As a professional dog trainer, I am usually asked if the crate is essential when bringing a new dog at home. Crates can provide a sense of security and comfort to most dogs as they naturally seek small and cosy spaces to rest, however not all dogs will react the same way when introduced to a crate.
My view on the use of the crates
Puppies: Crates can be very useful when raising a puppy as will help in preventing toilet accidents (dogs don’t prefer to soil where they sleep) and destructive behaviour. Owners must ensure a proper and smooth introduction with the crate as some puppies will not go in on their own.
The most suitable setting for me personally would be a crate along with an exercise pen that can give the puppy some more space to move around while keeping your house free of accidents (See photo below).
This specific set up gives the puppy the benefit of having their own small and cozy den, enough space to move around, the opportunity to soil only in one area and not in the entire house and the sense of feeling more free and relaxed.
The crate and exercise pen can be certainly used as short-term management tools until the puppy is fully house trained.
Adult/Rescue Dogs: In case you bring an adult rescue dog home, a crate can actually be a big help for them. Rescue dogs that had a rough start in their life, will probably be anxious and insecure in a new environment, people and smells. The crate can provide them a safe space to rest without being interrupted as they are getting used to everyone and come out of their shell. Crate training will make the dog feel safer, more comfortable and confident when there are any scary moments such as thunderstorms, fireworks or construction noises. It also comes in handy when the dog is introduced to new and novel experiences such as a newborn baby being brought home. Dogs will naturally retreat to an area that they feel secure when they are anxious about something.
In my personal opinion, all dogs need to be able to feel comfortable and be willing to go, stay and relax in the crate. There will be certain situations that a dog will need to be confined in a crate at some point in their life.
If a dog needs to be admitted to the vet clinic and undergo surgery, it means that they will have to stay inside a cage for hours or even days. Being used to the crate will definitely minimize the stress levels that a dog experiences due to pain, change of environment, new and different smells and sightings at the vet.
A dog might also need to travel in a crate or carrier box at some point in their life. If that dog had been introduced the crate at a young age, it would make them feel safer, happier and way more relaxed.
Crate training can be also very useful when you would like to hoover, mop and clean the house without having the dog walking around. A dog that can go and stay in their bed/crate will always make your life easier.
Please note that the maximum amount of time that a dog can stay locked in a crate should not exceed 4 hours (excluding night time) and this is because dogs need to stretch, walk around and move their body.
Consider getting your dog trained to go to the crate from a young age and believe me, you will never regret it.
Enlist the help of a professional positive dog trainer to ensure that your dog creates a good relationship with the crate and avoid any possible mistakes that could push your dog’s progress back.