A crate is a portable “kennel” that is just large enough to contain
the dog it is intended for, made of either metal or plastic.
“Crating” is the practice of using this kennel for training purposes,
usually in housetraining and houseproofing a dog.
Crating is a controversial topic. There are those who believe that
crate training is indefensible and others who believe that it is a
panacea. The reality is likely somewhere in between.
First, you must understand what the crate represents to the dog. Dogs
are by nature den creatures — and the crate, properly introduced, is
its den. It is a safe haven where it does not need to worry about
defending territory. It is its own private bedroom which it
absolutely will not soil if it can help it. Judicious use of the
crate can alleviate a number of problems, stop others from ever
developing, and aid substantially in housetraining.
Where is the Crates? It should be around other people. Ideally, set
it up in the bedroom near you. Have the dog sleep in it at night.
Dogs are social and like to be around their people. Don’t force it
into the crate. Feed your dog in the crate.
Certainly. Anything intended for a dog can be abused. That doesn’t make
it wrong; it does mean you need to know what you are doing. Things to remember:
A plastic airline approved (leak-proof) crate will run from $10 to $75
depending on the size. These are the cheapest prices available. If
flying with a dog, most airlines will sell a crate at near-wholesale
prices. Vendors at dog shows often have good prices, especially for
slightly imperfect ones. Pet stores sell them at astronomical prices.
Mail order stores have competitive prices (but watch out for added
shipping costs), and they sell wire mesh cages. Wire mesh is
comparable in price to plastic airline crates, but the sizing is
Wire cages are not as appealing to dogs that like the safe, enclosed
nature of a crate, but they have better ventilation for use in warm
places. You might, for example, have a plastic crate in your house
and a wire one for the car. Since many models fold up, they are also
often easier to transport and store.
The crate should be large enough for the dog to lie down, stand up and
turn around in comfortably, but not large enough for the dog to
relieve itself at one end and sleep at the other. You may buy a crate
sized for an adult dog and block off part of it with a chew-proof
obstacle until the dog grows into it, or you may buy a succession of
crates as the dog grows.
Crating a puppy or dog often seems unappealing to humans, but it is
not cruel to the dog. A dog’s crate is similar to a child’s playpen,
except it has a roof (dogs can jump out of a playpen) and is
chewproof. Also, a crate is not suitable for activity or exercise,
but rather for rest. Dogs are carnivores and do not need to be
constantly active during the daytime, like people (as gatherers) do.
If a crate is properly introduced to a dog (or puppy) the dog will
grow to think of the crate as its den and safe haven. Most dogs that
are crated will use the open crate as a resting place.
The major use of a crate is to prevent the dog from doing something
wrong and not getting corrected for it. It is useless to correct a
dog for something that it has already done; the dog must be “caught in
the act”. If the dog is out of its crate while unsupervised, it may
do something wrong and not be corrected, or worse yet, corrected after
the fact. If the dog is not corrected, the dog may develop the
problem behavior as a habit (dogs are creatures of habit), or learn
that the it can get away with the behavior when not immediately
supervised. A dog that rarely gets away with anything will not learn
that if nobody is around it can get away with bad behaviors.
If the dog is corrected after the fact, it will not associate the
correction with the behavior, and will begin to think that corrections
are arbitrary, and that the owner is not to be trusted. This results
in a poor relationship and a dog that does not associate
corrections, which are believed arbitrary, with bad behaviors even
when they are applied in time. This cannot be overemphasized: a dog’s
lack of trust in its owner’s corrections is one of the major sources
of problems between dogs and their owners.
A secondary advantage of a crate is that it minimizes damage done by a
dog (especially a young one) to the house, furniture, footwear etc.
This reduces costs and aggravation and makes it easier for the dog and
master to get along. It also protects the dog from harm by its
destruction: ingestion of splinters or toy parts, shock from chewing
through wires, etc.
A young dog should be placed in its crate whenever it cannot
If a dog is trained in puppyhood with a crate, it will not always
require crating. Puppies or untrained dogs require extensive crating.
After a year or so of crate training, many dogs will know what to do
and what not to, and will have good habits. At this time crating
might only be used when the dog needs to be out of the way, or when
Remember, your ultimate goal in using the crate is to produce
an easily housetrained dog and one that can be trusted in the
house. Therefore, you should consider the use of a crate for a dog
to be temporary. You are always working toward the time when you
do not need to use a crate extensively.
With housetraining, it is only a matter of time for the pup
to outgrow the need for a crate. As as puppy gets older, it will
naturally develop ways of telling you that it needs to go (but probably
not before about 4-6 months, be patient), especially if you encourage
this. As this starts to develop, you can decrease the crate usage.
Always keep a close eye on your pup — the trouble you take now
will pay big dividends later. If you need to, put a leash on your pup
and attach it to your waist. That keeps the pup from wandering off
into trouble. By the time your puppy is about 6-8 months, he should be
able to sleep through the night either in an open crate or a dog bed.
Many breeds, especially the larger and more active ones, will need
to be crated during their adolescence until they can be trusted in the
home, if you cannot leave them outside in the yard while you are gone.
There are several things you need to keep in mind. The first is that
this type of crating is never to be a permanent arrangement except for
those rare cases where the dog proves completely unreliable. While this
does happen, it’s more common for the dog to be sufficiently mature by
the time they are two or so to be left alone in the house.
To make the
transition between keeping your dog in the crate and leaving him out
when you are at work, start preparing your dog on weekends. Leave him
in your house for an hour and then come back. Maybe it needs to be
fifteen minutes. Whatever. Find the time that works, and make a
habit of leaving him unsupervised in the house for that long. Be sure
to praise him when you come back. (Leave the crate open — available
but open — while you are gone.) When you know the dog is reliable for
this period of time, gradually add 15-30 minute increments to the dog’s
“safe time.” Don’t be surprised if this takes months or even a year.
Now, there are some dogs that are never reliable when left inside.
This might include dogs that were rescued, dogs that have separation
anxiety, dogs that destroy things indiscriminately, or who mark or
otherwise eliminate in the house.
Of course not. There are many who think they are cruel and will not
use them. People in Europe tend not to use them. People who have
not heard of using them won’t generally use them. If you have an
outside yard with a fence or a secure kennel you many not need to use
They are extremely useful. But they are not the only means to
achieve housetraining or safety in the house or car. They are,
in the opinion of many, one of the best and easiest ways of doing so,
with many side benefits.