Top Dog Pros Share Why Crate Training Is ImportantApril 13, 2021
Crate training is a critical part of pet wellness. In fact, it is essential to many aspects of dog training and it can help prevent problematic behaviors. But, don’t just take our word for it! We’ve talked to many different dog pros to find out why they think crate training is important for any dog.
A Crate Is a Positive Place
Veterinarian Dr. Callie Harris wants pet parents to realize that crates are for more than just potty training. Dogs can build positive associations with their crate and learn to love hanging out inside. She explains:
“My first priority with the use of crates is to provide a safe and comfortable space for my pets to go to whenever they want! This is something I introduced to all three of my adult dogs when they were first rescued. They love their crates and will often go into them on their own without any encouragement.”
To maintain your dog’s positive associations with their crate, you shouldn’t use it for negative reasons. Instead, a crate gives your pet their own special place to go. According to Dr. Harris, a cozy and well-appointed crate can be helpful in so many situations. “This positive relationship with their crate makes it super easy when it’s time for travel and if there is a reason for them to be confined for short periods of time,” she says.
And of course, time spent teaching your dog to love their crate is time spent building your relationship. Dr. Harris says, “I think any type of training, including crate training, helps to build the human-animal bond and allows for opportunities for positive reinforcement. This helps to provide a relationship that is low in fear, anxiety, and stress for your pet!”
A Crate Is a Place to Relax and Do Nothing
Ryan Bullard, a dog trainer in New York, agrees that crate training is beneficial for dogs as it gives them a place to relax and feel safe. Plus, crates provide peace of mind to dog owners and are very useful in emergencies. Bullard says crate training “keeps dogs out of trouble. Crate training can teach a dog that sometimes doing nothing is doing something.”
A Crate Can Help Manage Behavior
Lilly Peterson is a dog trainer at Miss Lilly’s Dogs. Managing a dog’s behavior is her favorite use of a crate. You can’t watch your dog every second of the day, and that’s where a crate comes in. “If dogs are left unattended, they will teach themselves all sorts of things and build all sorts of habits, and that usually leaves us with the work of figuring out how to undo those behaviors,” says Peterson. “Crates are a fantastic way to do prevention work against those habits and behaviors!”
Peterson believes every dog should be crate trained, even if the owners don’t plan on using the crate. It’s almost inevitable that your dog will find themselves inside a crate eventually, so you might as well teach them to be comfortable there! Vets, groomers, daycares, and boarding facilities all use crates, and your dog will find that stressful if they haven’t been crate trained. Peterson adds, “If there's a situation where you need to leave town and find emergency care for your dog, your dog might need to be crated. It's a good idea to do that training and ensure the dog is comfortable in the crate, so they don't have anxiety in these situations.”
However, Peterson also stresses how important it is to meet your dog’s needs before you place them in their crate. To ensure successful crate training, she suggests asking yourself the following questions: “Is my dog sufficiently fed and watered? Has my dog been given an opportunity to go to the bathroom in the last ten minutes? Has my dog had plenty of quality time and interaction with me? Has my dog had plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation?”
If you can say yes to all those questions, you know your dog will be happy to relax in their crate, on their own!
A Crate Prepares Your Dog for the Future
Certified professional dog trainer and pet lifestyle expert Nicole Ellis feels the number one reason dog owners should crate train is to prepare their dogs for what’s to come.
“Crate training your dog sets them up for success in their future, from making vet visits less stressful, to car rides, grooming appointments, and preventing separation anxiety. It’s also one of the fastest ways to potty train a puppy successfully,” says Ellis.
Ellis also advocates for crate training in the case of emergencies. You never know what might happen down the road, and a crate might either be a necessity or a wonderful tool to help your dog cope. “We don’t plan for pets to get sick, but unfortunately it can happen,” says Ellis. “Having a dog that is crate trained is an easy way to make those stressful vet stays a little less stressful. Also, days like the Fourth of July, moving days, or family gatherings can be stressful with a lot of people around. A crate is a nice way to ensure your dog is safe and comfortable.”
