The benefits of a dog crate include protecting your possessions from those sharp puppy teeth, simplifying your potty training progress, and keeping your puppy safe when unsupervised.
There are downsides to dog crates though. I remember when crates first appeared on the scene thinking putting a dog in a cage was a horrible idea. Here’s why I changed my mind, and how you can make sure that you and your puppy both benefit from crate time.
If you decide to use a crate for your puppy or older dog, do check out our detailed guide to crate training. This will give you all the information you need to make crate training a success.
What Is A Dog Crate?
A dog crate is simply a sturdy wire cage used to contain a dog for a limited period. Wire crates are collapsible and fold flat for easy storage and transportation.
Most crates come with a plastic tray that slides out for cleaning, you’ll need to buy your own crate bed or line the bottom with an old blanket.
You can also get plastic dog crates designed for travel.
The Benefits Of Crating A Dog
The main benefits of a dog crate are:
- Puppy potty training.
- Preventing the puppy from damaging your possessions when unsupervised.
- Keeping the puppy safe when unsupervised.
- Teaching your dog to relax in a crate.
Dog crates help with toilet training
All puppies instinctively avoid messing in their beds. So when you confine your puppy to a small crate, they will (within reason) wait to be released before toileting. This makes house training a whole lot easier, provided you don’t exceed the limits of your small puppy’s bladder capacity.
It’s a good idea to prevent your puppy from accessing the floor for the last ten to fifteen minutes before their next bathroom break is due. The crate is a great place to put your puppy for this ten minutes, if you are too busy to carry them or cuddle them on your lap.
Protecting your possessions
Labrador puppies chew things. Your things. Favorite chew toys are chair legs and baseboads, shoes, and children’s toys. Not to mention their own beds, and anything they find lying on the floor, some of which (batteries for example) may pose a real health hazard.
Giving your puppy their own chew toys may help, but it will not prevent most puppies from chewing entirely. Some dogs chew more than others. Many Labs will chew quite a lot until they are over two years old.
For those times when you cannot watch the puppy, the crate will protect your furniture and shoes from his very sharp teeth and strong little jaws.
Keeping your puppy safe
Chewing does not just damage your stuff, it puts your puppy at risk. Electric cables are very attractive to puppies, and they sometimes swallow chunks of whatever they are chewing.
In busy households small puppies are at risk of being tripped over, the crate is a place of safety at chaotic times and gives the puppy a place to relax.
Small children don’t understand that puppies get exhausted or over-excited and the crate is a great place for your puppy to recharge his batteries. Baby gates can also be useful for this purpose!
Why Dogs Need To Learn To Relax In A Crate
Many dogs will have to be crated at some point in their lives. Crate rest is an inevitable part of recovery after some types of surgery. Crates are required for airline flights, and they provide safe spaces in vehicles on long journeys. Any dog admitted to the animal hospital will be in some kind of crate or cage for the duration of their stay.
A dog that is accustomed to a crate and is able to relax when confined is far less likely to be stressed when they have to be crated in an emergency, for transport, or because they are sick.
Dog Crate Problems
While a crate can be a great tool, it can also be a source of cruelty. Problems arise with crate use if the crate is too small, too big, or if a dog is shut in there for too long (remember that your puppy’s bladder control is poor). Problems can also arise if crating is introduced inappropriately and the puppy or dog is, or becomes, afraid of the crate.
Your dog crate must not be too small. The dog crate should be taller than the dog, allowing them to stand, turn around and stretch out in the crate.
When you are potty training your puppy the crate should not be too large. In a very big crate your puppy will relax at one end and pee at the other. You can buy dividers for some crates to make the available space bigger for your puppy as he grows. This saves you buying another crate later on.
As a rule of thumb I don’t leave puppies under three months old in a crate for more than an hour, and only after introducing the puppy gradually to being shut in the crate. You’ll find more information on how long you can leave a puppy in a crate, in my crate training guide.
If you have recently brought home a rescue dog, remember that they may never have experienced a crate or may associate crates with unhappy experiences. So always introduce a crate slowly and gradually to adult dogs too.
Most puppy owners will benefit from a car crate too. A young dog can do an enormous amount of damage to the interior of a vehicle in a surprisingly small window of time.
A car crate will protect your puppy from being thrown around the vehicle in the event of an accident and protects the inside of your car from your puppy’s teeth.
Do you think crates are a good thing? Did you use one for your puppy? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website