Really, using a crate for your dog should not be considered incarceration. A kennel is your dog’s happy place, it’s den . . . . Or it should be. If it’s not, you ought to be working on changing that.
The crate should be a place of peace and serenity for your dog, just as your house is yours. Being in the kennel truly isn’t jail time, but it can be used as a positive time out, if done properly. (That’s a subject for a future post.)
It’s important that people understand that a dog needs his or her own "room.” Our canine friends truly are den animals.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s go over why you should consider using a crate.
Your dog really needs a "den" where it can feel secure and safe, a place where it can RELAX.
If you travel with your dog, you will need to use a crate when staying in a dog-friendly hotel. Yes, I know some of you don’t use one and probably hope no housekeeper is going to open the door to your room unexpectedly, while you’re down having breakfast, and accidentally let’s your dog loose. Let's hope your dog doesn't escape the hotel. That can have disastrous results.
That brings us to the actual traveling part of your journey. Many states now have laws about your dog being secure in your vehicle while traveling in either a crate, behind a grill, or secured with a harness to a seat belt.
Keeping your pet out of trouble at home is another reason to use a crate. Shredded pillows, chewed couches and woodwork is a good incentive to teach crating. Especially puppies.
Being involved in dog sports, you’ll likely need to crate your dog at some point.
And how about if your dog needs to stay at the vet for any length of time (even for just the day or overnight)? Let's hope your dog isn’t going to freak out or be upset at being locked in a cage, which, frankly, is just another version of a crate.
As for your dog’s kennel at home, it should have high value to encourage him or her to go in voluntarily and to settle into a relaxed state. There shouldn’t be figeting, pacing, whining or barking. And keep the kids out of it.
Work on having a label for going into the crate. (Yes, this is another behavior you can add to your dog’s list of fun things to do.) Here are a few labels some of my students have used.
Go to bed
In your house
There is no one label better than another, you just need to be consistent. And remember to say it AS your dog steps into its crate.
Of course, when training, there should be a great reward at the back of the crate when Phydo gets there, especially for those dogs who have reservations about going in.
Dogs who react adversely have often been dragged into their crate or had bad things happen to them while they were in there. Crating is truly a trust thing.
Remember, your dog’s crate should truly be its happy place.