As you may have heard, there’s a lot of hype in the dog parenting world about crate training. Most trainers, breeders, and rescues are incredibly supportive of the method. But many people assume that sticking your dog in a cage is simply a convenience to the human and is cruel or uncomfortable for the dog. Not so! Read on to learn more about what crate training is, why dogs actually love their crates, and why it can even be beneficial to your relationship!
What is crate training?
Crate training is all about teaching your dog to use and love a crate. For a quick overview, the process begins by simply getting the dog used to the crate’s presence, then encouraging them to go inside, then closing the door. At that point, the door is kept closed for longer and longer periods until the dog is not just content, but actually very happy and comfortable to be in his crate for several hours.
Learn more about how to crate train.
Why do dogs love crates?
This is very fascinating! As we understand it, domestic dogs are descendants of wild dogs, like wolves. Wild dogs live in packs and sleep in dens. While a pack of wild dogs are very strong and adept predators, it’s important to remember that they are not in fact invincible. Larger predators like big cats, menaces like poisonous snakes, or extreme weather are all threats to a pack’s well-being. So for safety and security, a pack lives in a “den.”
Dens can come in many forms. During the summer, a pack might live in a dirt hollow under a tree. During the winter they will find a cave or densely vegetated ditch. A female preparing for a litter will find an even more secure place, like a rock fissure, abandoned fox hole, or corniced bank.
Most importantly, a den will allow dogs to rest without fearing of something sneaking up on them. Additionally, they will limit what is brought into the area and avoid soiling to keep it hygienic and reduce odors that will attract unwanted attention. Their den is the only place that they can relax their highly tuned senses and truly rest.
Domestic dogs have inherited this same instinct. They want a safe and secure niche to call their own. They want to have their own control over what comes and goes and they will arrange the space to their liking. Have you ever noticed your dog sleeping under a table, or taking a toy to his bed, or always going potty in the same spot? He is practicing his den instinct!
Why is crate training good?
Crate training is useful for many reasons. It will fulfill this instinctual need your dog has for a den, be highly beneficial for housebreaking, be a valuable tool for you, and will ultimately make your relationship stronger.
As we talked about above, your dog has an instinctual need for a safe and secure place to call their own. If they want to take a nap, get away from commotion (like children or the vacuum or a thunderstorm), or just have some time to themselves, they will seek out a den. Having a reliable spot, like a crate, readily available will make their life much better. For instance, dogs with anxiety or fear can get a big boost in confidence knowing that they have a safe space to hide if need be. Dogs with digestive upsets can be helped by the total-body relaxing effects of a den. And puppies can be protected from overstimulation when they have somewhere to rest thoroughly between adventures.
Because dogs do not like to soil their dens, crate training can be a valuable housebreaking tool. When you first bring your dog home, whether as a puppy or an adult, your home will not mean much to them. It’s just another space and who’s to say that they shouldn’t potty there? By immediately introducing them to a crate their den instinct will be triggered, and they will soon understand that your entire house is in fact a space to be cared for. With puppies just learning bladder control, crating overnight can help teach their systems to slow down so that they can hold it.
The convenience of a dog crate is undeniable. If you have company visiting, you can easily secure your dog in their crate and your guests won’t be bothered. If you have a rowdy, curious puppy, you can keep him safe while you cook, shower, or make a phone call. If you have a teething dog, you can crate them while you’re out, and know that you’ll come home to intact furniture. If your dog ever becomes injured and needs to be restricted, you will feel confident that they are recovering well in their crate. The list goes on and on!
With the mutually beneficial nature of crate training, your relationship with your dog will grow stronger and deeper. Your dog will feel honored as an individual and he’ll be both mentally and physically healthy. You will feel empowered to fulfill your own lifestyle by utilizing the functional nature of the crate and you will have no resentment of your dog taking over your life. Better yet, you’ll never feel guilty “locking him up” because you know he’s comfortable and happy!
How To Get a Crate
So you’ve decided to get a crate for your dog! There are many types and styles out there and it’s important that you choose the right one. Read this story to learn about each option and shop.