Finally, you have arrived at the decision that your dog needs a crate. Of course, this should be a no brainer looking at all the benefits for you and your dog. But now the question is, what kind of dog crate am I going to buy? Sure, you have a lot of options out there, but choosing the wrong dog crate for your dog can mess up your dog pretty badly.
But before we go in-depth into different types of crates, their advantages, and disadvantages, let’s take a novice approach for the novice reading this. Let’s start with the beginner question. What is a dog crate?
A dog crate is usually an enclosure with a door (can be made of metal, plastic or wire) in which a dog can be kept, either for security reasons or transportation. These enclosures are designed to mimic a natural den for the dog, which is their natural place of habitation. Dog crates can be used for potty training, transporting our dogs, dog training programs, learning house rules etc.
A quick note here is that dog crates should not be misused or used excessively for your dog. Overuse of dog crates can lead to psychological harm to most dogs.
We have six main types of dog crates. They are Plastic crates, Aluminum crates, Wire crates, Travel crates, Soft sided crates and dog tents.
Plastic Crates for dogs:
As the name implies is made of solid plastic, they usually take up a lot of space but are more secure especially for long distance travels.
Aluminum crates for dogs:
These are light in weight, can be constructed in a fixed or folding mode and when made with proper bracings can last for a very long time. Aluminum crates are good for most dog settings. They are good as a permanent dog house, veterinary clinics, for traveling, breeding kernels etc.
There are aluminum crates with bars and there are ones with solid walls. The ones with bars are suitable for dogs that like to see outside more often and the ones with solid walls are usually for more private dogs.
Wire crates for dogs:
Mainly made from wires, are fairly on the heavy side, but because of the structure, provides better airflow for dogs kept in them. They are also good for providing a clearer view of the surrounding of the dog. Mainly good for kernels, but can also be used in veterinary clinics and sometimes short distance travels.
Travel crates for dogs:
As the name implies here, these crates are specially made for traveling. Two of the top best crates in the market currently are the Gunners and Variocage crates. The Gunners crates are excellent for long-range travels both by road and air as they have been tested to significantly reduce injury or death during accident the dogs are involved in.
The Variocage is another good one but, is not suitable for air travel.
A quick note is this: Travel crates do not make good crates for housebreaking your dog. Dogs tend to feel like prisoners often in this kind of crates as they do not give the comfort of a natural dog den to your dog.
Soft-sided crates for dogs:
These are lightweight crates, easy to fold and store properly. This type of crate gives the dog a feeling of security as they do not feel trapped.
The simple reason being that the nature of the crate does not make the dog feel trapped, there is enough airflow passing through the crate and the crates are designed in such a way that the dog has more visibility of his or her surroundings. Making him or her relax comfortably in the surrounding.
They are usually made up of clothing on a light metal frame.
A quick note here, soft-sided crates are not meant for traveling. Avoid making this mistake at any cost as they can prove to be fatal to your dog.
In many ways are just like soft-sided crates, they are lightweight, easily foldable and comfortable for dogs. The main advantage over the soft-sided crates is that they can be folded into even smaller sizes.
Very good alternative to soft-sided crates for camping, hiking or sports dogs.
Like its counterpart, dog tents are not good as travel crates, they also are not good for dogs that have not been properly trained or housebroken.
CRATE TRAINING YOUR PUPPY.
As stated earlier, there are many reasons to crate train your dog, especially when they are young puppies. Dog crates come in very handy when you are teaching your dog house rules, traveling or potty training your dog.
Unfortunately, most puppies don’t take a liking to crates immediately. Worst still, if not handled properly, your puppy might end up fearing his or her crate instead of loving it. But look at the bright side, puppies are yet to form a true perception of things and how to properly respond to their environment. So, with a little care, love and guidance, crate training your puppy should be easy. But where do you start?
SLOWLY INTRODUCE YOUR PUPPY.
Imagine that you are a kid and that you and your parents or guardian are moving into a new house, as soon as you get to the new house your parents take you to your new room and lock you up. How exactly would you feel?
Now apply the same analogy to your new puppy, when you get home, don’t just immediately try to force the puppy in the crate. Instead, use this approach. Allow him or her to move around freely first within the house, after some time, he or she would have chosen a good spot to relax.
Assuming this relaxation spot suits you put the crate on the spot with a few puppy toys inside. It is worth noting that if the spot your puppy chooses doesn’t fit you, discourage the puppy so that he or she is forced to choose another relaxation spot till he or she chooses the spot you want. This can be done with gentle guidance.
