The topic of crate training can be a controversial subject. Some people believe it is cruel to use a crate while other people believe dog crates are the best thing invented since sliced bread. Additionally, others may tend to use a crate as a crutch. I believe in crate training, and I also believe crates can be used TOO often. I will begin by discussing the reasons to crate train and why you should moderate the amount of time dogs spend in their crate. I will end by discussing proper crate training methods.
What is the Purpose of Crate Training?
Crate training can be beneficial for many reasons. Let’s start with security. Crates provide a safe and secure place for your dog to retreat if they are feeling anxious. If there is too much activity in the house and your dog is becoming overwhelmed, they have the option to retreat to their crate. Crates along with a calming dog bed can help them to self soothe. Their crate can also be their place of rest and relaxation. If a dog is crate trained appropriately, the crate becomes their den, their security, their sanctuary that is theirs and only theirs.
Having a dog that is crate trained may be crucial in the event of an emergency situation. If you and your family are required to evacuate and stay in an emergency shelter which requires your dog to be crated, already being crate trained will ease the anxiety on both the part of your dog and your family. In addition to this, your dog may be prescribed crate rest by their veterinarian and if your dog is already crate trained, it makes this prescribed crate rest much more palatable for your dog.
One of the most obvious reasons to crate train is to have the crate be a safe place when you have to leave the house. This is especially important for anxious dogs. Anxious dogs can be destructive and may hurt themselves when they are left alone. Therefore, having the crate as their sanctuary while you are gone will relieve their separation anxiety. It will also lessen the chance of an unsupervised accident occurring.
Crate training can also be helpful when potty training. Dogs typically do not like to soil the place they sleep. The trick here is making sure to have the correct size crate. If the crate is too big, they could have a sleeping area and a potty area and that is counter productive to what you want. You also do not want a crate so confining that your dog can not move around. For more tips on potty training, read this post: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2020/06/28/potty-training-your-frenchie-puppy/
It is important to remember that leaving your dog for long periods of time may require them to soil their crate. After all, you can only hold it so long! Let’s talk about more reasons to moderate the amount of time your dog spends in the crate.
Why You Should Moderate the Amount of Crate Time
Crating your dog for long periods of time and too often could have negative impacts on your dog and your dog’s health. First, requiring your dog to hold their bladder for long periods of time could have negative impacts on their health by causing problems such as urinary tract infections (UTI’s). With reoccurrences of UTI’s, your dog could suffer from incontinence. Second, while crate training can lead to good behavior, crating too long and too often could have the opposite effect leading to bad behaviors. Crating too often can actually be cruel and in fact is illegal in some parts of the world.
So, how much crate time is too much? They say that anything over 8 hours is too much. However, my rule is to not crate them more than 4 hours. Additionally, if you have crated them for 8 hours during the day, crating them for another 8 hours at night is too much. Think about it. They are crated practically all day and then all night. That is a lot! A good rule of thumb is to make sure they are out of the crate more than they are in the crate. So, how do you properly crate train your dog anyway?
How To Crate Train Your Dog
The most important thing to remember when crate training is not to force your dog into the crate. It must be an enjoyable place for them to retreat and not something they are afraid of. You can start by making the crate comfortable. All my dog crates have calming dog beds and a blanket in them. As I mentioned before, choosing the right size crate is also important. You don’t want it too big, but you also want them to be able to move around in it. I start training by opening the door to the crate to see if they will naturally go in out of curiosity. If they do, that’s great! Let them go in and come out by themselves several times. Do not lock the gate the first time they go in. They need to get used to walking in and get comfortable knowing they can walk out if they want to. If they do not naturally walk in, throw their favorite treat or toy into the crate and give a command such as “crate”. They will most likely go in, grab the treat or toy and come right back out and that is okay. The point is that you want to be able to give a command so they will go into the crate on their own. Remember to reward the behavior of going into the crate. The most important thing to remember is to create a positive association with the crate. Positive reinforcement is important here. For more information about positive reinforcement, you can read this post: https://thefrenchiemamablog.com/2020/08/01/behavioral-modification-using-operant-conditioning-training-your-frenchie/
In conclusion, some time spent in a crate can be good for your dog and there are many legitimate reasons to crate train. However, too much time spent in crates can be detrimental to a dog’s physical and mental health. Ultimately the decision of whether to crate train is up to the dog owner and whatever you choose is just fine. My go to saying is “Mama knows best” and that’s not me, The Frenchie Mama. That is you, your dog’s Mama (or Daddy)!