Crating is an invaluable tool for dog owners when used correctly. Dogs are den animals by nature. When you introduce a crate the right way it becomes a haven for your dog; a place of comfort.
When bringing a new dog home, you may use a crate at first when they’re home alone and at night. This keeps your dog secure and stops them from wreaking havoc in your home. To know when to stop crating, observe your dog for signs of readiness and slowly give them more freedom.
What Does Dog Crating Mean?
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Dog crating, or crate training, is the practice of training your dog to use an enclosure as their own personal space. Dog crates are useful tool for housetraining because dogs don’t like to do their business in their living space, or den, but they shouldn’t be left alone in a crate for long – especially at first.
There are a few different types of dog crates, including plastic, fabric over a frame, and metal. The metal ones are common because they’re strong and easy to clean.
For crate training to be successful, it’s important to make sure the crate is the right size. The crate should also be inviting, with items like blankets and toys. Using a crate as a punishment defeats the purpose, since your dog won’t want to go in.
How Long Should You Crate a Dog?
There isn’t a simple answer to how long you should crate a dog. All dogs are different, and the length of time your dog will need to be crated depends on several factors, including:
- Age: Wait until your dog is out of the puppy stage to stop crating. This varies depending on the breed. Small dogs may be ready in as little as a year and a half, while larger breeds reach adulthood closer to two and a half years old.
- Temperament: If your dog is a stubborn ball of energy you may need to crate them longer while you train them to behave at night and when you’re out. A laid-back or easy-to-train dog might be ready sooner.
- Past: If your dog is adopted, take their past into account when considering crating. It can be hard if you don’t know their past, mind you. For example, an abused dog may have had a negative experience with crates, so crate training may be harder for them.
Once your dog knows the rules of the house, is properly housetrained, and is old enough to be trusted on their own, you can start giving them more freedom.
Transitioning from Crate to Dog Bed
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There are several ways to transition from a crate to a dog bed, depending on your goal and how much you trust that your dog is ready for the change.
This method entails having your dog tethered to a piece of furniture (like the leg of your bed or dresser) so they can’t go far. This gives them access to their dog bed and opened crate, but they can’t leave the room.
Only use this method if you plan to always share your bed with your dog, otherwise they’ll be confused about what the rules are. If you bed share, make sure your dog only associates your bed with sleep. Don’t play on the bed or they’ll keep you up at night.
A third option is to keep the dog bed and opened crate in your room and close your door. This gives your dog the run of the room without being tied down, without giving them access the rest of the house.
If your dog is nervous, whines, has an accident, or gets into things while you’re asleep, try another method or use the crate a while longer.
Tips for Phasing Out Crate Training
A Slow Approach is Best
If one day your dog is crated while you’re out and the next, he or she can access the whole house, you’re probably moving too fast. Too much freedom can be overwhelming. Start slow by allowing them to stay in a puppy-proofed room or in the main area of the house with doors to other rooms shut.
Set Your Dog Up for Success
If you leave shoes on the floor and a juicy steak marinating on the counter while you run an errand, you’re setting your dog up for failure. Make sure your house is tidy. Take your dog out to do their business before you leave and make sure they get plenty of exercise. A dog left alone with pent up energy is bound to get into trouble.
Take Setbacks in Stride
If you have a setback, take a minute to analyse the situation. Did you leave in a hurry with the garbage unsecured, or forget to let your dog out to pee and they had an accident? These things are not your dog’s fault and they won’t understand being punished after the fact. The best you can do is set them up for success next time, or crate train a little longer if needed.
Alternatives to Dog Crating
Some dogs just don’t do well with crate training or your lifestyle might not support it, and that’s okay. Maybe you work long hours. You can’t keep your dog crated all day, so you must find an alternative to make sure they’re happy and safe while you’re gone (without letting them to destroy your house).
Some alternatives to dog crating are:
- Changing Your Schedule
- Hiring a Pet Sitter
- Sending Your Dog to Day-care
If your job requires you to be away for most of the day, you might need to shift your schedule so you can be home to feed your dog and let them out. If that isn’t an option, hiring a pet sitter or sending your dog to day-care are other great ways to avoid crating and make sure your dog’s needs are met.