Remember that it is not just about the dog toys, the dog crate should be comfortable enough for the puppy to want to relax in it. If possible add some dog blanket in order to give your puppy some comfort.
Now if you are lucky enough and your puppy is bold, he or she would likely just enter the crate and start playing. This is a good sign and shows the puppy is on the right path. Even at this stage, it is advisable for you to still leave the door to the dog crate open.
The whole idea here is to let your puppy feel comfortable going in and out of the crate. If you have a puppy that is not bold enough, just keep encouraging him or her with love. It might take a little while but the puppy would soon understand that you are trying to introduce them to a safe zone and probably comply with you as the alpha.
GRADUALLY INTRODUCE MEALTIME IN THE DOG CRATE.
Now let’s assume that your dog is becoming comfortable playing with his or her toys in the crate, the next step is to start introducing dog food very near the crate door. This very much helps to embolden your dog, as he or she starts eating the food and give her more chance to feel comfortable around the crate.
As he or she starts feeling comfortable around the crate, slowly introduce the meal with your puppy/puppies into the crates. The puppy will likely get a little more comfortable going into the dog crate. Still, at this stage, the crate door should be left open. This gives your puppy ample time to adjust psychologically, physically and emotionally to the crate being more than a relaxing spot.
CLOSING THE DOG CRATE.
When your puppy gets more comfortable eating his or her meal further in the crate, it is time to start closing the crate door. Stay around, immediately he or she finishes the meal, open up the crate door. As time goes on, increase the interval in which the crate door is closed before you open it for your puppy. This is done in this way to ease your puppy slowly into relaxing in the crate.
A quick note, some puppies might whine when they notice that they have been locked in. Usually, you shouldn’t open the crate door until he or she stops whining. This is to avoid reinforcing to your puppy that his or her whining would get immediate attention. (The only exception is if you notice a clear danger to your dog e.g. food poisoning, dangerous creatures like snakes in the crate etc.).
INCREASING CRATING TIME.
Once your puppy starts to feel comfortable with you closing the crate door with him or her inside, the next step is to start increasing the length of time they stay inside the crate. You can easily bribe your puppy, by leaving their favorite treat or toy in the crate (make these items available only when they are in the crate).
When you notice that they are busy with there toy or treat and their attention is not on you, move to another room. Keep the interval short at the beginning, (five to ten minutes). This will help to start giving your puppy the impression that it’s ok for you not to be around every time he or she gets into the crate.
Increase the time gradually, (intervals of five minutes) until you can go half an hour without your puppy complaining. At this point, more than ninety percent of your work is done. You can actually start leaving your puppy for a longer period of time with the crate door closed without being in the same room, which is the goal.
A quick note, even though your puppy has learned to stay in the crate for a longer period, you should make sure that his or her other activities are handled properly, e.g. socializing, exercising, urinating, defecating etc. Try and work out most of these activities into a routine, this way, your puppy will start getting used to how to act in the house, which will be good for you and every other person at home.
CRATE TRAINING YOUR OLDER DOGS.
Now it is not every scenario that you have you see yourself crate training a puppy, sometimes, you may have adopted an older dog and the dog has never been crate trained or your dog has started displaying some destructive tendencies. Whatever the reason, you are in a situation now that needs you to crate train an older dog (Much like house sitting for the elderly).
So how do you start?
PREPARING AN OLDER DOG.
To begin the process, you have to make your dog tired enough to want rest. That means involving him or her in rigorous activity. Some form of exercise, going on a long walk, playing catch etc.
After tiring out your older dog, you might consider bathing him and taking him or her for a potty break so that nothing comes in the way of getting him or her into the crate. It is not a must, but it is worth considering.
Now you can start trying to introduce him or her to the crate.
Unlike puppies, older dogs have already formed habits and routines for themselves. These habits and routines are more or less like survival tactics for them. Now you come into their lives and try to introduce another way of living into their life.
This certainly will not go down well with them. Most of them depending on the bond you have formed will try to resist this change vehemently. When this happens, you have to be patient. Remember that your dog staying in the crate is not about forcing disciplinary actions on them, but more about making them understand that the new set of rules that are for their own safety.
Imagine going to a new home and being forced to stay in a room immediately, that will feel like a forced timeout or even like being in prison.
Like I said earlier, be patient with introducing older dogs to crates, try and make it fun or worthwhile for your dog to look towards.
USE FOOD AND TREATS.
