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The One About Dog Crates

Updated: Apr 6

Crate training is a vitally important part of bringing a dog of any age into your life and home. It can benefit puppies, adult dogs, and seniors in one way or another. Crate training can give dogs a sense of security and give owners more peace of mind. Enclosed spaces create a shelter for your dog to rest and relax. Dogs instinctively seek small spaces to create protective shelters for themselves. Crates are useful training tools for puppies, safe havens for senior dogs, and lifesavers for emergencies.

Most veterinarians, trainers, and breeders recommend crate training dogs from a young age. Crate training is an essential part of housebreaking puppies, as dogs don’t like to soil their sleeping quarters. They learn to hold their bladders while they’re in their crate, so you won’t have to clean up messes.

In emergencies, crate training can be the difference between safety and uncertainty. You must be able to evacuate your dog efficiently, so having a cooperative dog get into a crate quickly saves crucial time. Having dogs secured during evacuations reduces the chance of them getting lost or injured. It also allows your dog to stay with you during an emergency because dogs typically have to be crate trained in order to remain in shelters with their owners.

Crate Training Makes Life Easier For dogs that aren’t crate trained, crates may be the scariest part of any situation. Crate training can help prevent compounding a dog’s stress during emergencies. In worst-case scenarios, dogs may be required to be on crate rest when recovering from surgery. Dogs are less likely to have complications following surgery when they can peacefully relax (rather than accidentally aggravate injuries because they can’t settle down in a crate). And in the event of a natural disaster, being crate trained can not only save the dog tons of grief but can make a rescuer's job much easier. For example, during Hurricane Katrina hundreds of dogs were displaced and separated from their families, and dogs that were comfortable with crates were not only less stressed during the ordeal but were easier to round up.

Crate training comes in handy during everyday life. Some dogs might need a break from a bustling household or a familiar place to rest. Crates help dogs learn to self-soothe or deal with their anxiety during situations where they become distressed, like during fireworks, thunderstorms, or construction. Dogs can retreat to their crates when situations are too chaotic or scary. Crate training also helps dogs confront new situations successfully, like the addition of a new baby or having company over. Crates make it easier to safely transport your dog by car or by air during long-distance travel or vacations. Crate training makes long car rides more pleasant for both humans and canines. Crates allow dogs to lie down and sleep without distracting the driver. It’s especially important for a dog to know how to behave in a crate during a flight. Many dogs need to be contained if they travel on airplanes. The American Veterinary Medical Association notes that sedation isn’t necessarily recommended for pets traveling on planes, but you should discuss the matter with your vet well in advance of flying with your dog.

Transporting dogs by car is often overlooked when it comes to crating. Having your dog crated when in your vehicle can literally save their lives. Below is an admittedly disturbing xray of a dog that arrived at a veterinary clinic after being injured in the owner's vehicle. The dog unfortunately passed away prior to arriving at the hospital, but they were able to get a clear and educational image of the injury that resulted in the dog's death. In this particular event, the dog in question was not crated or in a canine-seatbelt and had put it's head down to sniff something on the car's floor while sitting in the backseat. The driver had to slam on brakes, and the dog's neck was subsequently compressed and broken.

The neck is broken and compressed in this image

Crate Training Benefits Dogs of All Ages Crates keep curious puppies safely sequestered when you’re not able to supervise them. Dogs instinctively try to keep their sleeping areas clean. As such, the crate helps puppies learn to hold and strengthen their bladder and bowel muscles, making housebreaking less of a chore for you and your dog. Crate training early in a dog’s life prevents introducing unnecessary stress later. When older dogs are dealing with illnesses like incontinence, arthritis, or canine cognitive dysfunction, they don’t need the additional stress of learning new rules.

Crate training helps senior dogs deal with health issues. Crates can provide a restful place for senior pets to rest their joints or take frequent naps, prevent nighttime wandering, and make transporting them to vet appointments easier. Crates also create safe havens for older dogs, who may be especially in need of this when surrounded by rambunctious children or other dogs.

Crate Training Benefits All Types of Dogs For rescued dogs, a crate provides a safe space to adjust to their new surroundings as well as the luxury of not having to fight for their own space. Crates provide comfort to rescued dogs, since they may be fearful around certain people or environments. This is particularly true for dogs with a traumatic past of neglect or abuse. Crates allow rescued dogs to know they have their own territory and no one will hurt them in it. The biggest behavior issues they see with rescued dogs are barking and being destructive. Many rescued dogs haven’t yet sufficiently developed their socialization skills, which can result in problems with destruction or barking. Crate training will improve their confidence and curtail problematic behavior. Crate training benefits hunting dogs, keeping them comfortable during hunts and on the road. Of course, this also benefits hunters, since they’ll appreciate having wet and muddy dogs contained. Kroh advises crate training hunting dogs the same way you would a puppy.

