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The Value of Crates
Great benefits if used judiciously

There are so many ways in which crates can make life better for people and for dogs. They keep dogs safer in cars, offer many dogs a quiet refuge, are a great help during house training, and play a role in preventing bad habits such as destructive chewing and counter surfing. Dogs who are comfortable in crates are more easily able to handle travel in hotels and staying overnight at the vet. The policy statement by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)  about crates makes these points and also asserts that it is imperative to use crates thoughtfully and to introduce them to dogs correctly. I agree.

I love crates and use them, though I do have a few concerns about them. They must not be overused. I prefer that dogs not be confined in them for more than a few hours at a time on a regular basis over the long term. Many dogs choose to go into their crates and to stay there, especially at night, and I have no problem with that, even though the dog is in the crate for more than a few hours.

Dogs who find them upsetting should not be in them. A dog should enter the crate willingly, even happily. Dogs who panic in and around them should not be crated, and no dog should ever be forced into a crate. Many dogs can be taught to enjoy a crate even if they are currently hesitant around them. However, attempts to teach dogs to like them if they have a really strong negative reaction to crates is not always successful.

There are ways to introduce a dog of any age to a crate that make success more likely. Introductions should be gradual and involve a lot of good stuff such as treats and toys that the dog can associate with the crate. The APDT Guide to Crate Training is a useful reference about many aspects of crates and crate training.

What do you think about crates?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

photo by rossination/Flickr

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Submitted by Mel | November 21 2012 |

My dog has a crate, but we don't "crate" him. His crate is in a room that we confine him in at night and when he's home alone, but he's not put in it with the gate closed. He has a dog bed that he can sleep on also or if he's hot he often will sleep directly on our tile floors. We're fortunate that in both the houses he has lived in we've been able to devote a room to put a gate across. In our old house this was the laundry room and now it's our mud room. If we lived in a smaller house without an appropriate room to confine him in we would probably crate him.
The nice thing is that even though he's not crate trained, he does use his crate. I think he sees it as a safe space because he will go in there when he is scared, like when we're vacuuming. So when he needs to be crated, such as at the vets or his groomer, he's totally fine.

Submitted by Ruth Moser | November 24 2012 |

My Boy-Boy, a very large Greyhound, has his open door crate in the living room. So much for decorating. No gated doors or laundry rooms for my guy. He loves it! Goes in by himself. The door is never shut. I cover it in the Winter with quilts and put a crib bumper around the inside.
Because it is so big I am able to use an air mattress under quilts. At night he sleeps in the bedroom on a large pile of quilts(always available at Salvation Army or Goodwill.

Submitted by Cooper's Mom | November 25 2012 |

My dog loves his crate and adapted to it right away. It sits in our recreation room and he can look up the stairs into our kitchen where most of the action takes place.

During the day he's free to go in or out as we leave the door open. Many times he just decides to go in on his own and lay there watching us work around the kitchen. If he gets too excited or too tired, he goes in on his own as well. It's his own private space where only he can go.

Submitted by Karen London | November 25 2012 |

Ruth, I think crates are a lovely design element! While most professionals in the design world may not recommend them, I must say that whenever I enter a home with one or more highly visible crates, I feel right at home. And isn't that the point of decorating? : )

Submitted by Theresa | November 30 2012 |

I used a crate sparingly with my first schnauzer, not quite being familiar with "how" to use it. She really liked it, especially at night and it offered me peace of mind that she was safe during the day. With my 2nd schnauzer, I used it more often, still with positive results. I do think it helped with house training and eventually got to the place with both of them that the crate door was left open and they chose to nap in there. rufftalk.blogspot.com

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