In addition to food, one of a dog's primary needs is for shelter, a personal space or den to call its own.
Most dogs like to have their own bed where they can rest where they won't be disturbed. Some dogs appreciate something more than this; they like a small, dark space to go to where they feel safe. This is where a crate can be useful and fills a dog's need to have its own den. It also assists in the management of young dogs who are destructive or fearful of storms and fireworks etc.
By providing a crate, making it comfortable and cosy inside, you are providing dogs with a space exclusively of their own to get away from us humans!
How to select the right crate for your dog
Many dogs love a crate and will naturally seek it out. You will need to find one that is small enough to be cosy, but large enough for them to stand and turn around. If your dog's precious toys are also in the crate, then this only adds to the feeling of security. Don't put the crate where sunlight coming in from a window will make the air hot for the dog or force him to be in the sun.
Some dogs may be unsure at first so choose somewhere to set up the crate in the house that is accessible but not too busy, and leave the door open so that your dog can enter and exit as often as he wishes. Every time he enters, you can introduce a phrase such as â€˜go to your bed', and praise / reward him once he is in. Allow him to come out, and repeat the exercise until he is confident and comfortable about this new â€˜den'. You could try to introduce the crate at feeding times and feed your dog in the crate. This will help to create a positive association with the crate and it will let your dog know that he can eat undisturbed by other pets or children.
Only when your dog is happy to enter and remain in the crate, can you start to close the door for short periods. You should never close the door if your dog is getting stressed. He needs to feel comfortable with the crate first. You can close the door for short times when you are eating or, especially if introducing a crate to a puppy, whenever he is having a nap during the day. Gently place him in the crate and close the door. Your dog will soon become confident that he is safe and that you will be available to release him when he is ready. You can gradually increase the length of time to wait before releasing him.
It is worth remembering, however, that not all dogs like crates. You need to stick to your training plan whilst your dog becomes accustomed to the crate, but if your dog panics he could harm himself. Open the door and let him out and go back to having the crate door open for a while longer. We don't recommend forcing your dog into a crate that he is clearly uncomfortable withâ€¦some dogs may never take to it.
Never leave a dog unattended in a crate for long or extended hours, this is unfair and could lead to barking or toileting issues.
Properly managed, crates can assist with toilet training
As with all training it's better to start early when your dog is a puppy, but it's never too late to try to accustom your dog to a crate. If he seems comfortable with the crate, you can use it to help with sleeping through the night and with toilet training. Dogs do not generally like to soil their own beds so, as soon as he wakes up, be ready to take him straight outside to potty. This may mean that you are disturbed during the night for toilet duties, but it will help you get your puppy house trained much more quickly, and will gradually stop. He will also become accustomed to spending the night in his safe den knowing that you will reappear in the morning.
Providing adequately for crated dogs
If you are going to leave your dog or puppy in a crate for any length of time, you must make sure that water is available. Specially-designed water bowls are available to fit inside crates so that there is no risk of the water being overturned. Apart from overnight, it is not advisable to leave a dog of any age in a crate for more than 4 hours. If you are out during the day for longer than this, it would be best to leave the crate door open and allow your dog the run of one room such as the kitchen or utility room. We don't recommend crates in hallways as the dog can become disturbed by postmen and passers-by which can lead to guarding and barking issues.
The benefits of crating your dog
There are several benefits to crate training your dog. One of these is travel. If your dog is happy in a crate, then the crate can be used for safety in the car. It also means that your dog's familiar sleeping place is with him if you are staying somewhere new. Additionally, a dog accustomed to a crate will be much happier being crated for airline travel.
Additional Crate Training Tips
A crate can be a fabulous tool for providing a designated resting and sleeping place. As with all training, do your research, be consistent, and never try to force your dog into something that frightens him. Your local Bark Busters trainer can help you with all aspects of crate training.