American, British, Australian, German, Swiss, French kennel clubs, and welfare organizations recommend crates as a training tool for new puppy owners. Sweden and Finland have made crate training illegal and they are only to be used for transportation, dog shows, and during exceptional cases when the dog is recovering after a surgery or trauma. Why are the opinions about crate training so divided? What is Dogo’s position in this debate?
When to use a crate?
Dogs do not eliminate where they sleep. But we cannot stress it enough, the frequency at which a dog must go out. A rule of thumb: puppy age in months = hours that a puppy can hold their bladder. So a two-month puppy MUST go to eliminate every two hours, four months doggo every 4 hours. Even an adult dog should be taken outside every 6 hours. If you cannot come back home, ask a neighbor or a trusted dog sitter for help. If your dog has digestive problems or you notice that taking the puppy out every two hours is not frequent enough, do it once per hour. The frequency the puppy needs to do their needs applies at night as well. Sounds exhausting? It is. But remember the rewarding play moments that you receive in exchange.
So what is the maximum length my puppy can stay in a crate with closed doors? At night, you can extend your puppy’s time in a closed crate up to 6 hours. However, remember, a crate is not where the dog should spend their days. It is not your dog’s room. If you need to leave your dog for longer than a few hours alone prepare an area for long confinement. It could be a room separated from others with baby gates or a pen.
Teaching the dog to be alone
Dogs are pack animals and being alone is a skill that they need to learn. Build a strong positive association with the crate by introducing toys, chew snacks in the crate. Your dog has to learn that a crate is a den where good things happen. A crate should never be used as punishment. For steps on how to get your dog used the crate either go to the Explore section in the Dogo app or this blog post.
Anxious, fearful dogs need regular exercise, a predictable schedule, and environment, so they feel safe, are able to relax, and get their deep sleep. Keep in mind that depending on the dog’s age, your dog needs 12 to 20 hours of sleep each day. If you travel a lot and cannot provide your dog with a constant environment, a crate is a great way to bring a little piece of home to your dog. Many dogs who are anxious and have been conditioned to love their crates will relax easier and be able to sleep. Remember sleep deprivation for dogs as for humans can be a reason for ill temper.
Crate training is also a great exercise that you can do if you plan to move houses. The exercise will help to reduce stress when moving into a new place. Getting the dog gradually used to be in a crate long before the move will mean your dog has a familiar place to be after the move.
If your dog is crate trained, sudden environmental changes and the need to transport the dog via the plane will be a bit less stressful. Without a gradual introduction, the dog may panic and frantically claw at confinement.
When not to use a crate?
”A crate may be your dog’s den, but just as you would not spend your entire life in one room of your home, your dog should not spend most of their time in their crate.” – Humane Society of the United States
Crate is a transitional tool for education and not your dog’s room with the locked door and no way to exit it. It is important to differentiate between short term and long term confinements. With the exception at night (see above Potty training), a dog should not stay in a crate longer than a few hours. If you need to leave your dog alone – prepare a puppy-proofed area. You can use baby gates to fence off a room, make sure there are no electric chords or valuables to chew on. Plan three areas: bedding with food and water next to it; a play area; only if your puppy is not house trained yet and there is nobody, absolutely nobody who can take them out – a potty area.
Crates are never to be used to punish your dog or to give a time out! Never.
Solving behavioral problems
If your dog is a coach chewer, a food thief, a shoe repairer, suffers from separation anxiety, crating your dog is not a solution. Confining a dog, who has too much-unused energy, who needs mental stimulation and occupation, could worsen the behavioral problem. You should find the underlying cause of the behavior, e.g. boredom, lack of physical activity, social interaction, anxiety and address it. Please contact Dogo trainers if you need an extra hand.
Every dog is an individual and even if we include crate training in our New Dog training program, evaluate your dog and decide what is best for them. As there are claustrophobic people, not all dogs learn to enjoy their crates. Even if you don’t want to crate your dog it is important to teach your dog to stay alone in a room. Dedicate a living room to your dog and similar as with crate training, teach your dog to stay alone, relax, and fall asleep in the living room.
Crate training can be cruel if it’s done inappropriately. Leaving your dog in a crate throughout the entire date is animal cruelty. Please provide a puppy-proofed area if you need to leave your dog alone for longer than a few hours. Crate is not a place for your dog when you are at home. Dogs need interaction. Crating a dog for extended periods of time can result in a poorly socialized, aggressive, or hyperactive dog.
We believe that Sweden and Finland have passed laws to prevent misuse of the crate and depriving dogs of social interaction, physical activity, and basic needs. Please share this article with your friends to educate them that a training tool, like a crate, if misused can become a problem.