Should I Crate Train My Dog? Why This Is an Important Question

Many dog owners have a question on their minds: should I crate train my dog? While it might seem that confining your dog is cruel—who wants to spend all day in a crate?—crate training can have its advantages in certain situations. It can be a great tool for teaching your dog to calm down or for giving your dog a space where he won’t be disturbed. In fact, crate training your dog can give him a sense of security. Because dogs are hardwired as den animals, crate training comes easily to many of them.

So, you ask, should I crate train my dog? Here are a few tips if you decide crate training is right for you.

Make It a Positive Space for Your Dog

If you choose to crate train your dog, it’s important to do it gradually. When people have trouble getting their dog to use the crate, it’s usually because the dog has negative associations with it. A lot of times negative associations form because the dog owner tried to cram weeks of crate training into a single night, essentially caging the dog against his will.

Positive reinforcement goes a long way when you’re crate training your dog. Instead of leading the dog to the crate and locking the gate for the night or while you’re at work, take a slower approach. Have plenty of treats handy and incorporate commands such as “bed” or “go in” as well as verbal rewards that let your dog he’s doing the right thing.

You should try to make the crate as comfortable as possible for your dog. If your pup has a favorite blanket or bed, place it inside so he knows that the crate is a place of safety and comfort.

Where Should I Crate Train My Dog?

Deciding on a good place to put your dog’s crate or crates can also help your dog get used to this new habit. Many people like to place a crate in areas of the house where people often gather or spend lots of time. The living room, near the sitting area, if you like to kick back and watch TV, can be a great place for a crate. Another place is the bedroom, especially if you want your dog to get on your sleep schedule but don’t want to wake up to a noseful of bad doggy breath.

The crate is supposed to be a space of calm, your dog’s own personal Zen garden. Associating the crate with spaces of calm—like the living room and bedroom—will help you instill good habits in your dog.

A Note on Crate Size

It’s only natural to want to give your doggy lots of space. For that reason, many people choose crates that are too big. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your dog to be able to stretch out, but if the crate is too big, you might find that your dog likes to use one end of the crate as a bathroom. Not only is this a big NO if you are trying to house train your dog, but it can also make your dog have negative associations with the crate itself.

The general rule of thumb is that your dog should be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around without a problem inside the crate. Any more room than that and you might be asking for trouble.

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