When people hear the word, “crate,” they often think that this is a cruel way to treat a dog. But perhaps instead of the word “crate,” we should use the word, “den.” A crate simulates the kind of den that a dog in the wild builds for himself, for protection from the elements, for sleeping and for general security.
A crate is not a prison in the least! My White German Shepherd loves his crate. We actually don’t call it a crate; we refer to it as, “the place.” My dog often goes in there to play with his chew toys, or to just relax and get away from it all. It’s lined with soft blankets, and of all the places in the house, his scent there is the strongest. What could be more alluring? We keep its door open, so he never feels confined, even though when he was a puppy, we’d lock the door when we went out, or to bed. How do you feel about playpens for toddlers? Well, think of a crate as a playpen for a dog.
Crates have many advantages
1) Like a playpen, a crate protects a dog from getting into harmful items around the house, while you are still in the midst of training a new dog. It will come in handy while you’re too busy to watch the dog.
2) It can aid in housebreaking by helping establish a regular, predictable routine. A trained dog will never eliminate himself in his crate, even if he’s been left there for several hours while you’re out.
3) A crate is a refuge, a sanctuary, that a dog can retreat to when he’s tired or to escape from household noise or the presence of unfamiliar guests.
4) With a crate, you don’t have to send your dog to the basement or garage when a guest comes over. When a dog is in a crate, he can still observe and, in a way, be part of the human equation, rather than being isolated in the garage or outside while everyone’s in the living room having a good time.
Crates come in all sizes, and should allow a dog to stand up without hitting his head. The folding-wire type crate is portable and permits good ventilation; plus, allows the dog to see the world around him. These are the highly preferred crates, as opposed to those solid crates that look like igloos, that don’t allow a dog to see the outside except for what’s directly ahead of him. But the plastic crates do work well for traveling, including on airplanes.
Do not reach into a crate unless your dog has been trained to accept this. Remember, the crate simulates a dog’s den in the wild, and sticking your hand in a crate is akin to going into your teenager’s room and rummaging through her diary right when she walks in.
Where should you place the crate? It should be in a high traffic area of the house, but not to the point where it gets in the way. Introduce a dog to a new crate by giving him his favorite treats there. Never, ever send a dog to a crate for punishment, as he will then associate the crate with punishment. Also, don’t confine the dog to the crate only when you leave the house, because he will then associate the crate with you leaving. Instead, simply introduce the crate at varying times of the day. Never slam shut its door, and never admonish a dog while he’s in the crate. Don’t force him to stay inside, either. Remember, you want him to associate the crate with only positive things.