What is crate training?

Jan 8, 2023 | Problem behaviour, Training methods

Reading Time: 4 minutes
dog outside on patio resting with flowers

We could see how fragile our lives were when the world was first hit by covid-19. The virus forced people to go through a time like never before. Some countries afforded more freedom while most others had increased restrictions. Being stuck inside the house, dealing with the uncertainty of life, and at the same time going about daily routine was quite challenging. We could see the joy in people once restrictions were lifted and we could go out. We realised that having a choice to go out or not is so important to our wellbeing. When that choice is taken away, despite a genuine concern, we are affected emotionally and psychologically. And no matter how rich or poor and what comfort level we have inside the house, a golden cage is still a cage. It is so underrated to have the freedom to make decisions and it is sometimes taken for granted. Only when our freedom is removed, do we realise how much we need it to thrive.

Crates are advertised as tools to help a family raise their pup by assisting in house training, getting used to staying alone and providing a safe space for the dog. How good does that sound? Extremely, right? Unfortunately, the benefits claimed are not just marketing gimmicks but also end up causing harm to the puppy’s growth and overall well-being.

Why has crate training become popular?

Crate training is now one of the items which gets highly recommended to new guardians. It is sold as an item that will make life easier for the family.

In most countries, it is very easy to bring home a dog. Because it is easy, most people spend little to no time researching about raising a dog and seek advice from professionals in the pet industry. The professionals, who don’t know any better, recommend crates along with other potentially harmful equipment such as collars.

Are dogs den animals?

Crate promoters claim that the space is safe for the dogs who are claimed to be den animals. But research has shown that dogs are not den animals. The only time dogs den is when mother gives birth. As the puppies grow, they tend to explore out of the den and get a feel of the environment around them. As they grow, most puppies will remain with the mother and rest in spaces where they feel safe.

Are crates good or bad?

Crates might seem to make life easier for the people at home, but for the dog, they have an extremely detrimental impact on their welfare.

  • One of the most fundamental issues with crates is that it deprives dogs of the freedom of movement – one of their basic requirements included in their right to to express natural behaviour. They impact the mobility and health of dogs. Free movement is essential for healthy bones, joints and muscles.

  • Crates also impact a dog’s sleep. Dogs like to sleep on different surfaces, at different heights and need to move from one spot to another. Lack of quality sleep can increase stress in a dog’s life, further affecting the dog’s wellbeing.

  • A home is a new environment for a puppy. While adjusting to this, a puppy seeks support from humans. As time progresses, the puppy relies on the people to feel safe and secure. Isolating a puppy makes things worse.

  • Crates kill curiosity in dogs. Dogs need to explore, observe and get new information. The more curious a dog is, the more confident a dog tends to be. When caged inside a crate, a dog is confined to that tiny space with no opportunity to explore. They are also unable to learn how to share a home with you and have an opportunity to learn good habits.

  • Confinement can lead to frustration in dogs. They might cause self harm by trying to get out of the cage. They might howl, bark or whine. In some cases, when the dog realises that nothing is working, the dog gives up. It might appear that the dog is resting, but in most situations the dog has learnt helplessness and is miserable inside.

  • Crates do not make a puppy learn to hold their pee and poop. Puppies have very little control over their bladder and pups will end up soiling the same space they are resting in. Not only is it discomforting but it can also cause illness and disease.

What are the alternatives to crate training?

We hope that if you were a crate user before, you will ditch it going forwards. There are some options that work better – such as baby gates which you can use to restrict a puppy from going in certain areas which aren’t safe.

Crates and other tools are not meant to stop your responsibilities from being a guardian to your dog. You will still need to guide your dog to house train and still puppy proof your home to ensure there are no accidents or injuries.

Instead of confining a puppy, you can engage the puppy in calming activities which involve sniffing and chewing. To know more about crates, their impact and alternatives, watch our Facebook video by our founder Lisbeth and teacher Tanya.

There are also some great books to help understand pups and raise them into being balanced dogs. We highly recommend two books:

  1. How to Raise a Puppy: A Dog-centric Approach by Stephanie Rousseau and Turid Rugaas
  2. How to Build a Puppy: Into a Healthy Adult Dog by Julia Robertson


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