We crate-train our dogs as soon as we get them—whether they enter our family as puppies or adults. You can find different opinions on crate training on the internet, but we—and most good dog trainers—find the benefits of the crate far outweigh the well-intentioned but misguided concerns of internet strangers.
Here are five reasons to crate-train your dogs.
Crate-Training Your Dog Makes Toilet Training Simple
Crates make toilet training a new puppy or adult dog really easy. Dogs won’t urinate or defecate where they sleep, starting from a young age.
When Bing came home aged a year and a half, the first thing he did was cock a leg on one of the stools at my breakfast bar. Not a great start. I knew the SPCA had found him as a stray, but I could also tell from our very brief time together that he’d had a home in the past.
A big change, such as a new home in Bing’s case, can lead to confusion in adult dogs about some of the basics. I was lucky to have a crate on hand (a side-effect of being a veterinary nurse) and started crate-training Bing that very night.
He took to it really well—someone had obviously done the basics of this before—and was house-trained within a day.
While toilet training is the reason that many new dog owners start using a crate, it’s far from the only thing it’s good for.
A Crate Keeps Your Dog Safe
A crate keeps our dogs safe and gives them a familiar place to retreat to where they feel comfortable.
Crates mimic a wild dog’s den as it is small, enclosed and protected. Our dogs know that the crate is a safe spot to relax and that nothing bad will happen to them in it.
We never use the crate as punishment. If our dogs are misbehaving, we handle it with training, not by locking them away.
Their positive experiences in the crate makes the dogs WANT to go into it. Gunther prefers to be where we are most of the time but will sprint into his crate if asked. Bing will often just hop into Gunther’s crate when it’s empty if he feels like it. (And especially if Gunther hasn’t finished off his Kong.)
If your dog knows the crate is their safe place, they can hide there in stressful situations , like at Halloween where there are fireworks and trick-or-treater. Give your dog some extra yummy stuffed feeding toys or a chew and they will be happily distracted and even more chilled out in the crate, no matter what’s going on outside it..
While we train our dogs to see the crate as their safe place, there’s no denying that a crate is one of the safest places to leave your dog when you can’t supervise them.
Gunther is always on the hunt for something to do. We’d come back to absolute carnage if he was unsupervised and loose in the house. He has never been destructive of property before but we have always redirected him to things he’s allowed to chew, maim or destroy. Left to his own devices, I wouldn’t trust him to make the right choices.
Crating our main menace when we leave is a guarantee that he can’t accidentally hurt himself, or the other two, while we’re gone.
Crate Training Makes Managing Lots of Dogs Possible
When you bring a puppy into a multi-pet household, it can upset your other pet’s existing dynamic. Crating is a great way to slowly introduce more animals to your current menagerie, and manage things going forward. While new household members are almost always overwhelming for the resident pets, most of them adapt well if allowed to do so at their own pace.
Gunther, Bing and Fred are all very different beasts. Gunther is super high-energy, Bing is more of a couch potato and Fred is… well… a cat.The three of them were never going to get along instantly so at the start, When we brought Gunther home, we used the crate to give The Original Two all the space they needed to adjust to life with a Malinois puppy (though to be honest, they still haven’t, and we’re still using the crate to help.)
We are going to add to our pack in the future—we’ll keep you all up-to-date!—and we will use the crate to give everyone the appropriate amount of rest time and one-on-one attention.
We like high-energy, working breeds that require a lot of structure in their day to keep them in great mental and physical shape. Crating future pups will mean they will get the right amount of rest and time to process all the fun things we learn together.
Crate-Training Your Dog Makes It Easier to Have Visitors
Some of you reading this blog may find it hard to believe but not everyone likes dogs as much as we do. We’ve got friends who are scared of dogs, or simply aren’t fans of them.
Crating our dogs means we can have any of our friends over to the house and nobody feels uncomfortable. This goes for tradespeople and anyone else popping over to work on the house too. Renovations, when the time comes, will be much easier and safer for the dogs because we can keep them crated away from any building work.
Similarly, when I bring either dog to the office, I put them in a crate during meetings with other staff or students, to minimise the risk of interruption by friendly snoots.
Travelling With Dogs is Much Simpler With a Crate
Crating our dogs means we can travel with them almost anywhere. This, to us, is the best reason to crate-train your dogs.
I got Bing and Fred in Canada. When I came home to Ireland, they flew too. The journey meant that Bing had to spend a long time in a crate in the hold of a plane. It would have been super stressful for him if he hadn’t been comfortable in his crate beforehand.
Crates are also the safest way to travel with your dog in the car. Most people don’t realise that, in a car crash, your dog becomes a missile that can cause serious injury to themselves and other passengers.
Gunner Kennels are tested to the highest standards and are proven to keep your dog safe in the car in the event of an accident. A lot of dog owners we respect have Gunner kennels bolted into their vehicles . And they have loads of extras, including fans and bowls that can be attached to make your dog’s car journey as comfortable as possible.
Our only complaint about Gunner kennels is that they aren’t available in Ireland yet—and that their blog makes me cry reading about the dogs that have survived awful crashes. However, as soon as we have our dream vehicle setup, we will be importing a couple to bolt into the back of it to make it the ultimate canine adventure wagon.
Crates also help us settle the boys when we reach our destination. We use Gunther’s crate to provide familiarity and his usual routine among other things. You can read about it in our post about finding a dog-friendly Airbnb.
Crates can get a bad rap because they are built to contain dogs. That’s true, but we use this containment to increase the freedom our dogs have to be part of our daily lives. Used correctly, crates can provide a secure, safe structure for your dogs to thrive in.