The term crate means any construction that restricts the dog to a specific area, usually a cage. The crate can be plastic, metal, or fabric, and is available in various sizes. See the main steps for training the dog in the proper use of the crate
A dog is able to learn to stay in a space indicated by its owner / guardian.
And it will deprive him, for some time, of the possibility of free movement. Deprivation of liberty in a crate can make the dog a safe place: his personal room.
We never use a crate to punish the dog. We never buy a crate, and the next day we put our dog in and leave the house.
The graduate positive dog trainer VSA-CDT, Angelika Herra, explains the role of the crate, but also the right way of training, so that the dog feels calm. And when it is forbidden “by bat”.
“Restricting a puppy / adult dog has often been a topic of discussion, or a cause for misunderstanding among dog trainers, even animal lovers who can not stand the sight of an animal in an enclosed space or cage.
I will introduce you to the role of the crate, or other similar means of restraint, its proper, safe and ethical use in positive education, but also the risks involved.
The term crate usually refers to a cage or construction that prevents the dog from moving freely.
I clarify that the term crate does not refer to a transport cage, but to any construction that delimits and restricts the dog to a specific area. For example, the dog park, the doors, the small rooms, but also any limited space that does not allow the free movement of the animal.
The crate can be plastic, metal, or fabric, and available in various sizes.
The size of the crate should allow the animal to stand upright, to be able to turn / move comfortably in this space, and to have drinking water at its disposal.
How to choose a crate
The choice of crate depends on the following:
The breed and size of the dog as it comes of age
– age – a puppy under six months should not be confined for more than 2-3 hours due to frequent urination and defecation
– the special needs of the dog
The health of the dog. For example, an animal with a splint should restrict its movements
– the temperament and general behavior of the dog
– the positive training – familiarization of the dog, before his stay in the crate
– alternatives in the management of the space where the dog lives
The primary purpose of using a crate is to create a safe space for our dog to rest, rest, sleep, be warm and busy, to which he will enter voluntarily with joy and never through coercion or punishment.
Even a small apartment can look huge in the eyes of a tiny puppy.
What is the use of the crate
At the same time, the use of the crate helps the dog in learning the toilet and is a means of managing our space, in order to protect our personal belongings from any destructive behavior of our little friend. As well as to protect him from swallowing materials that are dangerous to his health.
In order for the dog to stay in the crate to be safe, pleasant, spontaneous and ethical, it is necessary to have a responsible training.
It is forbidden to use the crate as a punishment, because this would cause feelings of fear in our dog.
Prolonged stay in the crate also carries the risk of depression or reactive behavior, due to lack of physical relaxation.
The golden rule in familiarizing the dog with the crate is the pleasant emotions / experiences associated with entering it, and the gradual familiarization, until its comfortable stay.
The four training steps for the crate
1. We place the crate in a space of the house, where we also move.
We put in a soft crib or soft blanket, water and our dog toys. We talk to him in a soft and happy voice, and we throw in the crate delicious, high value delicacies, so that we entice him and he enters the space. If our dog prefers toys, we use his favorite toy as a lure. Make sure that the crate door remains firmly open, so as not to scare the dog.
2. We offer all the 24-hour meals around the crate and then inside the crate, placing the plate each time further away from the entrance of the crate, so that the dog feels safe and approaches the food. In this way the dog combines his entry and stay in the crate with something pleasant: his meal. In the next step, while the dog is eating his meal, we close the door of the crate and open it as soon as it is finished.
Observing the emotional state of the animal, at the next meal we leave the door closed for a few minutes (up to 10), after eating. If the dog cries or barks, it means we were raped. So, we take a step back and reduce the stay time with the door closed. We open it for him to go out when he is quiet, not when he is barking or crying.
3. After the positive feeding experience in the crate has preceded and the dog feels comfortable, we can start leaving him for a few minutes with the door closed while we stay at home. We call the dog near the crate and, as soon as he comes, we reward him. We lead him into the crate with something tempting, and so he learns the slogan “your home”. If he is calm and happy, we close the door for 10 ′ and sit next to him. Then we go to another room, return in a few minutes and reward him by opening the door.
Repeat during the day and for the next days or weeks, until the dog is able to be left 30 ′ alone, without our presence, or even during the night.
4. The last step is to allow the dog to stay in the crate when we are away from home. We gradually increase the time of our absence. This is achieved by leaving the dog in the crate a few minutes before our departure and giving him safe employment toys, putting on music or television. It goes without saying that the dog has gone for a walk and has arranged his needs before we leave him in the crate.
In order for the dog not to negatively associate our departure with his stay in the crate, we make sure to leave calmly, without greetings and hugs with him. Accordingly, our return should look just as “boring” to the dog and not cause him overstimulation, excitement and stress.
Crate training can last from days to weeks, depending on the dog and our consistency.
It is forbidden to use a crate in cases of separation anxiety
In cases of separation anxiety disorder, the use of a crate or other type of restraint as a treatment is prohibited. Because it can prevent the dog from destructive tendencies in objects in our space, but the animal’s attempt to escape during a panic attack carries a risk of injury and even death.
Managing separation anxiety requires a desensitization program and other training techniques, in collaboration with a professional positive behavior trainer / counselor or behaviorist, in order to treat the dog.
Crate or other restraint of a dog is not a solution to behavioral problems. On the contrary, there is a risk of worsening them if the animal feels trapped and in a state of panic.
In conclusion, I would place the use of the crate or other similar means of limiting a dog’s space as an option that must be based on many parameters, as presented above.
Through positive training and proper information the crate will be, for some dogs, the safe shelter for the rest of their lives.
Let’s not forget that every dog is unique and with
a special personality “.
- Ms. Angelika Herra is a VSA-CDT Positive Trainer, a Certified Member of the Doggone Safe (Dog Bite safety Educator) and the head of the ACG Alumni Stray Action Committee. He also participates voluntarily in animal welfare activities.