When we look at dog crates through our human eyes, we may see a lot of different things: a cage or a place where we lock dogs up, something we can use to help transport dogs safely when they’re travelling by car, a dog bed or in some unfortunate cases a doggy bathroom… the list goes on and on. Crates have been used for many different reasons and purposes; however, in more recent years there have been those that do not agree on whether we should or should not be using them. The majority of professional dog professionals say that crates are an extremely useful tool in training dogs, while there are some people that believe that placing a dog inside a crate may actually be cruel.
The Canine Perspective:
But if we wish to understand what crates really represent for dogs, we must look at them through their world and not our human perspective. This is not to say pets are not part of your family, but rather only that your dog has different needs than its human family members. These feelings may come up after new pet owners buy a crate and start to train their puppy, only to stop short of seeing the benefits because they cannot bear the perceived suffering or unhappiness that their new pet is displaying.
Imagine this: you’re a young puppy. You live in a strange, noisy world and you’re surrounded by these strange creatures who make funny noises and want to grab you and touch you all the time. All of the sudden, they place you inside a cold, scary place and close the door. You’re stuck in that place and all you want to do is to get out. But you can’t. Naturally, you whelp and try to get out. You stay there for hours, you feel like you’ve done something terribly wrong and, therefore, you are being punished. You do not understand why and are very confused. You continue to cry out, bark, and beg for these strange creatures to “let me out! Let me out!”, but they ignore you. What a horrible scenario, isn’t it?
When people say crates are cruel, they’re visualizing this scenario. That all crating is done in this fashion and that dogs would prefer not to be caged. If dogs had human understanding of the world than it certainly would be cruel as it is certainly clear that humans do not thrive when caged. This is not the same as a dog’s perspective. Please note that care should be taken to buy the right dog crate size so that they have adequate space to lie and sit down, but not so much that it encourages using it as a potty. Most models come with a divider that allows the space to grow with the puppy.
In the end, these thoughts act to put a real human face, with human emotions on their dog’s experience when in reality this scenario is nothing more than poor crate training. This scenario contradicts the whole purpose of dog crates as a valuable training tool and is not how a puppy should be introduced to their crate.
Proper Dog Crate Training:
When the dog crate is correctly used, here’s an example of what will happen: the strange (but incredibly nice) creatures place a weird box in front of you. Since you’re a curious puppy, you sniff it and when you do so, they offer you the yummiest treat. Wow! You take a step forward and, oh! Here comes another treat! You start to understand that when you show any interest in that strange box, good things happen. So you decide to explore a bit further and you get inside the box. In there, you find a very comfortable blanket, as well as a toy stuffed with puppy food. This is amazing! You lay down and start to play with that chew toy; you feel warm, safe and relaxed. With time, you start to look at that strange box as a safe place; where you can sleep, relax and feel great. And when something scares you or makes you feel unsafe, you know you will always have your crate: nothing bad could ever happen to you while you’re in there because it has become your den!
Crates should mean this to dogs and your training should be driven towards this objective. They should look at crates and see a safe, calm, enjoyable place to be and sometimes escape to… We just need to know how to use them and perhaps most importantly, be patient.
Curious on how you can accomplish that? Keep your eyes out for our next article!
Return to Dog Crates 101.
Knowing what Dog Crate Size is right for your Breed.