The aim here is to associate going into the crate with good things. That means associating feeding time and wonderful treats with his or her crate. Keep this up long enough and your older dog will start associating the crate with positive feelings and start relaxing and feeling comfortable in them.
MAKE THE DOG CRATE COMFORTABLE.
This should be a no brainer. You want your dog to enjoy going into the crate and be comfortable in them. The best way to achieve this is to introduce things into the crate that will make your dog comfortable, Dog blankets, dog toys etc.
As time goes on, your dog would start associating good things with his or her crate.
START CLOSING THE DOOR.
Now, I believe your dog would have started showing signs of being comfortable in his or her crate. The final stage now is to start closing the crates briefly.
As we did with the puppies, start with five to ten minutes intervals (depending on the length of time your dog will feel comfortable with). In the beginning, you may hang around awhile, but with time, you have to start leaving the room during these intervals that the dog seems distracted in the crate.
The aim is to have a relaxed dog in a closed crate. As you keep on closing and opening the dog crate door for your dog, he or she will come to understand that this is a new routine to adjust to and is for their own good. If you have been consistent enough, your dog would even look forward to his or her time in the crate (with all the goodies that come with it).
More so, the crate should be a relaxation spot for your dog and once this has been imprinted on them that the closed crate is the safest place for them, your job is done.
CRATE TRAINING DOGS FOR TRAVELLING.
In my decades of experience with crate training dogs, this scenario does not even come up on many dog parents mind. They do not see the need and even when it is obvious that they might need to travel long distances with their dogs, they do not have any plan to adjust their dogs to this major change.
Needless to say, a dog that is not prepared for long distance travel will make a lot of fuss. You can be assured that you will not enjoy the journey.
But a dog that has been prepared for such is going to be a sweetheart to you during the journey. Rest assured, you will enjoy the journey every step of the way.
So, what are the necessary things that need to be done for a dog that is going to travel? How do you approach this situation?
As soon as you are sure that you will need to travel a long distance with your dog or dogs, the first thing you need to do is to get a traveling dog crate. Take a measurement of your dog currently, from the tip of the tail to the tip of the nose and from head to paw.
The measurements will help you order the right size for your dog for traveling. Getting this travel crate a few weeks earlier will give you ample time to train your dog to use it and also for the dog to adjust to the crate.
TAKE THINGS SLOWLY.
Introducing a dog to something new isn’t always easy. Most dogs are hesitant and suspicious of any change around them. If your dog is like this, don’t let it stress you.
What you can do to introduce your dog to his or her travel crate is simple. You by now already know your dog’s perfect relaxation place or are in the process of encouraging a particular location for him or her. Whatever the place is, place the bottom part of the travel crate there.
Do the things that you would normally engage in, when introducing your dog to a new crate (food, special treats, toys etc.) inside the bottom half, as time goes on and your dog starts feeling comfortable in the spot, introduce the top part of the travel crate.
As he or she gets more and more comfortable, you can then introduce the door.
ONCE AGAIN, BE PATIENT.
Even though the process above is what you expect to go through, these things don’t go exactly as expected. Be patient with your dog. On the bright side, it will imprint on your dog that something new is being introduced to him or her.
Just follow through the processes patiently, no matter how many setbacks you experience with your dog. I can assure you one thing, even if he or she doesn’t fully get into the travel crate thing, your traveling would be made a lot smoother than if you have not started the process.
DO TEST RUNS.
Once you notice that your dog is getting comfortable in the crate, try doing some test runs. That means you try to drive around a bit with your dog is the crate albeit the distances will be short (ten to twenty minutes).
Your dog would start getting used to this kind of activity and see it as no big deal.
REWARD YOUR DOG.
Each time your dog goes through a particular task successfully, always offer some sort of positive reinforcement to encourage him or her more. Praising them for a job well done goes a long way to making them want to do the same thing again for you.
Offering affection and treats also help your dog to get into the groove. It will also help to strengthen the bond between you two so you get a double advantage doing this.
Follow these steps and your dog would be as good as gold while traveling.
Happy dog crating, and remember most importantly, try and enjoy every moment you spend with your dog. At the end of the day, that is what really counts for your dog.
Hi, I am Charles Nwankwo Editor-in-Chief, Mydoggything.com. Gleaning from Professional Dog Trainers, behaviorist, Registered Veterinarians, and Breeders. We are passionate about making dog care easy for you. My job is to make sure that you get the best-updated dog care information to understand and take care of your dog or dogs.