Crating: Cruelty or Kindness?
Many people view a crate as a jail for the dog. These people reason that a puppy/dog needs freedom and crating will cause your dog to resent you. However, many families who want to protect and care for their dogs use crates to keep their pets safe and secure when their pet is alone, traveling, during times of stress and for bedtime. Dogs need to satisfy their "den dwelling" cravings and they love a secure place of their own where they feel safe. Even older dogs can be crate trained. A common cause for puppies and dogs to be surrendered to a shelter is destructive behavior and/or not being housetrained. These are preventable problems that can be easily solved with crate training.
The crate can provide you and your puppy a means of housebreaking, of keeping your household items safe from destruction, and provide a quiet environment safe from harm when you are not home or asleep. As your puppy grows, the crate continues to be a safe haven and a place to go when they want to relax and sleep. In fact, many dogs often seek the comfort of their crate when distressed by fireworks or bad storms.
CAUTION : A crate should never be used as a punishment. Be mindful not to use a crate to baby-sit your dog when you don’t have time or don’t want to be bothered by your dog. Dogs are social animals that crave and deserve your companionship, praise, exercise, and mental stimulation.
Don't leave your dog in the crate too long. A dog who’s crated all day and night doesn't get enough exercise or human interaction and can become depressed or anxious. Puppies 8 - 16 weeks of age should only be crated 2 - 4 hours. Leaving a puppy or dog in a crate for long periods of time leaves the puppy no other choice than to soil their cage teaching them that it is ok to live in messy conditions. This defeats the purpose of housetraining.
A crate may be your dog’s den, but your dog will not be happy living isolated all the time from your family. A good rule of thumb is that an adult dog can be crated overnight or for up to half a day, provided you are meeting your dog's social and physical needs when outside of the crate.
What You Will Need
An acceptable cage or crate should be big enough for your puppy/dog to stand, turn around, and stretch out flat. Be sure not to get a cage too big as this will sabotage housetraining because they can soil at one end and sleep at the other. You can obtain a cage that has a partition that can be removed as your puppy grows.
Crate Training During the Day
While at home, start acclimating your puppy to the crate by leaving the door open and allowing the puppy to go in and out at will. Put a blanket or bedding, treats, and some toys in the crate. This reinforces that your dog's crate is a place of safety and comfort. Begin by closing the gate and leaving your puppy inside for about 15 minutes at a time. The puppy may whine for a short time, but then should settle down and sleep. Do not open the crate while your puppy is whining as this teaches the puppy that you will let them out any time they whine. Whenever your puppy wakes, immediately take your puppy out of the crate and outside to "potty." Remember to give your puppy lots of opportunities to potty outside when hanging out with the family, praising and encouraging the desired behavior through consistent repetition, treats and physical affection. Also, take your puppy outside shortly after eating and drinking and always before placing in the crate. (These are the most common times a puppy needs to go out.)
Crate Training for Bedtime
Placing the crate in your bedroom gives your puppy association with you. Place a washable blanket, old unwashed t-shirts that smell like you and a few toys into the crate with the puppy when you go to bed. Avoid using newspapers as this may encourage elimination. Again your puppy may whine for a short while but should settle down and sleep. Very young pups may wake in the night and you will need to take them out. Resist the urge to scold a puppy if they soil in the crate and instead use positive training methods, offering lots of praise when the puppy “potties” outside. As your puppy grows so will your pup’s ability to sleep through the night.
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