by Te’re Melrose
We put a call out for crate pictures before publishing this article. THANK YOU SO MUCH! We got so many that we couldn’t publish them all. THey are amazing and show just how much our members love crates.
*Please note I am not a trainer. I am a dog walker/pet minder/owner and founder of Doggie Dates NSW, dog lover and dog owner. No more, no less. I have been crate training my dogs for several years, have crate trained client’s dogs, foster dogs and have provided many tips for other people’s dogs. I honestly believe, in most cases people do not need dog trainers to crate train their own dogs but can do this on their own and very easily. There is a wealth of information online to assist you with crate training your dogs.
I remember being introduced to crates just before I got my first dog, when I was fostering. Immediately they seemed to make sense, perhaps because they were presented to me by people far more knowledgeable than myself and because I immediately took the time to read up on them and ask questions. I knew that dogs loved cosy, small spaces and I knew that they liked to see people and be in the middle of things.
I was never keen on the idea of putting animals in the laundry or outside where they couldn’t see what was going on so it immediately gave me a solution for those first few days/nights when we weren’t exactly sure what our foster was up to when we weren’t able to supervise. So, with very little idea of how to crate train, I brought a crate and just worked it out. I never ever called them cages, (if you call a crate a cage around me, you might as well be swearing as a CAGE and a CRATE are two entirely different things.) A cage is something that an animal may fear, is forcibly locked in, with little choice. A crate is something your animal will love, will go into willingly, you may still lock the door for safety, security etc but your pet will be settled and happy.
I have experienced negativity around crates. I once had a vet nurse on the page accuse me of being cruel for using crates. I found this quite funny given she worked at a vets and animals are crated all the time in vets. I find that these comments come from a lack of understanding or sometimes from older people who have simply not been educated on the benefits or people who have not had the opportunity to see how much dogs respond to and love them.
BENEFITS OF CRATES
- Keeps puppies safe.
- Assists with toilet training as dogs like to keep their “cave” clean.
- Safe place for a dog when there is no one to supervise.
- If a dog is crate trained and at another time has an injury or is unwell they are able to be kept still for long periods of time and are used to being in their crate (surgery, sickness.)
- If you plan on putting your dog into kennels at any point or leaving them at the vets for treatment, desexing, surgery, it is highly likely they will spend time in a crate, so crate training them prior is very beneficial.
- If a dog is crate trained, they can travel well in crates on planes, vehicles etc. Crates are an extremely safe way for dogs to travel long distances.
- If you plan on showing your dogs or participating in competitions, then crating is often quite common in these environments.
- A dog can enjoy a treat, bone etc without being distracted by children, other dogs etc.
- They are a lifesaver in emergencies. I cannot tell you how grateful we were for them when we had our recent natural disaster. We had a safe place for our pets immediately. And our cat ended up in her crate on someone else’s balcony! Thank goodness she is used to it. Our dogs could safely stay in their crates in the safe part of our home which had tree through it.
HOW TO CRATE TRAIN YOUR DOG
Firstly, there is no wrong time. As soon as you bring your puppy home, as soon as you get your new dog. No dog is too young or too old. I have heard people say, “but my dog is 10, they are too old. No matter how much I try to convince them, they will not listen. I have crate trained old dogs and young dogs and all in less than a week. It is so easy. The only thing stopping you is YOU.
Firstly, choose a crate where your dog can sit, lie down, stand and turn around. My dogs are retrievers and I use the XL or XXL and they have plenty or room. My cat is also crate trained (YES) and has a SML.
- Choose a place for your crate which is not in a draught and is not in bright sunlight. Ideally in a place where they can view their people.
- Pop in some nice bedding (I use a basic dog bed from Kmart or similar) wrapped in a sheet or blanket. You can pop in a favourite toy as long as they don’t eat the toy.
