Having a dog crate trained has become a fairly controversial subject among dog trainers. Because dogs were never in a crate years ago, some people think they are cruel. There are also people who believe that dogs should be crated anytime they are alone. Some people use crates as punishment, while others use them as sleeping quarters.
Anytime a dog training subject is controversial, I try to look at both sides and come up with what I feel is best for dogs. Of course, this is my opinion but I do try to look at the issue from a variety of perspectives. I believe that there is no cut and dry answer, however, this is how I advise the clients that I work with.
I believe all dogs should be taught to be comfortable in a crate in the case of an emergency. Just like we should have an emergency plan for an earthquake, fire or other natural disasters, our dogs should have a plan as well. I happen to live in Ventura, CA where the 2017 Thomas Fire started.
Thousands of animals had to be evacuated and hundreds of dogs had to go to shelters temporarily. This was stressful for all of the dogs, however, the dogs that were afraid of their crate experienced more fear than those who were comfortable in a crate. Teaching your dog that a crate is a safe place to be can help reduce their stress in an emergency.
Crates can be extremely helpful for house training a puppy. Because it is nearly impossible to supervise a puppy 100% of the time, a crate can help reduce the number of potty accidents, which will help them learn where they should go potty much faster. Since puppies and dogs typically don’t like to urinate or defecate where they sleep, they will learn to wait until they are out of their crate to eliminate. We cannot expect them to stay in a crate for endless hours, but if we take them out after a couple of hours it can make house training easier.
In some cases, a crate can significantly help a dog with separation anxiety. However, this is something that you need to investigate carefully. There are some dogs who feel much safer and calmer in a crate when they are left alone, yet other dogs will actually become more anxious in a crate when they are alone. If your dog becomes more anxious in a crate, it should not be a part of your separation anxiety treatment plan.
Personally, all of my dogs are crate trained. The doors of the crate are almost always left open and they can go in when they want (2 of them will often sleep in their crate at night or when they nap). Occasionally, I need to put them in the crate and close the door. Because they love their crates, they run in happily if I say “kennel”.
If trained and used properly, a crate can be a very safe and happy place for your dog.
Shannon has been a pet lover all her life and a dog trainer for over 20 years. She has spent her life observing, caring for and training animals of all kinds. She has worked in the Bird Department at Marine World Africa USA, and worked as a handler and trainer for an African Serval Cat at Safari West, a private zoo in Santa Rosa, California. She has participated in behavior studies including observations of bald eagles and addax antelope through the San Francisco Zoo and Safari West. Her education includes a Biology Degree, specializing in Zoology from Sonoma State. She is a "Registered Veterinary Technician," a "Certified Professional Dog Trainer" (Knowledge Assessed), a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, a member of the "Association of Pet Dog Trainers" and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Shannon is currently serving as President for the Society of Veterinary Behavior Technicians. Shannon's dog training philosophy revolves around force-free, positive reinforcement, however, her ultimate goal is for healthy happy relationship between pets and their people. Diet, exercise, environment, and training all play a significant role in achieving this goal. Shannon is currently the owner of Ventura Pet Wellness and Dog Training Center in Ventura, CA where she works with anxious and fearful dogs privately as well as teaching agility classes (Venturapetwellness.com). Shannon has also started a training website called Truly Force Free Animal Training.