To Crate Or Not to Crate?

To crate or not to crate, that is the question. Many pet parents find themselves facing the difficult decision of whether or not to crate their animals, myself included. When I got my first dog, Midnight, she was not crate trained. My mom and I put up baby gates to block her from going into the bedrooms and bathroom. My other pup, Mason, was not crated until he was about nine months old. We had previously had him in a baby play yard which kept him confined but allowed him to roam a bit. When he was nine months old and big enough to walk the play yard across the floor, we bought him a crate, size XXL.

However, with my dog Coco, crate training was a completely different story. When we first brought her home, we put her in the same play yard we had used with Mason and at first everything seemed fine…until my mom and I came home one day to find this little 10 week old puppy roaming around the living room by herself. Somehow she had gotten out of the play yard. There were no openings or cracks for her to get through, no levers for her to release. After the third time of coming home to find her having somehow escaped, we went about setting up a camera and discovered that she was climbing out of the play yard on her own and realized it was time to buy her a crate. Needless to say she was not happy about it and we have discovered that she is more of a dog who would prefer to sleep outside her crate rather than in it but she tolerates it.

I chose to crate my dogs for a variety of reasons, first and foremost for their safety. Not only was Coco an escape artist, but when she was about four months old, she chewed through my mom’s laptop cord. The vet said she was lucky that it barely shocked her and didn’t kill her instead. My mom also had a friend that she worked with who told her a terrifying story of leaving her two dogs out while she was running errands, only to come back and find that the two had attacked each other, leaving one of them dead from a punctured artery. Even though Mason and Coco get along fine, I was terrified that would happen because at the time, Mason outweighed Coco by about 50 pounds. I also crate them at night.

If you are thinking of crate training your dog, the most important thing to remember is that a crate is NOT to be used as a form of punishment. There are also right ways and wrong ways to crate train your puppy or adult dog, and you should always consult with your vet before beginning crate training.

How Do I Know What Size of Crate to Buy?

You definitely do not want to get a crate that is too small for your furry friend, but you do not want to get one that is especially large if you are crate training a puppy. The bigger the space for them to roam, the more likely they are to do their business on one end and sleep on the other. Most crates come with a divider so you can make the crate smaller; however, the crate should also be big enough that your dog can comfortably stand, sit, and turn around or lay down. Mason and Coco both have size XXL crates because of their weight and how tall they are. When Coco was in the first stages of crate training, we bought her the XL crate. Labrador Training HQ offers some excellent tips on how to find the right size of crate for your dog, and what type of crate.

What Type of Crate Should I Buy?

Purchasing a crate might seem easy enough, until you get to the pet store and realize that there are many different types of crates to choose from. You have mesh crates that are easily collapsible, wire crates, and so on. You will want to choose a crate that is sturdy yet breathable for your pet. Note: the soft, collapsible crates are NOT recommended for traveling if you choose to crate your pet during travel. Chewy.com offers some great choices in crates, including the crates I use for Mason and Coco and the play yard as well.

Mason and Coco (crate size XXL)

Mason and Coco (crate sizes XXL)

Crate Training Pros and Cons (courtesy of The Doberman Club):

PROS

  • Crate training helps in housebreaking a puppy
    • Note: Puppies should NOT be left in a crate unattended for more than 2-3 hours
  • Crates offer Fido a home of his/her own
  • Crate training keeps Fido safe from himself and also keep your home safe from Fido
  • Crates provide your dog with a familiar and safe space, no matter where he/she may be

CONS

  • Crates are cruel only if the dog is left inside for excessive or extended periods of time
  • Crates are also cruel if it is too small
  • NEVER put your furry friend inside the crate with a collar or leash or any other restraint attached
  • If your crate is not assembled properly or ventilated properly, it could be dangerous

For more information on crate training your furry friend, consider the following videos:

A final note: Crate training can be a difficult process and it is important not to get frustrated if your puppy or dog does not take to their crate right away. When you first bring the crate home, set it up and let Fido explore and sniff as much as he/she wants. Leave the door open and let them wander in and out, and reward them each time they go in either with a favorite treat or a favorite toy. The best thing you can do is to make the crate a fun and positive experience so it doesn’t seem as scary.

Featured Image Credit: Michael Coté (modified)

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