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Unleashed: Crating a safe space

I cannot overemphasise the importance of crate training. It is such a useful skill and can help with house training and some other problems. First off, whilst we humans like our open spaces, high ceilings and open air surroundings, we need to understand that dogs prefer dens and enclosed spaces. This is why they often curl up under a chair, or table, or snuggle up under your feet, or next to something.

By Russell D Russell

Sunday 22 November 2020, 02:00PM

Dogs like enclosed spaces, and sending them to their crate is to allow them to enjoy their safe space, not as a punishment. Photo: Mysaell Armendariz / Unsplash

Dogs like enclosed spaces, and sending them to their crate is to allow them to enjoy their safe space, not as a punishment. Photo: Mysaell Armendariz / Unsplash

Crate training is an important tool, but it’s not to be used continuously. Having a dog sleep in a crate at night, and then spend the bulk of the day in the crate while you’re at work is unfair. If that’s your situation, seriously consider whether having a dog is practical.

Also, with puppies, they sleep a lot! They’re a bit like babies. We have no issue with putting a baby in a crib or a pram whilst they sleep, so we should have no issue with putting a pup in their crate, whilst they sleep. Crates should be in a quiet room away from the hustle and bustle of the house, so the dog can learn to be on their own from time to time. Also, you can – and should – put your dog in their crate for small periods of time, even if you’re not going anywhere. That way, they don’t associate it with you leaving, and generally just get used to down time on their own.

Crating young pups, or using pen areas, as well as helping work on things like housetraining also helps keep your pup safe. You can’t always watch them 24/7, and you need to follow similar practices as you would with a new baby. By crating our pups, we ensure they’re not going to chew a wire, or the sofa, or basically anything they shouldn’t!

You also need to make sure you have the right size crate for your dog. Big enough so they have room to move, turn and stand, but not so big that they can pee on one side, and sleep on the other. Nowadays, a lot of full size crates come with divider panels which you can move further back as your puppy grows – these are great as it saves having to buy new, bigger crates as the pup grows. I also use lots of interactive toys, like Kongs, that the dogs can chew on whilst in their crate, but be mindful not to leave too many things in there with them, especially toys or beds that can be torn, or shredded. Less, is more.

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Also, be mindful that overusing a crate, and confinement can lead to problems. Crating for an hour or so here and there is fine, but for continual longer periods, I’d look at using a pen area as well. Over using the crate can lead to things like the improper impulse control, or contribute to things like separation or isolation anxiety and ultimately, we also need to look at why the dog needs to be confined for the extended period as we want our dogs to spend the bulk of their time out and about with us exploring the world! Remember, crates are not used as a punishment, quite the opposite, they are there to be used as the dogs ‘safe place’.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of folks like to use the pee pads for dogs, and have often put them in the crates with their pups. This is a really bad idea. First, you’re teaching your pup it’s okay to pee (or worse) in their crate; and second, if you use them around the house, you’re teaching your dog it’s okay to pee (or worse!) on the floor indoors. I appreciate this can be handy for folks with dogs in apartments, but if you have quick access to an outdoor area, you’re far better off teaching your dog to ‘go’ there. Either way, never put the pee pads in their crate! 

If you would like some more information on canine training, or behavioural issues, then please contact us on 091 654 1960, email, or check our website CPA is accredited with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Evaluator and a Professional Member of the IACP.

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