dog beggingSome dog owners see crates as “cages”, confinement for their animals, to be used as punishment or only if absolutely necessary. Crates are not only necessary at times, but can also be indispensable, caring tools in the hands of responsible pet owners.

When used properly, crating can create more enjoyment of life for you and your dog by creating a safe, secure place for training, transportation, and even relaxation purposes.

At Oakland Veterinary Referral Services, we have discovered that crate-trained dogs experience less stress and tend to do better overall while they are with us, which is why we are touting the benefits of crate training.

Benefits of Crate Training

Dogs are genetically hard-wired to be den animals. The wild cousins of our domesticated dogs sleep, hide, and raise their young inside dens. For many dogs, a crate can become their “den”, a comfortable place to rest and wait for their owners to return.

Most pets will need to spend time in a crate at some point, whether it’s while at the veterinary hospital, during a grooming or boarding stay, while traveling, or due to an emergency situation.

Pets benefit from crate training in the following ways:

  • Training – A crate can be a valuable tool when training a puppy on the rules of the house and for housebreaking. Crates can also be used intermittently to keep a new dog separate while he or she is integrating with other pets and learning what is expected of him or her in the home.
  • Safety – The safest way for a dog to travel is crated, even in the car when secured. If your dog feels comfortable in his or her crate, traveling by car or by plane (where crates are required) will be that much easier for both of you.
  • Peace of mind – Being at the veterinary hospital while awaiting or recovering from a medical procedure is a stressful event for any pet. Dogs who are used to being crated will experience far less stress than those who aren’t accustomed to the experience of being confined.
  • Emergency transport – Crates are never more important than in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency. For their safety and the safety of others, pets will need to be crated while being evacuated or sheltered, or while waiting to be reunited with their families.

Getting Started

Your dog’s crate should be just large enough for him or her to stand in and turn around. If your dog is still a puppy, purchase a crate that will accommodate his or her adult size.

Help your dog get used to his or her crate with the following tips:

  • Situate the crate in an area of the home where your family spends a lot of time, so your dog doesn’t feel isolated, but that is quiet enough to be a refuge.
  • Offer treats right outside and inside the crate. When your dog is comfortably taking treats from inside the crate, begin offering meals inside.
  • Once your dog has become accustomed to standing and eating inside the crate, close the door during the meal and open it as soon as your dog has finished.
  • Slowly increase the amount of time your dog spends in the crate with the door closed, being careful to observe his or her comfort level.
  • If your dog demonstrates anxiety or distress during this acclimation process don’t make your dog “cry it out” since this may make it worse. Consult your veterinarian if your dog is too distressed to be crated.

In order to instill positive feelings in your dog about being crated, it’s important to never use it as a punishment tool. Puppies should not be crated for more than 3-4 hours at a time, as they generally can’t hold their bladders any longer than that. Similarly, the amount of time senior dogs are crated may need to be kept to a minimum, as it can create feelings of anxiousness or depression in some.

If you have any questions about crate training, please don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian or the staff at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services.