Why a dog crate is essential for your puppy
I am still using Quin’s crate for him to sleep in, so I am reviewing why this is such an essential piece of equipment for your puppy.
There are people who say ‘I would never put my puppy in a cage!’ That’s lovely for them, as long as they are able to watch over their puppy 100% of the time and don’t mind a few vet visits when the puppy eats a sock or other undesirable item. For most people though, a cage, or crate represents an easy way of keeping your puppy safe.
Keep your puppy safe
Someone once commented that you wouldn’t put a baby in a crate. Well dur – what is a cot? Looks like a crate to me! We used to put children in playpens and I’m sure plenty of parents still use these. A dog crate is nothing more than a means to keep your puppy out of harm’s way. You can’t be watching your dog at all times and nor should you. Having the ability to pop them away safely for a while is common sense.
Having said that, you should not be using a crate at all times. My dogs sleep in their crates for 8 hours, but I wouldn’t ever leave them in a crate during the day for more than a couple of hours. They have been absolutely fine in the van for 8 hours travelling up and down the country, just being let out once or twice to toilet. But I wouldn’t especially do that all day, every day. Dogs who spend lots of time in crates can become bored and frustrated, which may lead to them being more anxious or guarding.
A safe space for your dog
Believe it or not, your dog loves to have its own quiet corner. Wild dogs will make a nest or bed in a ditch or under a bush. Dogs about to give birth will find a dark corner to nest in, away from the hustle and bustle of the house.
Set up your crate to be an enclosed, dark space, with a cover over most of the outside. I have seen people sharing horror stories of dogs becoming tangled in the covers or eating them, but I’m sure your dog will be fine if you use large blankets or towels to cover the crate and fold it neatly, so that only flat surfaces are facing the insides of the crate.
I always use vetbed inside. It’s soft and fluffy, but is extremely lightweight and easy to wash. It is absorbent so if your dog has an accident, they will not be uncomfortable. If they are wet after a walk and then have to be left, they won’t get cold. Vetbed is also durable so less likely to be chewed than standard pet beds.
How to train your dog to enjoy its crate
When I get a puppy, I feed them in their crate. Then, quietly close the door. Puppies love to search and sniff for pieces of food, and once they have found and eaten everything, they often settle down and drift into sleep for an hour or so. This gives you a chance to do other things without worrying about what the puppy is up to, and it is a good experience for the puppy to curl up and sleep in the crate by choice. You can gradually increase the time the puppy stays in the crate and initially this should be whilst you are in the room with it.
I try to have my puppy sleep in its crate from day one, but sometimes they need a bit of reassurance from you to start with. It’s useful to say ‘in your bed’ when you want them to go in there.
NB: Always reward your dog for going into its crate. If you are going to leave them in there, make sure they have been to the toilet first, then give them a treat for going in, as well as some verbal praise. And please:
- Never shout at your dog to go into its crate.
- Never drag your dog by the collar and shove it into the crate.
- Never allow children to get into the crate, with or without the dog
- Never take food or toys off your dog, especially when they are in their crate.
When to put the crate away
Most people long to pack their crate away, because it takes up space. I usually find that by six months your puppy should be reliably house trained and have stopped chewing most of the time. Or at least they are better at only chewing the things you give them! However, if your dog is happy to sleep in the crate, I would leave it up, if you can. They are safe and they feel safe.
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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.