The Proper Use of a Crate


A crate can be very useful if you own a dog.  It is very helpful for house-training, home alone training, to prevent destructiveness and may serve as a dog’s safe area. It’s good to train a dog to be comfortable while confined in a crate to help it at the vet, groomer, during travel and if the dog needs to be confined for any other reason.  A crate should not be where the dog spends most of its time.

A crate should be purchased to fit your dog when it is fully grown.  It should be big enough for the dog to stand upright, turn around and sleep in comfortably.  If the crate is housing a puppy, a portion can be blocked off to suit the size of the puppy and more space can be given as it grows.  Some crates come with a divider, or a cardboard box can fill up the space nicely for dogs that don’t chew.  If a puppy or dog eliminates in a crate, it has most likely been left in the crate longer than it could hold its bladder.  The crate only encourages puppies to hold “it.” It’s not a magic teacher. Many dog owners make the mistake of leaving the puppy too long in the crate when no one is home, causing the puppy to have a negative experience in the crate.

A puppy should only be left in a crate for as many hours as its age in months plus one. If you have a three month old puppy, it shouldn’t be confined to a crate longer than four hours without being given the freedom to eliminate and get some mental and physical exercise.  The crate is a tool and its use should be adjusted with the age and progress of the puppy.  It’s proper to use the crate to teach a puppy to hold it bladder while indoors.  As the puppy learns this, it should be in the crate less and less over time.  By six months, most puppies should have earned their freedom in the house and going in the crate should be a choice, not a necessity. 

When puppies are crated for too many hours and for too many months they, as well as their owners, become reliant on the crate to control the puppy’s behavior. This is very detrimental.  Dogs are not meant to be caged.  Crating a dog for a workday of 8-10 hours often results in an under exercised, mentally and physically under stimulated dog.  This can lead to hyperactivity, destructiveness, mouthing, barking and jumping as a means to get the attention and stimulation dogs crave. It becomes a vicious cycle. Owners crate the dog to prevent such things, but crating the dog also causes these behaviors to develop.  As soon as a puppy is crate trained, there needs to be a plan to give the puppy more freedom and teach it how to behave in the house. 

If you are interested in more information on crate training or need more information on raising a puppy, you may call me or read Before and After Getting Your Puppy by Dr. Ian Dunbar or Perfect Puppy in 7 Days by Dr. Sophia Yin.

For dogs that do not like to go in the crate, here is a video of me helping one dog re-learn to like his crate.