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A crate is a portable “kennel” that is just large enough to contain the dog it is intended for, made of either metal or plastic. “Crating” is the practice of using this kennel for training purposes, usually in house-training and house-proofing a dog.
Crating is a controversial topic. There are those who believe that crate training is indefensible and others who believe that it is the solution to all their problems. The reality is likely somewhere in between.
What Does the Dog Think?
First, you must understand what the crate represents to the dog. Dogs are by nature den creatures — and the crate, properly introduced, is their den. It is a safe haven where dogs don’t have to worry about defending their territory. It is their own private bedroom, which they absolutely will not soil if they can help it.
Judicious use of the crate can alleviate a number of problems, stop others from ever developing, and aid substantially in house-training.
Where is the crate? It should be around other people. Ideally, set it up in the bedroom near you. Have the dog sleep in it at night. Dogs are social and like to be around their people. Don’t force your pet into the crate. Feed your dog in the crate.
Can Crates Be Abused?
Certainly. Anything intended for a dog can be abused. That doesn’t make it wrong; it does mean you need to know what you are doing. Things to remember:
- The crate must be large enough for the dog to stand and turn around.
- A puppy should not be left in for more than three or four hours at a time.
- An adult dog should not spend more than about eight hours a day in one.
- No dog should be forced to remain in a soiled crate. Rearrange time spent in the crate to avoid this happening in the first place.
- Not all dogs require constant crating. Most can be slowly weaned off once they get older and you trust them more in the house.
- Properly introduce dogs, especially older dogs, to the crate. Most dogs like their crates, but not all do so immediately.
- Even when you are no longer using the crate regularly, leave it available for napping. A crate-trained dog is always more easily handled: in the car, at the veterinarian’s office, when traveling, etc.
Prices and Recommendations
A plastic airline-approved (leakproof) crate will run from $20 to $70 depending on the size. These are the cheapest prices available.
- If you’re flying with your pet, most airlines will sell a crate at near-wholesale prices.
- Vendors at dog shows often have good prices, especially for slightly imperfect ones.
- Pet stores sell them at astronomical prices.
- Online shops such as Amazon.com have competitive prices. The Petmate Sky Kennel (affiliate link), pictured above, has very favorable reviews. It is constructed of heavy-duty plastic and extra-strong steel wire.
Wire cages are not as appealing to dogs who like the safe, enclosed nature of a crate, but they have better ventilation for use in warm places. You might, for example, have a plastic crate in your house and a wire one for the car. Since many models fold up, they are also often easier to transport and store.
The crate should be large enough for the dog to lie down, stand up and turn around in comfortably, but not large enough for the dog to relieve itself at one end and sleep at the other. You may buy a crate sized for an adult dog and block off part of it with a chew-proof obstacle until the dog grows into it, or you may buy a succession of crates as the dog grows.
Next, in Part 2 of this article, we offer some advice on proper use of a crate.