The use of a crate with a dog is so common that we may automatically assume itís a good tool for all dogs. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isnít. Good Reasons to Use a Crate 1. Puppies need to learn the skill of resting calmly in a crate. This will never again be as easy for the dog to adapt to as it is in puppyhood. Even if you prefer not to use a crate routinely, seriously consider doing this conditioning for your pup. We canít know what might be ahead in the years of that dogís life that will make a crate an absolute necessity. 2. Dogs who will travel by plane or go for professional grooming are going to have to be able to tolerate a crate, so crate-training is a must for these canines. 3. Emergency evacuation in time of disaster, staying with your dog in travel or rental housing, being a guest in a home that has other animals or doesnít like animals are all situations where you could suddenly need to use a crate. 4. Veterinary care and at-home nursing care require crate restriction for certain conditions. Some veterinarians have runs they can use with crate-phobic dogs in certain situations, but this isnít always workable. 5. Few people can afford the damage a dog may do left free inside the house during the destructive chewing stage, or when the dog has a severe case of separation anxiety. Even if you are wealthy enough that damage isnít an issue (and have no items of sentimental value that you couldnít bear to have chewed), the dog is at risk of chewing something that will be fatal. A crate is the logical solution if the dog can tolerate it. 6. If your dog ever has to be re-homed to a new family or your family situation changes (including a kid going off to college) or you move, the dog may experience separation anxiety and badly need the support of a crate to get through it. At these times, you want the crate to feel like a safe place to the dog as a result of good foundation training in the past. In fact, you want this at any time you use a crate with your dog! Reasons to Not Use a Crate First, letís note that you can still condition your dog to a crate, even if youíre not going to use it routinely. It is in your dogís best interests to do so. If youíre not using the crate day-to-day, itís easy to take this conditioning slowly and make it fun, fun, fun for your dog. So why not do it? A crate and the time to condition your dog for the ability to rest calmly inside it is good insurance for any dog. And rememberóitís fun! There are times and reasons that may make you decide not to crate your dog, though. Here are some of those reasons: 1. The dog has a medical condition that is worsened when the dog canít move around somewhat freely. Old dogs commonly have arthritis and some may stiffen up with close confinement. Inflamed joints on a dog of any age can react the same way. If the dog with such a condition needs to be prevented from running and jumping for medical reasons, you and your veterinarian may decide to use a small room instead of a crate or keep the dog with you on leash. 2. The dog has begun urinating or defecating in the crate. Not only is this messy, itís bad for the dogís skin and can damage the dogís instincts to keep a clean sleeping-place. This dog needs to be out of the crate, perhaps in an exercise pen or a small room with a baby-gate across the doorway, until the dog re-establishes the habit of a clean bed and you solve any problem causing the dog not to be able to hold it during confinement. 3. The dog is afraid of the crate. This fear can be difficult to distinguish from separation anxiety, and one fear can lead to the other. Some of these dogs are difficult to manage, which is why we want to condition all puppies to be able to rest calmly in a crate. That foundation can make a huge difference later. If you have a crate-phobic dog, you can recondition the dogís reaction to the crate, but you donít want to use the crate as a routine confinement method while doing the conditioning. That would undo the positive conditioning to the crate youíre trying to establish. 4. The time the dog needs to be left alone is too long for crate confinement. Eight hours is a good top limit for crate time, even if the dog is doing great in a crate. Why risk trouble? For pups under 7 months of age, the rule of thumb is to crate no longer than the number of hours equaling the dogís age in months plus one. When a dog has the experience of being crated too long and feeling trapped while needs go unmet, that is the perfect set up to begin fear of the crate, fear of being left alone, and other problems. So if you need to leave a dog longer than the dog can comfortably hold bladder and bowels or longer than 8 hours (whichever is less), use different confinement, such as a small room. 5. Is there any reason to crate this dog? If you have a dog who behaves wonderfully when left alone loose in the house, consider why you would crate. One reason might be that the dog is new to your home and youíre not sure what the dog might do in the next few days or weeks. Better crate than sorry. Another reason is when your 4-month-old puppy is housetrained and you think the need for a crate is over. Chances are the permanent teeth will erupt in the next few months and serious chewing such as youíve not seen in this pup before will start! So donít stop crating at this age. Wait a bit to see how much of a chewer your pup is going to be. With large dogs, expect to use the crate to age 2 to 2 Ĺ years of age to get past the destructive chewing stage. Itís not for life! 6. Does your dog have a job to do in your home? If one reason you have a dog is to deter criminals from breaking into your house or harming your family, the dog canít do this job confined to a crate. In such a case youíre going to want to choose a breed, bloodline, and individual dog with a high chance of growing into an adult dog who can be trusted loose in your house (some are not likely to develop this ability, so do your research!). Youíre also going to need to do the right foundation work, including use of a crate to help management until the dog has learned to chew only the right items, to eliminate in the right place, etc.
I totally agree with everything you said. I would like to add 1 "DO NOT" to the list if I may. DO NOT use the crate as punishment for your pet. They will learn to hate it immediately. They need to feel it is a place of comfort and safety for them .
gbat- how about using the crate periodically as a time out- not a punishment, per say, but like you'd send a kid to a time out chair for a break, to calm down, etc. we do that with snowball. when she gets in a mood and wont obey, wont listen, or when she's crazy barking at nothing (or something) and we need to redirect her, calm her, etc, she will go in for a time out. she seems to understand the difference btw that, and say, bedtime in the crate. bedtime comes with treats and toys, time out does not. she is never yelled at or hit, we just open the door, say get in for time out, etc, and she goes, relaxes, etc. usualy for a few mins, or until the source of the barking has left, or whatever was the reason for time out is done/gone.
since you brought it up in another 1 of your posts, just wanted to let you know that i do read your word for the day topics even though i don't respond. don't tire of doing them just cause you don't get many responses.
I use the crate for "time out" Eskiegirl, but they know it is time out and not punishment. There is a fine line there. If they are just getting rowdy and need to settle down they are sent to "bed" with the door open and they will stay until they are told it is ok to come out. Punishment would be to scold them and lock the door behind them, this I do not recommend.