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10 Benefits of Crate Training a Puppy

Adrienne is a certified professional dog trainer, dog behavior consultant and former veterinarian assistant for an AAHA animal hospital.

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Why Crate Train a Puppy?

The benefits of crate training a puppy are various. Indeed, more and more dog breeders are starting to introduce their puppies to a crate from an early age.

This simple training started at an age when pups are more readily accepting of novelties, makes life much easier for new puppy owners.

This way, when pups are sent to their new homes, they have a familiar place to retreat to, further reducing the added stress of being introduced to a crate for the very first time.

This is why good breeders now have started to introduce puppies to crate training from an early age. Let's now take a closer look into the benefits.

10 Benefits of Crate Training Puppies

When introduced to a crate properly, puppies perceive it as a safe place to retreat to where they feel cozy and happy.

It's a great idea to always keep the crate open (with the door latched so to stay open andf not accidentally startle them) and randomly place treats and toys in there.

Just use caution though with what toys you provide when you pup is unsupervised. Stuffed toys can be dangerous to your puppy as they can ingest the stuffing or the squeaker which can lead to choking and potentially life threatening intestinal blockages.

Toys that are more suitable for use in the crate include the Kong Classic or Toppl from West Paws. These toys are built with durability in mind and keep dogs busy trying to get the food out. No dog toy is indestructible though, so always monitor your dog and inspect toys to ensure they're not breaking apart.

With tasty treats and intriguing toys hidden in the crate, your dog will enjoy visiting it more and more, and may even voluntarily decide to "crate himself" when he's in the mood for some quiet time!

1) A Crate Helps Inculcate the Denning Instinct

Ideally, good breeders will introduce puppies to the ABCs of potty training from an early age (as early as 3 to 4 weeks of age). They accomplish this by inculcating in their young puppies what's known as the "denning instinct," the concept that eating, drinking, playing and sleeping areas are not meant to be soiled.

In the wild, a dog's ancestors raised their young in an underground den. For sake of hygiene, initially, the mother dog would lick their pup's waste to prevent odors that would attract predators. Once the puppies matured enough and became mobile though, they would learn to walk out of the den to eliminate.

In a breeder's home setting, the mother dog and her puppies are raised in a den-like enclosure with an area dedicated for eating, drinking, playing and sleeping and an area purposely made for elimination located on the opposite side.

This area dedicated to elimination often offers a special substrate that helps puppies associate walking over it with elimination. This area may be covered with pee-pads, newspaper, sand, straw, etc.

This practice helps inculcate the denning instinct, the instinct for puppies not to soil where they eat, drink, play and sleep.

On top of this, at some point, good breeders will also introduce puppies from the whelping box to a crate, gradually habituating them to stay in there by making it a great place to eat, chew, chill, rest and eventually sleep rather than soil.

The crate, therefore, mimics a den becoming more of a bedroom than a bathroom. Puppies who miss out this important life lesson (like puppy mill/pet store pups) may be more difficult to potty train.

Did you know? Despite the denning instincts, dogs are not den animals, in the real sense of the word, and therefore, they need to be gradually introduced to crates and require positive associations with them in order to feel comfortable.

I find that Snuggle Puppy Behavior Aid helps young pups adjust to the crate as it provides warmth and emits a heartbeat which can help young pups cope with missing their littermates and moms.

I use that along with the Adaptil plug-in diffuser, which emits a synthetic form of pheromones meant to help soothe pups and adapt to their new homes.

2) A Crate Helps Protect Your Belongings

Another benefit to crating is that it provides a safe place to keep a young puppy who may otherwise get in trouble when left alone.

Puppies are very curious beings and they tend to want to chew, dig, and scratch stuff leading to destructive behaviors (like chewing table legs, ripping house plants, etc).

A crate keeps the puppy away from all these temptations, protecting your belonging and preventing puppies from rehearsing destructive, potentially problematic behaviors.

3) A Crate Keeps Destructive Dogs Safe

Destructive behaviors can lead to safety issues. Puppies who chew things may choke or they may ingest large parts that may get lodged in their intestinal tract, leading to potentially life-threatening blockages which can also require long recovery times and costly surgeries.

Left unattended, puppies may also ingest things that are toxic or they may get into trouble such as pulling things or getting tangled.

Just like toddlers, puppies need constant supervision. Crating them, therefore, keeps them safe when we cannot actively supervise them.

4) A Crate Allows Dogs to Chill Down

Crating can also be used when pups get cranky and need to nap. Young puppies often get overstimulated and don't know how to self-soothe.

Placing them in the crate with something to chew (like a stuffed Kong) can help them calm down and get the sleep they need.

Dogs familiar with crates from a young age and positively introduced to it, come to associate the crate with relaxation.

5) A Crate Helps Protect Others

It may happen that one day you may have a guest who is terrified of dogs come visit you. Or a small child or frail senior who your dog can easily knock over by enthusiastically jumping on them.

In these cases, a crate can help protect others from your dog.

Keeping the crate door open with the door latched open can invite dogs to "auto-crate" themselves.

Keeping the crate door open with the door latched open can invite dogs to "auto-crate" themselves.

6) Crate Training Allows Dogs to Travel

Another advantage is that dogs who are crated can enjoy the big perk of travel. While many dogs travel free in the car, this comes with several risks.

Unrestrained dogs may distract drivers, get in the way of the driver's ability to steer or brake and they may even turn projectile in the case of an accident. Not to mention, if the dog is sitting in the front seat, deployment of the airbag can seriously injure them or even kill them.

Dogs who are crate trained may also travel on planes. Small dogs may travel in the cabin, while older dogs can travel in cargo. If you own a pitbull, make sure to check the IATA crate requirements.

While most cruise ships don't allow dogs, the cruise ship company Cunard allows dogs on board, but they must be able to stay in a kennel.

It goes without saying that bringing a crate along when traveling gives dogs a sense of familiarity and comfort.

Hotels may also want dogs kept in a crate if you must leave your room. If you travel often, here are some tips to reduce a dog's barking in hotel rooms.

7) Crate Training Helps When Dogs Are Hospitalized

If your dog will ever need to be hospitalized, even for a short procedure, your dog will likely feel less stressed if he's not used to being confined.

Dogs who aren't used to being crated/placed in a cage are therefore more likely to get stressed due to not being used to being confined which adds to the stress of the situation of being in an unfamiliar place.

8) Crates Help Dogs Recover

When working for a vet, our post-surgical discharge instructions clearly stated to restrict exercise and keep dogs calm. This can be a great problem for owners of hyper, energetic dogs!

Allowing a dog to romp around right after surgery can lead to problems, from the oozing of stitches to the formation of seromas or even stitches that end up popping open.

A crate can help a whole lot in ensuring the dog doesn't move around too much.

9) They Allow a Place to Retreat to

When properly introduced, dogs perceive crates as their "safe haven." In fact, many dogs go into their crates unprompted when they need some quiet time or feel overwhelmed.

I like to keep my crates open during the day (with the crate door latched so to stay open to prevent it from moving and startling the dog) with a comfy mat and occasionally place treats, new toys and other little surprises in them.

Many dogs love their crates so much, that they decide to "auto-crate" themselves on their own!

10) They Can Save Lives!

While some people oppose to crates, when they are properly introduced and used correctly (not to "park dogs' for extended periods of time or to punish the dog), they can be cozy and reassuring accommodations and can even turn out to be life savers.

For instance, consider that in emergency situations, dogs who aren't accustomed to a crate may not be as readily accepted as dogs who are used to them.

FEMA's Emergency Pet Preparedness tips include using a sturdy, safe crate in case of evacuation. The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand, turn around and lie down.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Adrienne Farricelli