Everything You Need to Know About Dog Crates
Dog crates are one of the most important purchases we make for our four legged friends to help provide obedience training and a safe haven for them to live. In the wild, dogs live in dens which provide a cozy and secure place for them to sleep.
As they grow, their mothers teach them to go to the toilet outside of the den so as to keep their living space clean, and your dog will use this natural instinct when inside their crate too.
Not only useful for toilet training, a dog can be crate trained to help them travel without fear or provide a safe retreat for them at home if they’re feeling scared.
The benefits of crate training your dog are many, and can include:
- Providing a safe and comfortable haven for your dog to retreat to or sleep;
- Teaching them the importance of going to the toilet outside by relying on their natural instinct to not do this inside the crate;
- Train puppies and older dogs to hold their bladders until able to go outside;
- Traveling short or long distances where the dog is needed to be kept safe and secure;
- Providing a bed for your dog so that they aren’t left alone in the house at night;
- Helping to reduce destructive behavior.
With so many different types of dog crates, purposes, and sizes, it can hard to find the right one for your pooch. Here are a few of the most popular styles and how they can suit your dog’s needs.
Dog Crate Sizes
Depending on the size of your dog, you’ll need to consider different sized crates. The main rule of thumb is that the crate should be big enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down in, but not too large that they won’t feel secure.
Before use, fill your dog crate with a soft blanket or bed and any other toys you think might help your dog to relax.
- Small dog crate – This size of crate would suit smaller breeds as it allows them to feel safe and secure when inside. You need to be careful when choosing a crate that the dog won’t slide or move around if traveling as well.
- Large dog crates – Essential for larger dogs, you’ll still need to ensure your friend can stand up and stretch their legs as needed. This is particularly important for long distance travel and overnight sleeping in their cage.
Types of Dog Crates
- Metal dog crates – Sometimes referred to as wire dog crates, these types are suited to larger dogs generally. Their durable material means they can withstand heavier animals, and more wear and tear. With their collapsible ability, you can store them away easily when not in use, making them ideal for travel. They also offer great ventilation for your dogs during travel.
- Wood dog crates – Although not as common for travel, wood dog crates are the best choice for home use. Their material makes them a comfortable choice for pets and because wood is so easy to work with, many prefer to design their own custom crate. Wood crates are also more visually pleasing in your home than other styles.
- Plastic dog crates – These are normally recommended for smaller breeds as there’s no need to hold heavier weights. Plastic dog crates are very simple to keep clean, making them a standout feature for pet owners, particularly when traveling.
- Portable dog crates – Some dog crates were created solely to travel, whereas others are built for home use only. A dog travel crate will be tougher than your standard type but probably not as comfortable as an everyday use one. The most popular materials for portable dog crates are plastic and wire. Dog crate covers should be used in conjunction with these so as not to frighten your pet when traveling.
How to Crate Train a Dog
Crate training should be your top priority when you bring home a new puppy as it can prevent a range of issues regarding toilet use, obedience, and loud barking down the track. Statistics show that owners have stronger bonds and more satisfaction from their pet when their behavior is good, so it pays to invest some time in training.
Here are a few simple steps for how to crate train a dog and give your pet the best start possible in life.
1. Introduce your dog to the crate
The crate may be scary at first, especially if your puppy is new to your house. Make the crate look and feel comfortable with a blanket, bed or comfort toy so that it’s inviting. Place the crate somewhere central in your home so that it doesn’t feel excluded and can continue to see the family while it’s in there.
Dogs are naturally curious, so as it goes over to the crate to investigate try placing a dog treat just inside for it to get. Continue this for a while until it learns that it’s safe to go in and out of the crate without consequence.
2. Begin with meals in the crate
Once your dog is comfortable entering and exiting the crate as it pleases, you should aim for longer periods spent in there. The easiest and most effective way to do this is to offer your dog’s main meals inside the crate.
Once your pet is used to eating in the crate, try asking them to go in before placing their food bowl in. As they become comfortable with this you can start to shut the door so that they’re eating with it closed. As time goes on, leave the crate door closed for a little longer after each meal to show the dog that this is a safe place.
3. Close the crate
Now that the dog will happily stay for a few minutes after meals it’s time to teach it to enter the crate for other reasons. Try using a command such as “crate” to show them that it’s time go inside and reward them each time with a small treat as you close the door. This will show them that it’s a safe and happy place to be.
4. Time in the crate
As your dog is less afraid to enter the crate now, you can begin to extend the time it spends in there. Start by leaving it there while you do some chores around the house or run a small errand outside for an hour or two.
Don’t keep it to regular intervals as your animal will learn that you’re expected to let him or her out soon. This process might take weeks to get them to a comfortable level so it’s best not to rush them.
5. Crate at night
The ultimate goal is to be able to leave your dog overnight in their crate, so once you feel confident in their comfort for long periods during the day you can attempt this. Keep the crate in its central area and place any necessary toys or security items inside with it to calm the dog.
With older and younger dogs they may whine in the night to be let out for toilet breaks. Let them outside without making a fuss and bring them back in as soon as they’re finished with their business. This will also help to instill the message that toilet breaks should always be taken outside, even during the day.
As with any training method with puppies, it will take time and patience for you and your pet to master. Within a few weeks, though, your dog should view the crate as a place of comfort and security.
Once your dog is comfortable with their crate at home this will also enable them to travel a lot easier in a crate as they’re aware of the process. It’s recommended that you crate train your dog if they haven’t already been before taking them on a long journey somewhere.
Just a few weeks or months of crate training your new puppy will pay off with a lifetime of obedience if done correctly. The crate offers a safe and comfortable place for your pet to stay while also working with their natural instincts of living in a den with their pack.
This style of training works for all pet owners, particularly those who don’t like to enforce strict rules on their animals. You’re training them to be obedient and use the toilet outside without any yelling or ordering while also offering them a safe haven.
Before you bring your new pet home, ensure you have the crate set up comfortably and ready to go. By showing your pet that this is the standard procedure in their new home they’ll learn how to use it faster and easier.