- Start by saying, “in your crate” then, “sit” and pop a treat inside. Do not make them stay in there and do not give them a treat for coming out. Repeat this several times. If they are not treat orientated, it is a lot harder but use lots of praise instead. Treats to use include high quality treats like bbq chicken, dried liver, cocktail frankfurter, all tiny pieces of course. Do this over a couple of days. Additionally, feed them their meals in the crate. All my dogs are fed in their crates.
- After a couple of days (or less depending on how they are going) start shutting the door when you feed them and when you give them their treat or upgrade the treat to do this i.e. a Kong with peanut butter or a pigs ear, something that takes them longer to chew but also something you usually give them and are comfortable with leaving them with. Leave the door shut for a few minutes or until they are finished. Open it BEFORE they become upset. Stay within their eye view but just potter around the house. Do not hover.
- Extend the length of time. I found within a few days I could leave them in there all night. I found this very useful with my foster dogs and additionally as Dolly was already crate trained after that I was able to crate train other fosters much quicker as she was next to them in her crate. You should never leave a dog in a crate and go out until you are very sure that they are safe and not going to try to escape and hurt themselves. You must know that your dog is very safe, secure and comfortable.
- My recommendation is that each dog has their own crate. We have three dogs and a cat and each one has their own crate. We are lucky to have the space for that. Each dog knows their own crate and does not go into the other dogs’ crate. There are exceptions. I do know a few people who have dogs that happily share their crate and it works well. You would really have to know your dogs and they have to be very relaxed about food (or not use their crates for food) and happy to share their bedding too. Here is an example of Sunday and Rosey who share their crate together well. They also share their beds.
- We rarely lock our dogs in their crate now as they take themselves in there whenever they want but it’s incredibly useful when you want to wash the floors (just saying) or when we have tradies over or when they have food and treats or they need to calm down.
- Never use crates as a punishment. They should be a positive place. Funnily enough if my dogs are in trouble they will often run to their crates because they see them as a ‘safe place’. This is what we want.
- You can drape a blanket over part of the crate if you wish to give it an enclosed feeling, but they should always be able to see out of the front towards the family.
Be wary of your dog’s collars in crates. They can get caught. If you are home and around it is probably okay but if you leave your dog in a crate while going out it is best to remove their collar.
Always be careful about temperature and positioning of crate.
Don’t overuse your crate. Your dog should not be locked in it constantly. The exception to this is if they have had a serious injury and are under vet care of course and that will only be temporary. You want your dog to love their crate not hate it. A dog that loves their crate will be found in it when they don’t have to be in it which is just wonderful!
Have water available if you are out for more than an hour or two especially in summer! You can purchase attachments for crates for water bowls.
No child or person should go into a dog crate. It is their cave. Their place to go if they are unwell, afraid, tired, want time out or for eating and at night. When we set up our very first crate we let our son climb in it then and have a look and explore it and explained it to him so he knew what it was all about and how important it was. Then he knew he could never do that again and this worked well. It is NOT a plaything for your children. Are there exceptions? With children…never. Do not let them go into the crates. We all hear about dogs biting kids. Don’t take the risk. I do have a friend who sits in her crate with her whippets occasionally for fun. She has always done it and they are very chilled out dogs. It’s a form of play and they are not bothered. I guess it is a case of knowing your dogs well.
WHERE TO BUY A CRATE FROM
There are many sites. You can start with marketplace. Often secondhand crates come up at great prices but also just search crates on ebay and google. I have brought some of mine from vebopets and find while their crates are a little more expensive their quality is outstanding. Petbarn also priced matched once and that crate is so strong. But really, it is worth comparing prices online and you can get some pretty good deals. If you are unsure you can usually ask on facebook groups if you can borrow one for awhile and see how it goes.
Feel free to ask questions and ask others what they think on our groups, I know there are lots of members using crates and I am sure there are lots of tips and ideas I haven’t thought of.
Finally we have added a video from our friend and trainer, Louise Harding, Animal Talent, on how she crate trains dogs. We hope this helps to.
Thanks for reading!