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Dec 14, 2013 update
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Crate Training

Why would one want to crate-train their dog?

Reason #1
Dogs are Den-Oriented Creatures

Way back when, in the wild, dogs lived in dens. Puppies were raised in dens, so they are very accustomed to being in an enclosed place. They feel safe in those enclosed places. A crate is where a dog or puppy can feel most relaxed because they know that no one is going to sneak up behind their back so they can get good rest. It’s very important for dogs and puppies to get good rest.

I think that it is a disservice to dogs when they don’t have crates. It’s like telling your child that they don’t get their own bedroom…that they have to sleep on the couch. It’s a place where they can relax and feel secure and get the proper rest that they need for good health and for proper puppy growth.

Reason #2
Housebreaking Tool

Crates also are fabulous tools for housebreaking puppies. If a puppy is allowed to run amuck in the house, then they will soil in an area and if they can leave that area, then they think it’s okay to soil that area.

It’s an orientation process that the puppy goes through when they’re being housebroken. The crate is a fabulous tool to help the puppy learn where to go to the restroom. The puppy would be crated while not being directly supervised by someone in the house. You would then take the puppy out at regular intervals, and show him where to go to the restroom and giving them a command to go potty.

And of course, it’s always nice to have a dog that is trained to relieve himself on command. Let’s say during travel or when you’re walking your dog in the park and you want him to soil a certain area. If you can get that command, whether it be “go potty” or “hurry up”…something like that to let them know that this is the place where he is to relieve himself.

This is a great step in responsible dog ownership. The crate is the tool that is the foundation to get that communication to the puppy or dog.

Reason #3
Safety

Safety is a huge factor in crate training. I have known of puppies who were left with a baby gate, such as in a laundry area with a baby gate up and having been terribly injured by crawling over the baby gate and getting caught with no one there to attend him. This is a horrific thing to have happen to a puppy! If I am gone from my house and I have a young dog, you can bet that puppy is going to be in that crate while I’m gone, for safety measures.

I don’t recommend leaving him in a crate for more than 2-3 hours at a time, during the day, however. Little short jaunts here and there is okay but not endless time in the crate.

Reason #4:
Promotes Bonding

Crates will promote bonding with the dog owner. A dog that has rest in the crate and spends time on a daily basis will be more focused on the owner which makes him more trainable. When they get out of the crate, they are fully rested, eager and ready to listen. They are also anxious to please.

A puppy that is allowed to just run and do whatever he wants is like a spoiled child. They do not listen well, nor do they focus well. Putting a puppy in a crate will imprint on him that when the owner comes to get him out of the crate, he will be very, very glad to see them, as well as be very, very happy to perform to please the owner.

Reason #5:
Feeding Time

Feeding a puppy in a crate is a very good idea. I like feeding my adult dogs in crates as well. With narrow, deep-chested dogs we have an issue with bloat. A dog should not eat within an hour before running and playing or heavy exercise. So, if you’re going to have your dog out exercising, make sure you feed him at least an hour before he goes. If you have not fed him yet, wait until an hour after exercise before you do.

A crate is a great place for them to relax and be fed during that time. That way you don’t get distracted and forget, “oh, I forgot he just ate and shouldn’t be out running”. Because that can be a fatal mistake for dogs that are prone to bloat, such as Standard Poodles, Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labradors.


Other Crate Tips

Toys

It’s nice to have a toy in the crate.

Padding

When you’re first housebreaking puppies, do not put any liner/padding in the crate because they will use that padding for a wee wee pad. It will take a lot longer to housebreak a puppy that’s sleeping on a pad in a crate. So you don’t put a pad in the crate until they are very trustworthy and you know they are not going to use it as a urination pad.

Water Buckets

It’s also important that you have a little pail in the crate with water. Now, this is not for a puppy overnight. I take water away from puppies (providing that it’s not a hot evening). I’ll take water away from the puppy around 5pm, so that he can fully empty his bladder before going into the crate at night. Don’t have a pail of water in the crate at night, particularly when you’re housebreaking a puppy.

With an adult, you can have water in the crate at night. During the day, if an adult dog is going to be in the crate for more than just a few minutes, you would want to have a pail of water there for the adult and for the puppies as well. Particularly on a hot day, you would want to have water in the pail in the crate so the dog can get water while you’re out shopping or running errands.

Types of Crates

  • Plastic Airline Crate
    There are several types of crates. One is the plastic airline crate that has been around for so many years. Those are good for airline travel.
  • Canvas Crate
    For automobile travel, I prefer the canvas crates because they are lightweight and easy to get in and out of the vehicles, providing your dog is old enough to not chew a hole in it. Note on puppies: unless they are very trustworthy puppies I wouldn’t recommend putting a puppy into a canvas crate.
  • Metal Crate
    At my home I use the metal 2-door “Lifestages” crates, because they have a removable barrier that can be adjusted or taken out as your puppy grows. I like the 2 door because if you have a configuration where you need the door on the side, it’s very convenient. Additionally, the metal crates don’t outgas as plastic crates do. Outgassing is known to be carcinogenic… quite toxic. I like the fact that the metal crates have the pull-out tray in case the puppy or dog does have an accident while in the crate. They are easily cleaned. You can take them out and hose them down. They’re not as portable as the canvas crates, but until your dog gets older, you’re taking a chance by putting a puppy in a canvas crate, because they will chew through them. That again can be a safety factor…if you’re gone and the dog chews through and gets out and gets into something that he shouldn’t when you’re gone, because you put it in a canvas crate.

Cleaning Crates

The airline crates are not as easily cleaned as the metal crates. And of course the canvas crates are not as easily cleaned either, because they are material.

Final Notes on Housebreaking

I just stick with the metal crates, especially when the puppy is learning, developing and housebreaking. Remember that it takes muscle development for puppies to be housebroken. 16 weeks is the magic age when their muscles are developed enough to where they do have the physical control. Up to that time, they’re developing their muscles, so you have to give them a break.

They’re going to have accidents, some more than others. Just like people, some mature more quickly than others, both physically and emotionally. So, sometimes when your puppy goes, it’s not because they don’t know better, or they don’t know that it’s going to be uncomfortable for them if they do, but they can’t help it.