Bringing home a brand new puppy is one of the most exciting things an owner can experience. The pup’s health and happiness is now in your hands. Though there’s plenty to consider, one topic that’s caused a lot of debate is whether crate training is cruel.
According to veterinarians, crate training is not cruel for dogs. In fact, there are plenty of great benefits to crate training. For example, it’s great for providing a safe space for your dog, house-breaking a pup, but also prepares them for traveling, overnight stays at dog hotels, and more.
Let’s examine the pros and cons of using dog crates, along with the perceived benefits. Continue on to learn why it works, why some dog owners think it’s cruel, and some alternatives if you still decide to skip crate training.
4 Benefits of Crate Training
Crate training simply works and there are several benefits that comes with such training. Contrary to popular belief, it’s the most efficient, but also the least stressful method of molding desirable behaviors in puppies.
For example, it’s an excellent way to potty train your new pup, but can also teach your dog other valuable and good behaviors. Here are the four main benefits that owners should expect when going through with crate training.
1. Crates are best to house-train a puppy
Perhaps the most popular reason dog owners use a crate is for housetraining (or housebreaking) a puppy. Unless you want your indoor dog to do their “business” everywhere and anywhere, housetraining is essential.
Dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep. They will try their very best to hold it in while in the crate. By keeping the puppy in the crate for long periods of time, the dog will quickly learn that the time to potty is when they’re out of the crate.
This practice will help train your puppy to hold its bladder and bowel. So as an adult dog, they won’t be urinating in the car and such. Housetraining takes time and a little patience. Some dog breeds will take longer than others, such as the Shih Tzu or Maltese.
And of course, be ready for some accidents. Puppies are young and haven’t quite learned how to fully control their bladder. Fortunately, the crates that we recommend makes it super easy to clean up after these accidents (see below).
2. Your dog’s crate can act as a “safe haven” for them
According to VCA Hospitals, dogs will often pick a small area of the home (corner, dog bed, below the coffee table, etc.) to go and relax – free from any stress. And yes, this happens despite being in a “safe” environment, such as your home.
Likewise, dogs in the wild will find or create a small den to sleep and spend some relaxing time in. It’s in their nature to locate an anxiety-free safe space.
Similarly, a dog crate can be the safe haven for your puppy. Although it may take them some time to get used to, they usually end up enjoying the crate.
To add to the “den effect,” I’d suggest wrapping the crate with a large blanket. You can also purchase the MidWest Homes Crate Cover, which perfectly fits around any standard crate (just make sure you pick the right size). Check it out at Amazon here.
Dr. Fox (DVM) says that the most important part of crate training is the introduction of your puppy to the crate. Instead of forcing your dog in the crate, tossing in treats or their favorite toy will facilitate the training process and make it more enjoyable for both parties.
3. You can teach a puppy to stop chewing
First of al, there’s no way to completely stop puppy chewing. Puppies in the teething stage will have the uncontrollable urge to chew whatever they can. However, you can teach them what they can and cannot chew with dog crates.
Put your dog’s chew toys in the crate and only allow him or her to chew whats in the crate. This rule helps the dog learn that chewing on your favorite pair of shoes is a big NO. With some time, dogs will likely learn that whats in the crate is “their property.”
4. Dog crates are convenient
There are many instances where dogs need to be in crates. The most common example is when you (or anybody) is not present at home. Leaving a puppy alone at home is a very bad idea.
But what other situations do dogs need to be in crates? Using dog crates is the safest way of transporting your dog by car, especially if they’re an active puppy.
Dr. Karen Becker (DVM) suggests that getting your dog used to being in crates is useful when your dog needs to visit the animal hospital, travel by plane, stay overnight at a friends or a pet hotel.
Having your dog in a dog crate can help you somewhat control your dog in situations where you have no control. It’ll keep them (and others) safe when in doubt.
Why Some Believe Crate Training is “Bad”
There’s a longstanding myth that crate training is “cruel” or “bad.” In fact, that’s probably the reason you’re here – you’ve heard this very myth. There is some merit to why people may think that crate training is bad or cruel.
In actuality, crate training can be bad if not done correctly. With that said, there are a few things to be wary of when starting your crate training journey. Bad practices can be counter-productive and produce negative behaviors.
Crate Training Cautions
Firstly, never use your dog crate as a form of punishment. Many novice owners make this mistake far too often. For this to work, the dog crate needs to be viewed as a “pleasant” space.
Often times, owners may “punish” the puppy by forcing them into the dog crate. If this happens too many times, the dog will develop a fear of the crate and ultimately, refuse to go in.
The dog crate is not a jail cell for dogs. Don’t leave your puppy in there for too long, especially unsupervised. Neglectful owners sometimes put their dogs in there for way too long.
How much time a puppy should spend in a dog crate will vary by age. However, puppies older than 17 weeks can spend 4 to 5 hours a day (max) in a dog crate.
