While crate training a puppy has benefits, there can be drawbacks too. When done correctly, crate training can provide a safe space and help with obedience training. But it’s not the right choice for every dog or their owner.
This is part two in a two-part exploration of crate training. Here, we examine the potential drawbacks of crate training.
Read crate training a puppy: the benefits as well, to make sure you’ve got all the pros and cons handy when you decide if you want to crate train or not.
What is crate training?
When crate training a puppy you teach your dog to see their crate as a safe space.
It helps to set behavioural boundaries for your dog by using their natural desire to snuggle up in small spaces and create a den. For example, a crate can clearly signal when it’s time for them to chill out. And give them a place to escape the world, which all of us need at times. It can also help the process of toilet training a puppy.
However, while crate training a puppy can have lots of benefits, it can have drawbacks for some dogs.
Let’s look at the potential cons of crate training.
When crate training a puppy is the wrong choice
Many people feel crate training a puppy is cruel. But that’s not really the truth. Have you noticed your dog curling up under blankets or in tight spots? That’s because denning behaviour is an innate tendency for most dogs.
That said, your feelings or perceptions towards a crate can have an impact on the process of crate training a puppy. Dogs are very perceptive animals, and can pick up on our emotions. So if you view the crate as a jail cell, your dog is likely to be wary of it.
Your dog may have negative associations of their own. Maybe a crate was used as punishment in a previous home. Or perhaps your dog simply hates small spaces. You could work through these with an expert, or you could decide that crate training isn’t the right choice for you.
Here are some reasons why crate training a puppy might not be the right choice for you and your dog
1. They came from a pet store
Puppies from pet stores may have had bad experiences with confinement in their younger weeks. Often, pet store puppies are confined for long periods without the opportunity to play, sniff new areas, and generally have free run of a place.
Additionally, puppies are usually enclosed together at pet stores. The drawback of this is there’s no quiet, isolated hidey-holes when they need downtime.
If this is your puppy, they may not be comfortable with the idea of being confined in a small space like a crate.
2. Rescue dogs may’ve had negative crate training experiences
Rescue dogs come with a huge array of histories and past experiences. Some might have been given up in fairly innocuous circumstances and could be well-socialised, well-adjusted dogs. Often though, their past experiences are either relatively unknown or are traumatic.
Like us, dogs retain memories of their past traumatic experiences. If your dog was previously confined as punishment, neglected and left alone in a small space for long periods, or generally deprived of contact, then crate training might not be for you.
In these instances, a crate can prevent your dog from feeling safe and protected. Which can also be a barrier to the bonding process for you both.
3. Crate training a puppy for babysitting purposes
Crate training can definitely provide a safe space for your dog. It can even help prevent them from engaging in destructive behaviour.
But if you were considering crate training a puppy so they can be safely and happily confined when you’re away, think again.
Under no circumstances should a dog be left in a crate while you’re away all day at work. A crate is for short periods only. Your dog must willingly go in and stay in their crate, and see it as a rewarding space. Not as a place where they’re locked up.
As pet parents, it’s key we understand the importance of playtime for dogs and educate ourselves about dog exercise needs. Time in the crate needs to be complemented by plenty of other activities and spaces.
In addition to playtime and exercise, your dog should also have lots of time out of the crate in other areas of the home. And don’t forget they need lots of love and attention from their humans too.
Spending too much time in a crate can cause dogs to become anxious and depressed. Plus, it can atrophy their muscles.
So while crate training a puppy can be useful, the crate should never be used as a substitute for supervision.
4. Separation anxiety and crate training
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, crate training probably isn’t the right choice for them. On the contrary, it may heighten your dog’s fear and anxiety. Find out more in our article on separation anxiety in pets.
Not every dog needs or suits crate training. Listen to your dog’s needs and follow your gut.
5. Stomach upsets = no crate
Crate trained dogs shouldn’t be kept in their crates if they’re vomiting or have diarrhoea. If they soil their crate it’s the dog equivalent of this happening in your own bed.
And just washing the crate or changing bedding might not be enough. After they’ve vomited or soiled their crate, your dog might have a different association with it. A negative association with the crate means they lose their safe space and den, which nobody wants.
This is another reason not to leave your dog in the crate for too long, even if they’re toiled trained and totally healthy. They could end up soiling it.
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Crate training a puppy – over to you
We’d love to hear your opinions on crate training. Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on the drawbacks and benefits.