To us people, the idea of being in a closed and locked crate for even a minute may seem torturous. However, most dogs see things differently. If used correctly, pet crates are humane tools for training and provide dogs with a safe and secure place just to hang out away from the family. However, if used too often, for long periods of time, or as a replacement for walking a dog, the crate can turn into a miserable dog prison that is both abusive and an anti-training tool.
Important: This article offers general information regarding humane crate training methods. Make sure to do adequate research to ensure that you are employing proper crate training methods for your particular dog's age, size, breed, and unique temperament. Also, understand that crate training is not right for all dogs, depending on the dog's personality and prior history.
Many trainers recommend using a dog crate to potty train puppies and dogs. The reasoning is simple. A dog does not like to relieve himself where he sleeps. Used constructively, a dog does not stay in the crate more than a few hours at a time before he is taken out to relieve himself and stretch his legs. Over time, he learns that he does not go potty indoors. When a grown dog is left in a crate 8 to 10 hours a day, he may or may not be able to control his bladder that long and ends up having to live in a wet or dirty crate for hours while waiting until you get home. Dogs can also develop bladder problems over time from trying to hold on too long.
Life in a wire-bottom crate such as the type some breeders use becomes a special kind of hell for dogs. Dogs have pads on the bottom of their feet that are meant for walking on the ground, not for walking on wire day after day. The dog's paws may become damaged, and the dog may develop hip and leg problems. Left untreated, this damage can lead to a crippled animal who can no longer enjoy walking. Make sure that the bottom of your crate is comfortable and wire-free. The crate should remain in a temperature regulated area of the house, and provide a comfy blanket or pet bed into which he can "burrow" when it's chilly.
A crate should be large enough for your dog to turn around in and to stretch out for a nice nap. A crate that is too small is not only uncomfortable, it can be abusive, especially if the dog is left in the crate for long periods of time. Imagine how you would feel if you were crammed into a box with no way to stretch stiff muscles. After a while, your limbs would fall asleep, and you may have problems standing when you finally got out. Your dog feels much the same. However, a crate that is too large will be an ineffective housetraining tool, as your pup may do his business on the opposite corner from which he sleeps.
A crate should feel like a second home for a dog, a special place where he can hide away for a nap or to chew on a bone. If the crate is used to punish him or as an all-day prison, he may develop an anxiety or fear of small spaces. The crate is no longer a training tool, but rather a place of torture to be dreaded.
By Betsy Gallup
About the Author
Betsy Gallup is a writer with extensive business, tax law, management and accounting experience. During her free time, she enjoys crafting, reading and caring for her children and pets. She holds a B.S. in management/accounting from Park University.