Since dogs feel responsible for their own territory, insecure dogs need less space to protect. A crate (rather than the entire house) means less territory to patrol, making it easier for your dog to relax.

Tips for Successful Crate Training The first and most important step in crate training is making it a positive experience. Try feeding them meals or treats in their crate so that crate-time feels like a reward. Never leave dogs in their crate all day. Limit your dog’s crate time based on how long they spend there daily, their age, and their level of house training.

Understanding the need for crate training is just the first step, but the training itself is another matter entirely. Make sure to do extensive research on how to crate train your dog, consider consulting a dog trainer if you have questions, and be sure to stick to your plan to ensure the greatest chance of success.

Types of Crates

You'll notice when shopping around that there are a vast variety of dog crates, many being specially designed for specific things. You'll also see a huge range in prices, from under $30 to well over $1,000.

The common wire crate is an option that allows for quite a bit of versatility, and allows for optimal viewing opportunity. For dogs who exhibit anxiety when they cannot see their owners, this may be the best option for crate training. It is also a viable solution for travel in some cases, often fitting nicely into vehicles and keeping the dog confined to a smaller area in case of an accident or a situation that requires evasive driving or a sudden stop. These crates are generally considered inexpensive, and are quite durable.

The Impact Crate is another highly versatile crate option, but with a considerably higher price tag. A favorite among those of us who show our dogs in conformation shows and for people who do sporting events with their dogs, these crates are considered the toughest on the market and are the most likely to hold up in the event of a car accident. I have personally seen these crates come out virtually unscathed after the van in was in was t-boned and flipped. That dog was shaken, but uninjured. These can be folded up in a similar fashion to the basic wire crates, and have additional accessories that can be purchases, such as wheels for the bottom, grooming-table mats for the top, and grooming arms for the top which are especially handy when at a dog show.

Another option for those searching for a very durable crate that is suitable for travel, the Ruff Land Crate is phenomenal. Unlike the popular and inexpensive plastic crates, the Ruff Land Kennel is molded plastic. This means that the body is all one piece, and less likely to disassemble in the event of an accident. These are most frequently seen at dog sporting events, being used by people who frequently travel with their dogs and increasingly used by hunters who utilize retrievers and tollers. But they are equally amazing as an at-home crate option, especially since they have a smaller footprint than most other crates. Ruff Land also sells attachments used for securing the crates to each other, if you are traveling with multiple crates, and for securing them inside the vehicle.

If you want a plastic crate but you are on a bit of a budget, a fantastic option is the EveryYay Travel Pet Kennel. This crate is fantastic for in-home use, provides a more secluded feel for the pet, and can be utilized for travel if the situation arises. Made mostly from durable plastic, the crate body is in two pieces and is held together by metal fasteners. This crate is also in compliance with airline regulations, and can therefore be used for air travel. One word of caution, if this crate gets wet (such as when cleaning) dry it immediately to prevent the metal components (fasteners and door latch) from rusting. If this particular plastic crate doesn't suit your needs, however, there are tons of options to pick from! The crate pictured is the Petmate Crate and features plastic fasteners instead of the metal, but that may be a plus if your crate may end up getting wet.

Yet another option is the canvas crate. These are collapsable for easy storage and carrying. They have handles. They are very lightweight. And they offer a secure feeling for the dogs that need to be in them. These are my personal favorites for using at sporting events to give my dogs a comfortable and shaded place to rest between running. These can be wonderful in-home crates, but may not be suitable for puppies or destructive individuals that could tear up the canvas fabric used in the crate's construction. These crates are very durable, however, and can typically stand up to quite a bit of abuse and scratching. These are generally lined with polypropylene or vinyl so the bottom is water proof or resistant, and the padded bed inside can be removed for cleaning. These almost always close using zipper mesh doors.

Crates can be as expensive and as extravagant as you wish!

You can find even more varieties of crates, but the above examples are the most popular options. Try to pick one that will suit your particular dog, and your potential needs rather than just your intended needs (for example; a crate that can be used for travel in case of an emergency, rather than one that is really only suitable for in-home use).

A potentiall useful resource for crate training is the Crate Games dog training course developed by trainer Susan Garrett. If this interests you, you can look further into that option here.


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