“I can’t possibly put my dog in a cage!”     This is usually the first response a lot of people have when crate training is mentioned.

I talk a lot about seeing life from your dogs’ perspective and crate training is one of those things that we need to do just that with.

Canines have developed over thousands of years to feel the most comfortable in relatively confined areas.  This is why in nature, they sleep,  birth and raise their offspring in dens. 

Have you ever seen your dog resting under a table, bed, chair etc?  Essentially, he is looking for a place he can feel comfortable and safe enough to totally relax.

Crate training if done correctly, has many benefits, from being somewhere your dog loves to be, one of the strategies we can use in toilet training puppies, being able to travel safely in cars, having a safe and secure place for your dog if you are camping, leaving him home  for a few hours, having to leave your dog for an overnight stay at the vets, managing your dog when he needs to rest to recover from injury or surgery, teaching him a conditioned relaxation (he just lays down and relaxes whenever he is in the crate), and of course, giving him his own bedroom at night ensuring that he isn’t able to get up to any mischief while you are asleep.  It can also be a useful tool for working with anxieties, although professional advice on if it is appropriate is advised.

Many dogs have trouble with “turning off” and just like us, it is a skill they need to learn to live happy, healthy lives.   Dogs need a lot of sleep as well – anywhere up to 20 hours for a puppy and 16-18 hours for an adult.  They then usually spend about 3-4 hours just laying around relaxing.  

The trouble with a lot of dogs, especially those with a high genetic drive or nervous/anxious tendencies is that they never learn how to relax fully.   It’s great to give your dog a large yard to live in, but even this can cause issues at times when he can’t turn off and is constantly on alert.  The bigger the area, the more he has to work to “protect” it. 

We see this type of stress playing out in dogs that continuously bark in the yard, feel the need to investigate every little movement and noise both in the yard and in the house, doing repetitive, compulsive behaviours, constantly following us everywhere we go, and developing less than appropriate behaviours like jumping, digging, attention seeking etc.

Training your dog/puppy to LOVE his crate is done with a lot of positive reinforcement and patience.  Once he is crate trained, he has his own portable bedroom where both you and he knows he is safe and he can totally relax.

Case Study of my own dog Lexie.

Lexie is my groodle.  She is 12 years old and was crate trained as a puppy for the first 12 months of her life.  Due to our living circumstances at the time, we did not have room for multiple crates to be set up so although her crate training was very consistent in the first year of her life, after that it was only used intermittently when needed. 

Around the time of her turning 11, her eyesight started to fail slightly.   She has Canine Hip Dysplasia which affects her movement,  and her body is basically slowing down.  I always have crates set up in the house for board and train dogs and I started to notice that Lexie would take herself off to one of the crates at bedtime rather than lay down on the plush, very comfy dog beds also in the room. 

It is my feeling that as Lexie ages, she may be starting to feel more vulnerable, being able to go to her crate to fully rest and feel safe is why she has started doing this.  If given the choice of being in her crate or sleeping on a dog bed, she now always chooses her crate.

So you see, once trained, the crate is always your dogs safe haven.  Lexie really hasn’t used one for 10 years but she still loves it.

There are so many benefits to crate training your dog if done correctly. 

To create a positive association to the crate, we need to use positive reinforcement, patience and put the work in.  If done incorrectly, it can increase anxiety and stress and that is definitely not what we want.

If you think crate training would be a benefit to you and your dog, feel free to contact me via the Cause and Effect Dog Training contact tab and we can have a talk about if it is right decision for you and your dog.