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How a Crate Affects Your Dog

Updated on February 3, 2012

Is it cruel? Is it mean?

To answer simply, no. A crate, when used correctly, is a safe place your dog can go to relax and avoid trouble. It's used as a prevention tool to help your dog make the right decisions and remain a comfortable and contributing member of the family.

Often, crating gets misused by pet owners as a type of punishment. They think of it as a system of discipline similar to the time-out method a parent might use in raising their children. This is a marvelous method for human beings, as we have the ability to think about our actions and their consequences. A time-out allows for an extended period in which to analyze and reason out our mistakes, or just calm down in general. This simply does not work for dogs in the same way and is exactly how NOT to use a crate. A dog's ability to associate and reason has a much shorter time frame in which they are able to work. Crating, used in this way, is a horrible dog training tactic!

Correct Use and Purpose

Crates are for preventing mistakes when you are not able to keep a watchful eye on your dog.The first thing you'll ever use one for is to keep your new puppy from going potty all over the house while you are still training him to go outside. Crating prevents innumerable bad decisions that your dog can make if allowed to roam your house unsupervised. House training and destructive chewing are only two areas crating can help with. Prevention is key to successfully breaking many of your dog's bad habits.

Crates prevent injury. They limit the access your dog has to dangerous objects while you're not looking. Houseplants, cabling, other pets, batteries, electronics, garbage, furniture can all be dangerous when ingested. Using a crate can prevent a trip to the vet, expensive surgery, and even death.

Crates act a safe haven for your dog and it's important that he sees his crate in this way. Children should be taught not to bother him here to reinforce his feeling of safety. The crate should never be used as punishment, but instead he should receive treats and chews that are exclusive to your dog's time spent here. Making his crate a comfortable and positive place to spend time is extremely beneficial. It keeps him happy when you crate him and leave the house, or crate him for overnight.

If the crate ever becomes a negative place for your dog to spend time, it's likely he'll avoid it as much as he can. When he does get tossed in to keep him out of the way, he'll spend the whole time stressing and obsessing, building energy that will need an immediate outlet upon his release. In this way, crating as a punishment will cause additional problems. Once he's out, he may engage in a running fit, knocking over people or furniture. He might look to express energy in grabbing food from the garbage or chewing the remote control. Your dog might even urinate in the house within minutes of his release.

It cannot be stressed enough that a crate should only be used in positive ways. Make it comfortable. Make it special. Don't associate it with excitement, however. A happy-calm is the feeling you want cultivate. You don't want to give lots of attention when he's inside, but other rewards like toys, chews, and treats. It's his alone time.

Crate Safety

Your dog's crate should be large enough for him to stand up and turn around in easily. Plastic crates usually create a more comfortable, den-like space for your dog, but a wire crate covered with a blanket will do the same. Be mindful that your dog can grab a blanket and pull it through the wire, providing himself with a new chew option.

Certain chew toys should not be left with your dog unsupervised as they are a choking hazard, but are perfectly acceptable to have in his crate while you are home. Some are discussed in another article here. Remember that one of the purposes of a crate is to keep your dog from getting into things that can be dangerous to him.

If you plan on leaving your dog locked inside his crate while out of the home or asleep, be sure to remove his collar before hand. Your dog's collar can get caught on the crate and he can choke to death trying to free himself. This is a completely preventable accident.

Used properly, a crate is an excellent tool every dog owner should have. It is extremely beneficial to your dog's safety and well being.

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    • Laura Matkin profile image

      Laura Matkin 5 years ago from Laceys Spring, Alabama

      Great Information!! I have had to help numerous dog owners re-crate train their dog after misusing their crate and owners who adopted a dog who were fearful of the crate. Probably because the previous owner did not know how to introduce the crate and use it properly. I hope you get loads of traffic! Voted up.

    • brsmom68 profile image

      Diane Ziomek 5 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      We have a Blue Heeler that we have crated since we got him over two years ago. He has always slept in it at night, and that is where he goes when he comes in from outside. He knows it's bedtime when I reach into the treat box...I don't even have to call him, he just comes running and in he goes. Crating him from day one has been the best thing we could have done. He does tend to sneak out of it when he thinks he's been in it long enough after coming in from outside - we don't latch the door unless it is bedtime or we are going to be away. He even lays down beside it while I am cooking and while we are eating. He is rarely given table scraps, and when he is, they go in his crate.

      Voted up, useful and bookmarked. Great Hub!

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 5 years ago from Colorado

      My sister's Bedlington Terriers love their crates, and I'm sure it's because she uses the crates just as you recommend. Though they're allowed in a large area of the house, the dogs often used their crates for naps when there are visitors in the house. Also, when the dreaded bath time approaches, they run into their crates and try to hide. Excellent hub--voted it useful and interesting.

    • NetBlots profile image

      NetBlots 5 years ago from Melbourne

      Yeah all our dogs love the create, and now with our new car, there is no way they are not staying in it till we get to our destination! haha

      And yeah, it does help to stop them from going in the house =)

    • Fawntia profile image

      Fawntia Fowler 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Our corgi loves his crate! It only took a few weeks to house train him thanks to the crate. He still sleeps in it now that he's older. He goes in the crate on his own when he's tired and ready for bed. It's very cute. The crate was also useful when we took him on a ten hour drive to visit family during the holidays.

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