Dog crates: life savers or cruel boxes?

By Lance Gardner (Lance) on April 14, 2010

Many people seem to think that a crate is harmful to the dog in some way, so I should say right away that I disagree and here is why: When you and your dog are having a difficult day, he just chewed up your favorite quilt while lying down on your bed covered with dirt, you found a puddle in one room and a pile in another, and you are ready to resort to physical violence, restrain yourself, carefully put the dog in the crate, get a cup of calming tea or extra dark chocolate, and give yourself whatever time it takes to calm down without being concerned about what else your buddy may be up to.

Many people seem to think that a crate is harmful to the dog in some way, so I should say right away that I disagree and here is why: When you and your dog are having a difficult day, he just chewed up your favorite quilt while lying down on your bed covered with dirt, you found a puddle in one room and a pile in another, and you are ready to resort to physical violence, restrain yourself, carefully put the dog in the crate, get a cup of calming tea or extra dark chocolate, and give yourself whatever time it takes to calm down without being concerned about what else your buddy may be up to. After all, they are now safely enclosed in their crate which was set up before hand to ensure there are no hazards, you can’t hurt them, they can’t hurt you, themselves, or anything else, and everything is somewhat peaceful for at least few minutes. You can even leave the house if you have to.

So now that I have covered one of the extremes, here are some other reasons to have crate and train your dog to use it willingly. First, housebreaking will go much better if your newfound bundle of joy is not able to wander the house and leave puddles and piles when you are not paying attention. Almost all critters will avoid their own messes and will not want to lie down or even get near especially poop piles. And this is where crates can also be abused: all critters also need to have somewhere to go on a regular basis. Do not put your dog in a box and expect them to stay there for an extended period with no food, water, or means of eliminating waste. Especially puppies need to get out often, sometimes every hour or so, depending on the dog.

My personal favorite set up is a bit much for some people, but it saves me a lot of time and trouble in the end. I have a wire crate that is pushed up against a wall. I have also installed a dog door in the wall, with a hole in the crate so the dogs (I have 2) can go in and out as they need to. The yard is fenced in so they cannot get out. This way, they can get out of the elements if they want to, they always have access to water and a place to run, eliminate, or just stretch out, and I can be gone for extended periods without being concerned they may be causing problems in the house. When I am home, I can open the door of their crate and allow them to keep me company. I wish I had put this together a long time ago, as it would have saved me many problems such as trash raids and chewed Easter baskets.

To teach a dog not to leave surprises inside, you need to be right there when a puddle or pile does occur. So, initially block off a small easy to clean area such as a kitchen, and plan on spending some time with your dog while you are both there. When you first get home, or let your dog out if his crate, immediately take them outside to your designated pee spot, and praise them when they do what you want. And pay attention to their body language when they get ready to do something, as you will need to recognize what they look like BEFORE they actually do something inside.

Now you are back inside, and you see your buddy beginning to arch their back or posture for a pee, immediately say NO firmly, whisk them outside by any means available (pick up if small, lead by collar or neck scruff if larger), take them to their spot, and again praise when they do their thing where you want them to. Especially for a puppy, this also means ensuring the spot to go is close enough you can get them there quickly, not a 5 minute stroll across the yard, at least not initially. If you catch them in the act, you do pretty much the same thing, except there may not be anything left in them for praise. After about a week of this, your dog should be well on their way to understanding what is going on.

If you plan on being gone for an extended time, you will need to have contingency plans for housebreaking. The most effective method, although a bit more time consuming, is to have a large crate, or 2 pushed together. On one side is some grass or similar for them to eliminate on, and on the other is their bed, water, toys and such. And if you have someone that you trust to take your dog out while you are not there, that is even better. Hopefully, the dog will learn to associate the grass with where to eliminate, and not soil their own bed. It will take a little longer to fully housebreak

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your buddy, but at least you will not be forcing them to go in their own bed. Make sure you change their grass often, as well, as you don’t want them associating a stinky mess with their living quarters.

If you are in an apartment or similar situation without a yard, you might even be able to train your dog to use a litter

 

box or newspaper. The training method would be similar, but realize your box will need to be larger than your dog, and dogs sometimes like to kick up dirt around their area as a marking tool. Pick a designated spot, probably lined with heavy duty plastic, rubber, or a large shallow pan, and encourage elimination in that spot. Again, change often, especially after they have learned this is the spot to go.

 

Many people seem to think dogs need a lot of sleeping room.  Well, here are my 2 dogs (no longer with me) that insisted on sharing this bed I thought was barely big enough for one.  Imagine them trying to move around in a crate that small?

Related articles:
accidents, crate, dog, dog crate, dogs, haven, housebreaking, pet, pets, quiet place, safe, sanctuary, train, training, travel

About Lance Gardner
I have an interest in just about anything that gets me outside, as well as anything that is alive or grows, and in making things. So my hobbies include gardening, outdoors, photography, dogs, woodworking, and most importantly raising my son.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Great article, Lance AlohaHoya Apr 30, 2010 10:46 AM 10
crates irisloverdee Apr 30, 2010 10:29 AM 2

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