are so hyped up that they need to be reminded to take breaks throughout the day. They go-go-go until they’re overtired and cranky, which usually translates to mischievous behaviors like nipping, jumping up and running around the house like crazy. When pups transition from playful to punchy, you can once again turn to the crate to save the day. Using the crate for “enforced napping” is a great way to help your pup understand that he needs to chill out for a while. You can ease the transition from high energy to Zen-like peace by giving him a treat-stuffed activity toy. By the time your dog finishes it, he’ll be ready to surrender to sleep.
It Provides a Safe Space
Everybody loves a party, but sometimes the hubbub of company in the house, whether it’s just a few family members or a huge social gathering, can be too much for our dogs. Couple that with the fact that guests might want to smother our dogs with affection, and you have a recipe for canine stress. A comfy crate in a distant room enables your dog to hunker down in his safe space while the party continues in another part of the house. You can create a more den-like environment by covering the crate with a blanket and turning on a white noise machine to drown out the festivities.
It Makes Travel Easy and Safe
It’s fun to travel with your furry best friend, but sometimes life on the road is disorienting for habit-bound dogs. Novelty can be unnerving, which results in an anxious dog who’s unable to find a place to rest. Settling in for the night in a new space is easier for both of you when your dog has his trusty home away from home to sleep in at the end of the day. The comfort of his crate, with the familiar smells of his everyday life and well-loved blankets, will encourage your dog to fall into his predictable pattern of bedding down when the lights go out.
It Helps Pets Heal
Unfortunately, injuries happen, and pet parents are often advised to restrict their dog’s movement to aid in recovery from trauma or surgical procedures. The crate is an indispensable tool when it comes to keeping an active dog relaxed during rehabilitation, and the process is that much easier if the dog has had a positive history with being in the crate. Imagine how stressful it would be to confine an injured dog that’s never been crated before, or a dog that had a negative experience with it. One never wants to plan for the worst-case scenario, but by making the crate a comfortable place to hang during your dog’s early life, you’re ensuring that he’ll accept prolonged crating should an injury occur. In this scenario, the crate is a literal lifesaver.
Victoria Schade is a dog trainer, author & speaker who has contributed to The Washington Post, Martha Stewart, and other publications.