A Dog’s Eye View: To be or not to be … crated
June 7, 2012
Steamboat Springs — First, I have a confession to make. I was not always such a strong advocate for crating our dogs. In fact, when I got my first roly-poly, covered-in-soft-fur puppy, I had a difficult time not thinking of it as a cage, some sort of punishing confinement. Wouldn't it be mean to put my adorable new little girl in that cage, close the door and leave her alone?
Luckily, I was being guided by much wiser and more knowledgeable people, so I persevered. And you know what? It wasn't hard at all.
I started slowly, never forcing her in but instead enticing her in with treats, allowing her to decide to enter on her own. And decide she did. She actually showed me that she enjoyed this thing called a crate. It became her space, her den, her safe place.
A crate isn't a form of confinement in the negative sense. Instead, it can provide peace of mind for you and your dog. Dogs are hard-wired to be den animals — a "den" by definition being a small, defined place in which an animal — in this case, your dog — feels safe. If introduced properly, your dog can come to look at her crate as her den, her safe place, a place all her own where she can go for down time. We humans have our own "places," be they a private office, a bedroom or a man cave where we go to escape and/or just chill, so why shouldn't our dogs?
Crates are reliable management, training and safety tools. If you have a new puppy or adopted dog, using a crate allows you to peacefully and kindly limit access to the house until your new addition has been able to learn house rules, such as where and when to potty and what to chew and what not to chew.
By teaching and making your dog feel comfortable about being crated, you're actually doing them a great service. In every dog's life, there probably will come a time when they'll need to be confined. You may have to leave her with your veterinarian. If you've given her the time to become used to being in a crate, having to be left in a cage or kennel at your veterinarian's clinic will be less stressful and less traumatic for her.
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Crates are also a great way of keeping your dog safe while traveling. A dog crated in the car has a better chance of surviving an automobile accident and little chance of causing one. Also, if staying in a hotel, your dog will be safer left in her crate if you decide to go out for meals or other activities.
Another huge advantage of teaching your dog how to stay peacefully in a crate is that you also are helping her learn to be alone and how to entertain herself. By placing a treat-filled chewy toy with her while she's in the crate, you're giving her something to do without you, thus allowing her to gain self-confidence by learning that she can be happy and content by herself without needing help from you. Self-contentment is a great tool against separation worries and anxieties.
Crate training, if done properly can be a kind and useful part of any dog's life.
Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.