Austin Kirk - https://www.flickr.com/photos/aukirk/33254629378
A common question which many new puppy owners ask is
Should I crate my puppy?
Whilst I wouldn't consider crating absolutely essential, it has definitely proven to help speed up training in many areas. Let’s cover a few things:
Crating can be a very personal decision, as many people view crates in a negative way seeing them as a piece of equipment that is cruel as it confines the dog into one space. Whilst this blog is pro-crating your dog, crating can be abused.
For example, leaving your dog inside a crate for too long or using a crate that is too small would be a welfare issue. Just as much as forcing your dog in a crate when they have never been inside one before could potentially be really scary!
On the flip side, when used for the correct time periods crates can be very important as part of a wider training plan for your puppy and be a very effective management strategy. They can help to prevent house soiling and help with toilet training, teaching your puppy to relax on their own and to prevent destructive behaviour.
So what are the benefits of using a crate?
When you are not able to supervise, crates can help keep your puppy from getting into trouble. Such as at night time, when you are cooking or when you have an important phone call. From a safety point of view, some form of management is necessary if you are unable to supervise.
Instinctively dogs do not like to toilet where they sleep and a properly sized crate can help support this. In turn, crates can help to encourage bladder and bowel control.
One of the hardest things owners tend to find with their new puppy is teaching them to just CHILL OUT! Crate training can really help to teach puppies to relax and be an aid when training settle behaviour. Even the placement of the crate can help with this. Along with food toys, crates can really promote periods of downtime.
A benefit that is often forgotten about is introducing a crate to a puppy can have huge advantages in their later life. If they ever need a to stay at the vet’s, have ill health which may require downtime such as arthritis, after an operation or for transportation purposes, the benefits of having a positive association and experience with a crate is invaluable.
It provides a safe space for your dog away from busy households! It is really important, crate or not, that your puppy/dog has somewhere safe away from the rest of the house they can go and chill out. This could be a specific spot under the stairs or a quiet area of your living room, it would be dependent on how busy your home is! Crates can really help with your dogs’ sense of security and with how at ease they feel knowing no one is going to bother them in this area.
If you plan on putting a crate in your car or having a dog walker, previous crate training in the home will be very useful.
Personally, I like the idea of having a confinement area if you are choosing to keep your puppy in a certain space for longer periods or if you choosing to carry it on later in life. This is not necessarily like the crates you imagine or see in across the internet, it is more like a “puppy pen”. These are really helpful for the safety of your puppy and for longer periods of time where a crate would not suffice.
Importantly, crates should never be used to punish your dog. Whilst they can be helpful in helping calm an overexcited puppy, we do not want to create an association with being forced inside or shut for long periods of time in a crate. Creating a positive association with something new is MUCH EASIER than trying to change [counter-condition] how your dog feels about something they have previously had bad experiences with.
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Soon we will post a blog on HOW to create a positive association with a crate!
Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts or to tell us about your own experiences of using a crate.