I’ve come full circle about crating dogs.
I used to think they were horrible cages that people used for really out-of-control dogs who were destroying the furniture.
But then I got a shelter dog, Lilo, who was a little crazy—he snapped at people and would lunge at other dogs—and I decided to try using a crate to help calm him down. When we first brought it home, he went into the crate instantly. To this day, he loves being in the crate—he even sleeps in it. In fact, now it’s hard to get him to sleep anywhere but in the crate!
Don’t get me wrong—I do not believe a dog should be kept in a crate all day, or put there for hours on end. But for some dogs, going into a crate at high-stress times can help calm them down and feel safe. Fireworks, thunderstorms, a repairman walking into the house, maybe even hearing the doorbell ring or seeing the mail delivered through the mail slot can make some dogs freak out.
Putting them in a crate, and covering it with a light blanket or sheet (leaving enough of an opening so they can breathe, of course), can allow these dogs to relax in a cozy place where they feel safe.
I’m not talking about house training a puppy with a crate—which is a really great method. I’m addressing adult dogs who can be so anxious, or so highly social—for instance ones that go to doggie day care—that chilling out in a crate at the end of the day might be restful and calming. Dogs like structure, and some people make crate time a part of their dog’s daily routine.
And if you want travel on a plane with your dogs, you need to get to get them used to being in crate well before your trip. If not, that first time of being in a strange crate in a loud airplane? That could be really traumatic.
Have you used a crate with success? Let me know—I’d love to hear your experiences with your dog.
How to Get Your Dog Used to a Crate
Always make the crate a positive, good spot (and get one that is big enough so your dog to stand and turn around in it). Place a blanket or towel inside so that it’s a comfortable, inviting spot where your dog will want to curl up. Leave the door wide open—he might walk into crate on his own and lie down!
Feed your dog or give him a treat in the crate. Put a favorite toy in there. You want your dog to associate good things with the being in the crate.
Put your dog in the create for 10 minutes, then let him out and play fetch or give him a belly rub. You want him to associate good things coming out of the crate too. Then start increasing the time he spends in a crate by a little bit over several days or weeks.Give a command, like “Go to your crate,” whenever he goes into it. Make it a high reward activity—he gets something he really likes, such as a really great toy or a favorite kind of canned food, when he goes into the crate.
A crate isn’t a magical solution. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated.
Never use the crate as a punishment. Your dog will come to fear it and refuse to enter it.
Don’t leave your dog in the crate too long. A dog that’s crated day and night doesn’t get enough exercise or human interaction and can become depressed or anxious. You may have to change your schedule, hire a pet sitter, or take your dog to a doggie daycare facility to reduce the amount of time he must spend in his crate every day.
Puppies under six months of age shouldn’t stay in a crate for more than three or four hours at a time. They can’t control their bladders and bowels for that long. The same goes for adult dogs that are being housetrained. Physically, they can hold it, but they don’t know they’re supposed to.
Crate your dog only until you can trust him not to destroy the house. After that, it should be a place he goes voluntarily.
Source: The Human Society of the United States
Big ugly things?
I have had clients who said they didn’t want a crate in the house—and yes, crates can be big ugly things that take up space. I like wire crates because they can be collapsed and put away pretty easily. But there are models that are designed to look almost like furniture. You can also throw a sheet or blanket over any crate hide it. (Whenever I do this, one of my dogs likes to jump up and lie on top of the crate so he has a perch!)
Here are some crate models to consider: