Last week I attended a talk at a pet store to hear another trainer speak. One of the attendees was having problems with house training as well as some other behavioral issues and the speaker asked her whether the dog was crate-trained. The pet owner reacted very strongly to the thought of crate-training her dog. She felt that it was cruel to put her dog in a cage. This is not an unusual reaction as many people are not familiar with crate training.
Crate training can accomplish a number of goals. It is a great house training tool especially for puppies. It is a place for your dog to sleep in and to find respite when things are a little too hectic for them. For puppies and adolescent dogs, it is a management tool to keep them confined for short periods of time if you are not available to keep an eye over them.
Dogs should not be crated for more than 3-4 hours during the day while you are gone. If you must leave a dog for more that amount of time and the dog is still learning his/her house manners or still in that chewing phase, consider gating off your kitchen or washroom with a baby-gate and leave the crate in this area with the door open so the dog can freely go in and out of the crate. Crating the dog during bedtime is fine because it corresponds to the dog's normal sleeping cycle. For young puppies that are still being house trained, you will need to check on them during the night to make sure they do not need to go to the bathroom.
Now, I am not dogmatic about crate training. I have had (and still have) dogs that were never crate-trained. However, these dogs had several things in common: they tended to be older rescues, were already potty-trained, had excellent house manners and were beyond the chewing stage. So, these were dogs that did not need supervision and management. In such cases, baby gates are an option for confinement, if necessary. In addition, crating is not a panacea for dogs with severe separation anxiety or fearfulness. For such dogs, you should consult a professional for help.
Nonetheless, I feel that if you are getting a puppy, you might as well start off with crate-training because helps with house training and the puppy can always get more freedom as she/he gets older. You will often find as crate-trained puppies become adults, they will voluntarily go into their crate when they are tired, not feeling well or need some space. My 15 month old dog just recently earned her big girl privileges and has been allowed to periodically sleep in the living room overnight with the crate door open. Often when I wake up in the morning, I find that she has gone right back into her crate to sleep. To her, it is a place of refuge, her den. Here is a picture of her sleeping in her crate, even when the door is wide open.
I don't think Kiku thinks her crate is such a bad place, do you?
So, the poll for this week is: Is your dog crate-trained? Answer the poll on the right-hand side of this page.