There are many out there who weave tales representing extremes on both ends of a spectrum, demonizing or venerating crates. Some tell of dogs who begin to panic and hurt themselves digging to get out, or that it is inhumane to leave your dog in a crate for a mysteriously specific amount of time. Then there are those who, improperly, quote that unless there is some supplementary cause such as separation anxiety, dogs are den animals and ALWAYS feel more comfortable in a smaller space.
While both of these extremes to some extent can certainly have merit, it really isn’t up to us to decide for our individual dogs where they are most comfortable. It is up to the dog to tell us! The problem with claiming absolutes for an entire species is it does a disservice to striving to understand each animal as an individual with a specific set of needs, not to mention totally disregards the role of training! Regardless of our often times anthropocentric interpretations, the fact remains that the animal, not us, gets to decide what is considered comfortable and correct for that particular animal.
While there are dogs who inevitably fall all over the spectrum, even if you have a pup who doesn’t come inherently loving the crate, it is hard to deny there are some pretty significant advantages to using one.
Using a crate can sometimes be the difference between enjoying a harmonious relationship and putting your belongings, and many times your pup’s life in jeopardy.
If done correctly, not only does using a crate give your pup a space of their own where they can feel safe, it also helps tremendously in the potty training process, keeps your dog safe from ingesting or chewing on things they shouldn’t, and ultimately sets your dog up for success by ensuring that you are there to teach them appropriate behaviors rather than letting them make wrong decisions and practice incorrect and sometimes even dangerous behaviors.
So, what do you do if your dog isn’t totally comfortable with the crate?
Well, that is where training comes in!
Just because you don’t get to decide what your dog naturally enjoys, that doesn’t mean we are helpless in teaching and guiding them differently through training. In fact, understanding your dog’s emotional inner lives not only gives you better insight into how to teach and train them, but also gives you better insight into how to bond more closely and deepen your relationship. When you spend the time showing and teaching your dog that the crate is their safe space where amazing things happen, many times it becomes their favorite place in the house!
At the end of the day, whether it be saving your favorite pair of shoes or saving your pup’s life by keeping them out of the cleaning supplies, the crate is a wonderful thing to use IF we take the time to show them that it is their space where they can feel safe and comfortable. Unless you are one of the lucky ones who got a pup who naturally loves the crate, crate training is something that will need to be and should be trained as an essential skill to set you and your pup up for a lifetime of enjoying each other.