Guidance on Crate Training

Crate Training

You’ve decided to add a new pooch to your family. Congratulations! Whether you’ve chosen an older dog or a puppy, one question inevitably comes up: should we crate train? Keep in mind, not every animal will respond the same way to a crate, so it is important to weigh multiple factors before deciding if crate training is appropriate for your pet.

There are two types of crates, wire and plastic. Wire crates are open on all sides with a tray at the bottom, while the plastic ones have solid walls, top and bottom (with some slits open in the walls). Plastic crates are generally referred to as “airline” crates as they are the type used to house animals for air travel. The type of crate preferred varies based on the dog’s preference. Some pets are more comfortable being able to see outside, while others find comfort in the “den-like” feeling of a plastic crate.

The best use for crating is generally for puppies. Crates can prove extremely helpful with housetraining. You can help make the puppy comfortable in their crate by putting something such as a stuffed dog with a “heartbeat” and a heat source in their bed. This does NOT mean a heating pad. Heating pads can cause nasty thermal burns. When improvising, you can use a ticking clock and a soda bottle filled with warm water that are hidden in toys or wrapped in towels to achieve the same effect as the commercial product. Try to place the crate in a quiet part of the house to give the puppy a safe and quiet place to go. Consider placing multiple crates throughout the house to give your puppy their own space and retreat.

Older dogs must be introduced to a crate gradually. Give them access to the crate with the door open. Put toys or treats in the crate to encourage them to enter it. Feeding meals in the crate can also be helpful. Do not start closing the door until they are comfortable in the crate. Also, do NOT move out of their sight when they are in the crate until they are comfortable being in it with the door closed.

Remember, not all dogs or puppies will do well with a crate. Anxious dogs are frequently put into crates to keep them out of trouble. However this usually results in even worse anxiety. These dogs can injure themselves trying to “escape” from the crate. Some will drool, vomit, and eliminate in their crate due to stress. Every time the dog is crated, the anxiety will get worse. No dog should spend an excessive amount of time in a crate either. Puppies can have growth deformities, and both puppies and adults denied of appropriate exercise and socialization can have both severe behavioral and physical abnormalities.

Using a crate should be something beneficial to both your dog and your family. If you have any questions about whether it is a good option for your furry friend, please call Ridgewood Animal Hospital at 434-525-2111 and our doctors will gladly assist you.