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.
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.
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