Cozy Crates

Many people mistakenly equal dog crates with canine jail.  But if you introduce your dog to a kennel in a positive way and avoid some common crating mistakes a kennel can be one of the best gifts you can give your dog.  Kennels can also help puppies with things like potty training, learning house manners, and having a place to call their own.

Why Crates/Kennels??

In the wild most canines rely on an enclosed areas (dens) to bear and raise pups.  The den contributes to pack survival and offers protection for the pups.

Kennels/Crates (essentially manufactured dens) can be remarkably versatile.  For a puppy a warm kennel works as a house training tool (dogs typically won’t soil where they have to sleep), a temporary playpen when you can’t directly supervise the pup, and a cozy bedroom that can comfort the pup during those first few stressful nights away from littermates.  Kennels are hands down the safest way for dogs to travel in cars, are “musts” for canine air travel by law, and are their “home” in hotels where pets are allowed.  A kennel offers a quiet place when a dog is recuperating from an illness or injury and can be a sanctuary when things get hectic around the house.  Every dog should have a place to call its own including your dog.

As long as you don’t use them for punishment, crates can also help you correct some undesirable canine behaviors such as destructive chewing, carrying trash around the house, or getting into items that actually could kill them.  More important crates can help prevent behavior problems before they start by helping owners establish routines for their dogs.

Crate Criteria

Most kennels are made of either thick-gauge metal or molded plastic in various sizes and styles.  Whichever material you choose, your dog’s crate should be ruggedly constructed and fitted with secure door latches.  For portability, look for crates that disassemble or fold up easily.

Above all, make sure your dog’s kennel is the appropriate size, not too big or too small.  The crate should be at least big enough for your dog to stand up without the top touching their shoulders, turn around and lay down.  But a kennel should not be too big, especially for a puppy because of potty training.  Crates that are too large can sabotage house training because the pup can go to the bathroom at one end and then move to the other end to sleep.  If you get a large kennel big enough for when your puppy is an adult just put cardboard boxes inside the kennel to reduce the amount of space in the crate while the puppy is still small.

Affirmative Action

Your job is to teach your dog that the crate is a great place to be and is their safe zone.  No matter what your dog’s age make sure interactions with the kennel are positive.  In fact, if you set up a crate several days before you get your dog, the crate will take on your home’s scent and your dog will see it as just another interesting piece of furniture.

Leave the crate open and allow the dog to go in and out at it’s leisure.  Put a few toys or treats in the crate to get them to go inside.  Stay nearby while your dog is getting acclimated to its kennel.  Once your dog is comfortable enough in the kennel to tolerate the door closed, leave the room and eventually your home for longer and longer periods of time.

Even though your dog loves his kennel he may whine a bit when left alone in it for the first time.  Always wait until your dog is calm and quiet before opening the door, ALWAYS!  If you uncrate a dog because it is whining you teach it that freedom is only a whine away and they will get louder and louder.

Acclimate your dog to its crate while you are home so your dog doesn’t associate the kennel with being alone and ultimately you leaving.  When your dog is crate-comfy enough to be left alone for several hours, crate it 5-10 minutes before leaving and wait 5-10 minutes after returning before you let it out.  Avoid emotional departures, which incites nervousness in dogs, instead be as calm and nonchalant as possible.  And when you let your dog out behave as if they don’t even exist at first.  Take the dog out to go potty and then celebrate your reunion by doing something fun together.

Crating Caveats

  1. Never use a kennel as punishment either deliberately or unintentionally. For example if you crate your dog only when you leave the dog connects the crate with a negative consequence your leaving and begins to view the crate as a negative event.
  2. Don’t put the crate in a high traffic or noisy area as some dogs do not like a lot of noise.  However if you have to due to size of your house consider covering your dog’s kennel with a blanket or sheet to give them some privacy.
  3. Don’t overdo kenneling. While it is advisable to crate your dog for short periods when you are home don’t use the crate as a substitute for interacting with your dog.
  4. To avoid accidental injury don’t leave your dog’s collar on when you kennel it.  Don’t leave any toys that also might cause injury in the kennel with the dog either.
  5. If you have a rescue dog that has crate phobias slowly introduce the crate in a positive manner. If large rejections still exist find a trainer to help you introduce the crate to your dog.