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If you have a highly active dog, the idea of putting him or her in a crate might be considered a bad idea. How can all that energy be contained in such a small space? Is crate training an active dog a good idea? Won’t my dog go crazy? Should I really crate train such an active dog?

There are many reasons you should consider crate training your puppy or older dog. Not only can it be useful for safety, and a great training mechanism (go to place), but if you plan to become involved in any sports, competitions, or other training activities, a crate is essential for participation in them.

Crate training for safety

If your active dog tends to chew, door dash, or get into mischeif, a crate can be an essential tool to ensure that he doesn’t get injured or sick while unattended.

Mort is an enthusiastic chewer. His active mind gets the best of him, and when he’s bored he tends to chew things he shouldn’t or scout the house for something to do. So when I’m not home to keep him active or doing something positive, I have to crate him for his own safety. If I didn’t, I’d probably come home to a dog stuffed full of things he shouldn’t have eaten, and a counter thoroughly surfed. I’ve heard of bored dogs breaking into cupboards and eating slug bait, and all kinds of other scary things.

If you don’t use a crate, a dog-proofed room is another safe option. This is what I do when we leave our house for a longer period of time, as a crate should only be used for about 6 hours or less.

Crate training for participation

If you participate in dog sports, from agility to flyball to noseworks, a crate is essential. There are typically dozens to hundreds of dogs at a single event, and it’s impossible to manage that many dogs safely without the use of crates. Your dog will have to be used to and comfortable in a crate to start training and participating in these kinds of activities.

Mort is crate trained, and waiting for his turn at disc dog.

Mort waiting for his turn at a disc dog challenge! Safe and happy in his crate.

It’s a terrific, healthy lifestyle for dogs to be active in such training activities, so it’s worthwhile to invest in a crate and training your dog to learn that good things happen in association with crate time.

Do’s and don’ts: crate training safety tips

  • Don’t leave your dog unattended in a wire crate unless you are certain your dog cannot get his feet or legs stuck in the door(s). There have been numerous cases of dogs being injured very badly in wire crates by attempting to escape from them. Consider a plastic crate or other sturdy and secure options.
  • Fabric crates can easily rip or be chewed through. Only use them when your dog is supervised or within earshot.
    Someone made a small tear bigger. And yes, he eventually escaped since we didn’t have duct tape or a needle and thread to mend it, but luckily only runs to where the toys are and they were with us!
  • Make sure any crate you use is big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in.

An overview of how to approach crate training your dog

We won’t go into the specifics of how to train your dog to get used to a crate, as there are a wealth of resources that will detail step-by-step procedures if you are looking for them. But in a nutshell: Unless your dog already has an issue with the confined space, it is quite straight forward to have him or her accept a crate as a nice and safe place to be. Simply make the crate a highly desirable place to be from the beginning, and don’t make a big deal about your dog being in it.

  • Let your dog choose to be in the space without closing the door (by putting bedding, toys, treats, food in the area), and then do so for longer periods of time. Close the door after your dog is used to the crate, for shorter then longer periods of time.

  • Make being in the crate a matter of fact, something that is simply part of the day and expected, and don’t feel guilty about your dog being there (make sure to use your tone of voice and body language to communicate this).

  • Practice with your dog in a crate while you are home, and then while you are away. Don’t make a big deal about releasing him or her from the crate.

  • And if your dog has separation anxiety, don’t use the crate at all or while you are away (depending on how bad the anxiety is) – this can make the separation anxiety worse and your dog can panic and injure him or herself in the process.

[su_box title=”More crate tips? Let us know!” box_color=”#0f086a”]Do you have more tips for crate training? Other ways you have found the crate useful for living with active dogs? Let us know in the comments![/su_box]

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About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.

  • This is such a great article! I totally believe in crate training, first as a method to housebreaking your dog, then as a way to safely control your dog at an activity.

    In my hiking group, I encourage members to bring dog crates on camping trips. Average dog owners usually question me about this. But when we actually get out there to the campsite, they can safely put their dog away in a crate while we take out camp stoves and cook. They are converted to crate training advocates at that point.