Putting your puppy in the crate for longer than that can cause anxiety, depression and unnecessary stress. Remember that mandatory crating should not be a permanent thing.
As soon as you can trust your puppy to not destroy your home, the crate should be a voluntary space to relax. You wouldn’t want to spend most of your life confined in a bedroom either.
The Best Crates for Crate Training
When picking out a dog crate, there are things to look out for. It’s one of the more expensive one-time purchases you’ll ever have to make as a dog owner. However, don’t skimp on quality.
Some dogs are more aggressive escape artists than others. Poorly made dog crates can potentially break if your dog is always chewing on it.
This creates a dangerous scenario, as the puppy can potentially hurt itself. In some rarer instances, the dog gets caught in the crate while trying to escape. It’s potentially a fatal situation.
With that said, we’ve tested a ton of great dog crates – perfect for crate training! For most dog breeds, here are our two favorite picks:
The iCrate by Midwest Homes is by far our favorite dog crate. It has all the best features that a dog crate should have. And, there are thousands of happy customers to prove it.
The iCrate is made with high quality, durable metal. Plus, they really focus on dog safety with their design. The frame is coated with a non-toxic electro finish in a beautiful satin black. It’s 100% dog safe and looks great in the living room.
Edges are rounded and not sharp like cheaper alternatives. It reduces potential injuries that could occur from your dog walking in, out and about the crate.
The standard divider panel is perfect if you have a large dog breed. Puppies will be small, but they grow very quickly. The panel allows you to adjust the living space of the crate according to the dog’s growth.
Accidents will happen with crate training. The removable plastic tray allows you to quickly clean up after your dog when they happen.
For convenience, the iCrate has a foldable design. In less than a minute, you’ll be able to collapse the crate into a compact carrier!
If Amazon is getting into the dog crate business, then you know how important this tool is for dog owners. Like with everything that Amazon makes, you can expect good quality for a decent price.
The AmazonBasics dog crate has a lot of similarities to the Midwest Homes iCrate. In fact, the only difference is minor cosmetics. We gave the slight nod to the iCrate because its been in the market for longer.
With that said, the AmazonBasics uses a dual slide bolt lock to secure your dog in the crate. It’s a simply, yet effective design that simply works.
Like the iCrate, this crate has a double door option that’s perfect for larger dogs. It gives you multiple access points to your dog and whatever you put inside. It’s generally recommended for larger sized dog crates.
It also has great features like the divider panel and removable plastic tray. Both of which, are what sets these crates apart from the others.
If you frequently transport your dog, the AmazonBasic’s collapsible design is perfect. It allows for easy transportation and storage (if necessary).
3 Alternatives to Crate Training
If after all this and you’re still not sold on crate training, that’s fine. It does help a lot with building good behaviors, but it’s by no means necessary for every dog.
With that said, here are the best alternatives to crate training.
1. Using a fenced gate and playpen
This is essentially the same thing as a dog crate, except you’re providing more space for your dog. Owners usually use fences to limit the space to say, just the kitchen.
It’s more for containing your dog while giving them the freedom to still actively move around. If you go with this option, make sure to fence off an indoor area.
Likewise, play pens offer a similar enclosed space. It’s pretty much a crate with an opened top and reserved for owners that have enough space to fit a play pen.
Keep in mind that a puppy can grow large enough to climb or jump over the fence or play pen. So, it’s not always the best alternative.
2. Sending your puppy to doggy daycare
The best, and most costly, alternative to dog crates may be to take your puppy to doggie daycare. There will be requirements that you need to meet, such as the Bordetella vaccine, but it’s all relatively easy.
Depending on your daycare center, there may be certain restriction of aggressive dog breeds or on age. You’ll need to call in and ask about those.
Like I said, it’s a great alternative, but not the most ideal alternative for most people. The cost can add up, but it’s certainly a viable option if you can afford this.
3. Setting up a dedicated room for your pup
If you have extra space in your house, you can turn a dedicated room into an enclosure for your dog. First, you want to make sure that anything potentially hazardous to your pup is gone.
Anything that your dog can chew on should be taken out of the room. Or at the very least, anything that you care about getting chewed.
For example, a utility room or bathroom can work well for this. If you plan to set up the puppy’s pads in the bathroom, then the bathroom is an obvious choice.
This alternative is not perfect, but it’s something worth looking into if you absolutely do not want to go with a dog crate for whatever reason.
Is Crate Training Right For My Dog?
Crate training is not cruel, but actually beneficial in many ways. It teaches your dog valuable lessons and good behaviors that would be otherwise difficult to teach.
I highly suggest crate training for new puppies. It works with every dog and can certainly work for yours too. Just keep in mind that some dog breeds don’t take crate training too well. They require a little more patience and lots of positive reinforcement.
The key to crate training is to be persistent. Despite what the frustrated dog owners say, all dogs are capable of being housebroken through crate training. Some just take longer than others.
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