It would seem that anything dog is controversial. But few things stir up quite so much controversy as crates!
Because I talk about not using a crate for separation anxiety, I think I’ve created the impression that I’m 100% anti-crate. In fact, I don’t have an issue with crates at all. Look around my house and you’ll see 6 crates, sometimes 7 depending on whether the collapsible one is in use.
Six crates don’t reflect someone who’s anti crates. I love crates.
So let me share my thinking on crates with you.
1. It’s not the crate, it’s how you use it
Crates are good, but like any other piece of kit, we have to use them properly. As an example, think about how we use leashes.
Leashes are great management tools for stopping your dog from running off and getting lost. But you need to attach them to a harness or at least a collar. If you loop a leash around a dog’s neck, you’ll cause pressure on the trachea, as well as restrict breathing when a dog pulls.
The same goes with crates. When you use a crate properly, you can safely confine your dog so he can’t get into things that might be bad for him, for example, chair legs! And you can manage his over-excitement when visitors come.
Crates are also the best tool to help with house-training a puppy.
As much as I love crates for many things, there are times when crates are NOT the way to go. Crates don’t work when a dog is mad or frightened by confinement. Nor are crates good for lengthy periods of management, i.e. 8 hours a day.
Now, I know you may do this and sometimes needs must. But even though your dog might seem perfectly fine in a crate if he’s in there for long periods of the day, there’s a good chance he’ll be bored.
Do try to find other ways to manage him if you’re out all day.
2. Separation anxiety and crates don’t mix
Dogs who have separation anxiety seem to find crates scary. This might be because of past experiences of confinement, or because crates exacerbate isolation or separation. We don’t know.
But what we do know is that crates don’t fix separation anxiety. Often, they make the anxiety worse.
Yet, you may have been told that “crating” your dog is the way to go. Many trainers still give out this advice, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this wisdom online. So, no wonder you might have considered “crating” as the solution.
Now, I know some owners who are diligently working through separation anxiety with their dogs in crates. But their dogs are the exceptions to the rules.
If your dog whines, cries, paces, drools, barks, destroys, or tries to escape when he’s home alone in his crate, he’s not happy there. He’s not feeling better for being in his crate. Most likely, he feels worse. I know you didn’t know that, but now you do, please reconsider crating.
3. “But I HAVE to crate him”
Honestly, no you don’t, you really don’t. Remember, when you’re training for separation anxiety, you’re managing your dog’s threshold all the time. That destruction or soiling he does when you’re gone, that’s a result of him being over his anxiety threshold.
If he doesn’t get left to go over threshold, he won’t destroy and soil and you won’t need to crate him.
4. Crate if you want to, but…
Those dogs I mentioned, the ones who are going through separation anxiety training in their crates, those dogs love their crates. Their owners have taken time out to train their dogs to love their crates.
You can definitely do this with your dog, but if your dog already dislikes his crate i.e. he isn’t neutral about it, you have got your work cut out.
So, if your goal is to use the crate when you do separation anxiety training, you first have to put a ton of labor into getting him to love his crate. It’s doable, but it will be slow. So slow.
Then, once you get there, you need to start the long, steady process of separation anxiety training itself.
Can you now see why so many owners decide to skip the crate work?
By all means, crate if you want to, but be ready for it to stall your separation anxiety training.
What are your thoughts on crates? Love them or hate them? Share below!
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These are my thoughts on crate training, but what are yours? Share in the comments!