    When Nanook first came to live with me, she was not crate trained and she wasn’t house broken. She hated Jake’s solid crate. I noticed she tolerated the cage crate, so that is what I started with. She was a victim of neglect, so there were some special neurosis I had to deal with. I originally enticed her to go in with treats. After that, I did the following to get her to calm down and just BE in the crate:

    moved the crate into the living room so she could sit in the crate and still be with us.
    fed her in the crate.
    created a bed space in the crate.
    put her entry into the crate on command. I would say it every time I wanted her to go in.

    It took a while (about 2 months) but she grew to love the crate.

    • Nanook sounds a little like our Tig! She was so panic-y when first adopted that she wouldn\’t even go in our kitchen (that took 8 months of waiting), so while we tried to feed her in the crate, treats, etc she simply wouldn\’t go in on her own accord. She was so anxious everywhere we left it alone. Also it was low priority (she didn\’t do anything, and we couldn\’t take her anywhere anyway) so we left it. Well lo and behold, we crate trained Mort right after we adopted him (totally high priority in his case!) and what happened? Tig realized the crate is a highly desirable spot because the other dog \”wanted\” it. So she inadvertently became instantly crate trained, and now goes into the crate all the time. Race each other to it when I say \”get in your house!\”. Jealousy… I swear it\’s the best training trick sometimes.Now our cat even fights for the crates. I looked over once and Mort and our cat were curled up next to each other in the small crate, door wide open, and they really don\’t like each other at all. :) I think things would have rapidly changed had I closed that door!

  • So very true-we weren’t very familiar or knowledgeable about the importance of crate training until we’ve started to become involved in dog sports. Terra and Kronos were inadvertently crate trained-Terra would be put in a crate at bedtime for sleeping when it was too cold outside for her (this was before she came to live with me where she now sleeps free and sometimes on the bed with us). Kronos would be left in a crate with some toys, a comfy bed, and tidbit snack when I had to leave for class (he was still a puppy so he couldn’t be free for long lengths of time because he still had a puppy bladder and I didn’t feel comfortable yet leaving him out in the yard either). Since my classes weren’t super long and he was free otherwise, he quickly acclimated to the crate. Bella hated the crate though. I got the bright idea to leave her in a crate when she would have been perfectly fine being free in a room. She barked the whole time in there. She hadn’t been crated her whole life and she was used to being free with access to inside and a couple of acres. But now we are using the crate for things like Agility trials, and she is doing really well in it (and we don’t have plastic or wire crates yet-just the cloth ones). The dogs are learning that the crate is a chill space where they can relax and rejuvenate or where they have to wait just for a short time while I go walk a course or have to go do something. We honestly don’t really use the crate for Bella, Terra, or Kronos otherwise now though, because we have a doggie door and as long as the house is dog-proofed (no food on counters and anything I think they would get into put away or out of reach) before I leave, they can hang out inside or outside in the yard as they please.

    • Oh I would love a doggie door! That sounds wonderful! Tig has free reign of the house when we leave, but I think even if I could fully dog proof this place Mort would still find something to eat (and now it\’s a risky thing for him with his internal scarring of even small things blocking him up) :( I can leave him unattended now for short periods of time now that he\’s matured and learned a bit… but he\’s still pretty sneaky!That\’s cool that Bella learned to like it – I think the sports/activities is a pretty great way to crate train because they are so rewarded by being patient, and there\’s so many things to watch so it\’s still a positive thing. Of course when the dogs actually run a race all the crated dogs do is bark at them because it\’s so exciting :)

  • We crate trained Jack when we got him – even though he was 8years old…at 105lbs, I need a place to put him that was out of the way. He took to it immediately – and even more so when we covered it with a blanket so it became his den. He uses it as his safe zone and puts himself to bed in it each night. He doesn’t always stay there, but he knows it’s his spot.

  • Nice article, Very informative. Thanks for sharing!