A guide to dog crates: Are they right for you and your pet?

Looking to get a new dog or puppy and wondering if crate training is right for them?

Crate training is recommended by some veterinarians, animal behaviourists and dog trainers as a way of helping your dog or puppy feel settled and secure at home, in the car or as a safe, familiar place when you are in a new environment. Crates can also be helpful to keep your puppy safe from trouble when you can’t directly supervise them.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the benefits of crates for your beloved pet!

The benefits of crate training

Crate training offers several benefits. It can help with housebreaking and confine the pet during times when it is unsafe or inappropriate for them to be in certain areas of your home, such as when you are away from the house or have guests over.

A dog crate should be a safe space for your pup to hang out in when they’re feeling overwhelmed or need their own private moment.      

While crates can be useful, it is important to note that they are not a magic solution for behaviour issues. For some dogs, crating is not appropriate. For example, dogs with separation anxiety – a condition where dogs show extreme anxiety and distress when separated from family members – may panic and injure themselves if left in a crate. 

If not introduced correctly, a dog may feel frightened or frustrated by being confined to the crate. This may lead to distress and development of problem behaviours, such as excessive barking.

As with any type of training, consistency and patience are key. If you’re willing to invest time into crate training, you could reap the rewards!      

Is crate training right for every dog?

Crate training may not be the right approach for every dog. Before making the decision to crate train, you need to consider your pet’s:

  • age
  • energy level
  • anxieties
  • size
  • history

Get clued up on how crate training works and evaluate the needs of your dog to make a judgement call about what approach is best for them.

Crate training: a guide

Crate training your furry friend is a process that can take some time, but with patience and consistency, it can be greatly rewarding.

  • Set up the crate: Firstly, set up the crate in a location where your dog is most comfortable, can rest peacefully and where space allows.  A collapsible, metal crate is easy to put up and down, transport and move from room to room.
  • Slowly introduce the crate:  Training should take place in a series of small steps – don’t go too fast! Leave the crate open and with toys and treats inside to be discovered to build a positive association. You can also introduce feeding meals inside the crate, closing the door just while your pup is eating.
  • Cultivate a positive experience for them: The crate should be a pleasant place for your dog. Keep things positive by providing food puzzles and chews to keep them occupied and reduce the risk of boredom. 
  • Ensuring the comfort of your pet: Your dog will need comfortable, suitable bedding and enough space to comfortably turn around. Pheromone diffusers, such as Adaptil, can help your dog to feel safe and relaxed.
  • Consider the time spent in the crate: Gradually increase the time they’re secured in the crate and the length of time you’re out of sight.

If you do decide to crate train your dog, take things slowly at first – it’s all part of the learning process! 

What can go wrong?

Crate training your dog can have benefits but can also make things more difficult if done incorrectly.

Common mistakes made when crate training a dog include:

  • Not providing a positive, gradual introduction; if your dog is whining barking or showing other signs of distress, you have progressed too quickly. 
  • Leaving them in the crate for too long – it’s never acceptable to shut your dog in the crate all day while you go to work.
  • Using the crate as punishment or "time out"; your pet needs to understand it’s a safe space and not something negative.
  • Providing a crate that is too small; your dog should be able to stand and turn around with ease.
  • Allowing children to go into the dog’s crate; this is your dog’s personal space and it is important to respect that to keep all family members safe and happy.

Security and peace of mind

Consider ways to protect your pet. SPCA Pet Insurance could help to cover unexpected vet bills for accidental injury and illness if something were to go wrong. Ensure you check the PDS for any exclusions. Plus, by purchasing a policy you’re helping support the great work of SPCA. Make your pet proud!