Many people find it hard to believe that their dog will feel safer inside a crate. But dogs are denning animals, and a crate is simply an artificial den. One thing Ellis wants all dog owners to understand is that crate training isn’t cruel: “Dogs instinctively feel safer in small, tighter areas. Often, you'll find when your dogs are not feeling well they go to a small area, such as under a bed, creating their own crate-like space. And by crate training we give them that safe spot like a favorite old chair that feels right at home.”
A Crate Prevents Unsafe Behavior
As a certified professional dog trainer at Delta Tails, Blythe Bouchard/Neer’s favorite use for a crate is preventing unsafe and unwanted behaviors. Crate training can keep both adult dogs and puppies out of trouble with which is key because prevention is so much easier than fixing a problem.
“I use a crate to teach all my puppies and dogs not to destructive chew (think couches, shoes, etc.), not to potty inside, to settle on their own, and how to be left alone without stress. It also prevents dogs and puppies from getting into dangerous things when I can’t supervise their every movement,” says Bouchard/Neer.
Crates are particularly useful for puppy owners. At times, raising a puppy can feel overwhelming, and sometimes an owner just needs a break. According to Bouchard/Neer, “Crates allow you to safely take care of your own needs – whether that’s taking a shower, cooking a meal, or even just watching a tv show alone for a few minutes. Pop a frozen treat inside and you’re good to go! Safe and sound, and you get a much-needed break.”
Bouchard/Neer reminds owners that an often-overlooked use of the crate is safe travel in the car. You should not allow your dog to wander free in your vehicle as it can interfere with your visibility and lead to injury in case of a sudden stop or accident. “Safety in the car is a big one,” she says. “Research has shown crates to be the safest option in the car (crash tested versions of course).”
A Crate Teaches Patience
Head dog trainer at Transform Your Dog, Raymond Rodriguez, believes that crate training is easy to teach because crates can help a dog feel safe and comfortable, thanks to their denning instincts. “Dogs are den animals which means they like small, dark, and warm places to rest, similar to caves and burrows. So, feeling horrible at the idea of your dog locked away is unnecessary and misplaced. Once you teach a dog that the crate is positive, they will feel great being inside one.”
Plus, the advantages extend beyond your dog having a comfortable place to chill. Rodriguez feels crates have psychological and practical benefits too, as dogs left to roam free around the house tend to be more anxious and edgy. “With proper crate training your dog will have fewer potty accidents, less reaction to outside distractions, and will be less likely to destroy your furniture,” says Rodriguez.
Emotional control doesn’t come naturally to most dogs, but crate training can encourage its development. Rodriguez also emphasizes the importance of teaching your dog patience and relaxation: “Dog owners do not know they have to teach valuable virtues such as waiting to be let out of the crate or not bolting out the door/gate.”
A Crate Can Help With Separation Anxiety
Dr. Danny Sack is a small animal veterinarian with special interests in surgery and rehabilitation. Dr. Sack feels that a dog’s crate should be a positive place:
“A crate does not need to be a place for punishment and isolation for your pet. It can be used as a tool to safely confine your pet while allowing them to feel safe, which is especially important in pets with separation anxiety. The positive association with a crate should be formed as early in the pet’s life as possible.”
Dr. Sack suggests finding ways to build your pet’s positive association with the crate, such as feeding meals inside.
Separation anxiety is difficult to treat and dogs suffering from the condition can injure themselves as they often attempt to relieve stress by destructively chewing baseboards, door frames, or other parts of your house. Dr. Sack believes crate training is a great option for dogs who tend to chew: “It gives them a consistent, safe space that is theirs that prevents them from causing anxiety-related destruction of furniture or other household items when your pets are not being supervised.”
There you have it! There are so many reasons why you should crate train your dog. The dog pros know that from potty training, to providing security, to preparing for an emergency, your dog will benefit from having a crate and learning to love being inside. Wishing you and your pup the very best of luck with crate training!
Stephanie Gibeault is a freelance writer and certified professional dog trainer with a Master of Science in animal behavior. She is passionate about combining her love of animals with her writing skills to educate and entertain. When she’s not at her keyboard, you can find her tap dancing, taking photographs, or tweeting (@GibeaultWrites).