Why Crate Train Your Dog?
Used properly, a crate is an effective short-term tool for managing and training your dog. If you train your dog to be content in a crate, you'll provide a safe, cozy place that she can call her own and sleep in at night. It also gives you a safe way to transport your dog and travel with her to motels, to friends' homes, when on vacation, etc. Crates are especially helpful when introducing a new dog into your household. You can also use a crate to efficiently house train your dog and prevent her from being destructive.
Crates can be easily misused, however. They're best used as a relatively short-term management tool, not as a lifetime pattern of housing. Your goal should be to work on any behavior problems and train your dog so that it's not necessary to crate her 8 to 10 hours every weekday throughout her life. Please see our crate guidelines below, under How Long to Crate Your Dog, to avoid over-confinement and inadvertently causing behavior problems from a lack of exercise, training, socialization and companionship.
Some dogs are never happy in crates but can tolerate them when necessary. Others panic when closed in a crate (please see more information below under When NOT to Use a Crate). However, most dogs readily adjust to their crates, preferring to sleep or take refuge in them when they're tired or things get too hectic.
Using a Crate to House Train Your Dog
You can use a crate to safely contain your dog during the night and whenever you can't monitor her behavior closely. Dogs don't like to soil their sleeping areas, so your dog will naturally avoid eliminating in her crate. If used for house training purposes, the crate should be sized so that your dog can lie down comfortably, stand up without having to crouch and easily turn around in a circle. If the crate is any larger, she might learn to soil one end of it and sleep at the other. If the crate is any smaller, she might be uncomfortable and unable to rest. (When you no longer need to use the crate for house training, you can purchase a larger one for your dog if you like.)
Using a crate will help you predict when your dog needs to eliminate and control where she eliminates. If she's been crated overnight or for a few hours during the day, the chances are extremely high that she'll eliminate as soon as you release her from the crate and take her outside. So, with the crate's help, you can prevent your dog from eliminating indoors and have a chance to reward her for going in the right place-outside. For more information about house training your dog, please see one of our articles, House Training Your Puppy or House Training Your Adult Dog.
Using a Crate to Prevent Destructive Behavior
In addition to acting as a house-training tool, your dog's crate can prevent her from being destructive. Dogs and puppies need to learn to refrain from doing a lot of things in their homes, like digging on furniture or rugs, chewing table legs, cushions or other household items, and stealing from garbage cans or counters. To teach your dog not to do things you don't like, you must be able to observe and monitor her behavior. Confining her in a crate can prevent unwanted behavior when you can't supervise her or have to leave her home alone. If your dog has a chewing problem and you'd like more information about how to resolve it, please see our article, Destructive Chewing.