The Pets Doc

Dr. Kevin Watkins, DVM

812-273-1803

Great Crate Debate – Crate Training Is Not Animal Cruelty

I received a call recently from someone whose 4-month-old puppy was having trouble adapting to a crate. Whenever the pup was placed in its crate, it would howl, chew at the metal door, salivate heavily and would sometimes pee.

All of these behaviors indicate a stressed puppy. In this particular case, the pup was being left in the crate for six hours or more while the owner was at work. Obviously, most of us have to work, but we also like dogs and want them in our lives. So, how do we create some balance?

Crate training is neither cruel nor unfair, provided your puppy has sufficient exercise and an opportunity to eliminate before being placed in the crate for an extended period of time. If you decide to adopt a puppy, it is your responsibility to make sure your puppy’s basic needs will be met.

Puppies can only hold their urine for a couple of hours, so more than three hours in a crate is simply too long. Also, from a puppy’s perspective, you can only take so many naps before you start to cry from sheer boredom.

Plenty of exercise and play time, frequent small meals and numerous potty breaks are a must for puppies. If going home yourself is not possible, you need to make arrangements for your puppy to have an exercise and potty break halfway through the day.

Arrange with a family member, or pay a neighbor or friend to assist you for a few months until your puppy is older. You might also consider puppy day care, or adopt an older dog who won’t require so much attention and scheduling.

Some other tips for easier crate training are:

  • Introduce your puppy to the crate as early as possible.
  • Place the crate in a high traffic area of the house.
  • The first few confinement sessions should be after a period of play, exercise, and elimination (when she is ready to take a nap.)
  • Feed your puppy about 30 minutes before, and then take him for a 10 to 20 minute walk right before he goes in.
  • Switch out chew toys every day and coat with cheese or peanut butter for variety and interest.
  • A radio or television can help calm an anxious puppy and mask environmental noises that sometimes trigger barking.
  • Don’t succumb to whining and barking and reward the puppy by letting him out. Instead, try shaking a can filled with coins. Let him out after he quiets down.
  • Teach your puppy these words: “quiet” or “settle.”

There are numerous benefits to crate training your dog. When the crate is used correctly, it provides security (think den), supervision and safety (think play pen), and prevents inappropriate chewing, elimination, and costly damage to your house. It also makes traveling easier, and it improves the owner-dog relationship. Fewer problems mean less discipline for your puppy and less frustration for you.

Margo Watkins, Pet Behavior Counselor

Pawsitive Pet Behavior Blog