GOOD OR BAD?
We often feel that if we wouldn’t like to be sitting around in a cage, how could we put our canine companions in one! A crate or a play pen often looks like a prison to us and so it is difficult for us to relate it with something positive. Whether a dog would actually enjoy his time in the crate or not depends on how he perceives the crate. It is also based on his previous experiences with a crate. If a puppy is trained to associate the crate to all things positive, he will be more willing to go back in there the next time around. If he has had negative experiences associated with the crate, it could be traumatic for him to stay in one.
Dogs usually prefer a spot in the house where they can hide from the hustle and bustle of the house. A crate could act as their safe little haven (their own bedroom if you will) within the house. When wild dogs need a shut eye, they normally sleep in their own den, a safe pace where they could rest without becoming someone else’s meal. Today’s domestic dog too can consider the crate as their den to get their regular naps.
Even though crates are not bad for dogs/puppies, it is important to know how long can you keep a puppy or a dog crated during a day. This duration essentially varies for different dogs based on their breed, age, medical conditions if any and their feeding schedules. Normally a puppy will need to be taken out more frequently to relieve themselves than an adult dog. A puppy will need to be taken out every 3-4 hours based on how frequently he needs to relieve himself. Also it is very important to understand that the dog’s other needs like sufficient exercise, mental stimulation and opportunities to go out need to be taken care of by the owner.
CHOOSING A CRATE
Once you decide to crate train your dog, the most important things to consider while buying a crate are its size and material. The size of the crate should be big enough so that the dog will be able to stand, sit and lie down comfortably(with his legs stretched) in the crate. The dog should not be cramped up when you put him inside. It is also essential to consider that some dogs need more space vertically while sitting than while standing so make sure the crate is a right fit for the dog before buying one. If it is a large breed then be prepared to change the crate and upgrade to a bigger one when the puppy grows. You can also refer to the APDT guidelines for choosing the right crate for your dog.
There are several types of crates available for dogs. Which material you choose depends on what kind of a dog you have. If you have a small dog, who isn’t very destructive you can go for a soft-sided, wooden or plastic crate. However if you have a big dog, you may need a heavy duty wired crate.
Crates can be a great tool when it comes to housebreaking your puppy. It is however essential to understand that just leaving a puppy in the crate for longer periods of time can cause anxiety in some dogs and they may start to soil the crate. Also it is necessary to know when the puppy really needs to go out and take him out when he needs to relieve himself. If dogs get in the habit of soiling the crate it becomes extremely difficult to teach him otherwise. Also, it is very traumatizing for them to have to poop or pee in the place where they sleep. If you choose a crate of appropriate size(neither too big nor too small) It will be like your dog’s own room which he will be unlikely to soil. If the crate is too big, the dog will have space for his bedroom and then some more for his bathroom.
TIME-OUTS – MANAGEMENT TOOL
The crate is also great as a management tool. If the dog is too much of a chewer or a destroyer, the crate can be also used as a management tool when you cannot supervise him. This however cannot be a substitute for training. Crate can be used for timeouts as a punishment too, however the dog should be extremely comfortable with the crate before it can be used as a punisher as well. Just like children can be sent to their room as a punishment and they will not be scared of their room, similarly the dogs can also be sent to their room(the crate) for punishment. However before that can be done, the dog should have accepted the crate as his room or his go to place in the house. He should be able to understand that the crate is not the reason he is getting punished, his behaviour is!
Apart from all these things, it is extremely essential to give your dog a lot of exercise, mental stimulation and a lot of socialisation which are a very important part of the dog’s development.