Crate Training = Freedom
Sherry Antonishen, Head Trainer, CPDT-KA
Some people think that crates are confining and unnecessarily restrictive to a dog. I believe that nothing could be farther from the truth.
First of all, a crate-trained dog can go almost anywhere – they can safely (and comfortably) hang out in a hotel room while you’re out having dinner, they can travel on an air plane, and they are a lot more comfortable at the vet’s office.
In addition, crate training a dog helps you to train other things, and ultimately allows for more freedom for your dog. Here’s why…
Dogs do what is reinforcing. In other words, they are curious creatures in constant search of treasures. In an untrained dog or a puppy this ‘treasure hunting’ is often annoying, possibly dangerous, and at the very least is teaching him that roaming free and not listening will lead to an excellent cache. (If your dog thinks stealing shoes or socks is fun – he is a treasure hunter!)
Imagine the dog that is not crate trained and instead left to roam a room where the owner is working at a computer. Sure there are 15 toys for him to play with, but he will gravitate to all new things, especially those they should not have: electrical cords, pens, and remote controls are just a few excellent items waiting to be discovered. Even a well puppy-proofed room can hide an awesome reward in the worst possible place (think your new pair of prescription eye glasses on a side table). In addition, every time you have to get up and take something away from your dog, you are adding value to his game because you are giving him attention and possibly initiating a game of chase!
Now imagine a world where your dog or puppy loved his crate. I am not talking about tolerating the crate.. I am talking LOVE the crate. This is a trained behaviour that you can do! In that world, you would have the keys to a very powerful tool. When your puppy is out of the crate, you can be actively training by rewarding behaviour you want and re-directing unwanted behaviour quickly before it becomes a habit. Play is done with you, not alone by grabbing your shoes, and all reinforcement comes from you, not from the environment. Can you feel your dog’s love to work for you growing? Because it will.
You lay out the treasure map! Sitting politely, settling on a mat, relieving himself outside all lead to awesome reinforcement. And it all comes from you. In this case your dogs motivation to work for you is through the roof! And chewing on the remote control is not even a consideration.
But you cannot do that all day long. After a good walk, a crate is a safe place to go, as long as you have properly trained them to love their crate! Puppies can spend several happy hours a day in their crate if they are getting adequate exercise and training time!
When you can’t be actively involved in shaping your puppy or dog’s behaviour he would be resting in a crate, working on a food puzzle in a crate, or if you are a good multi-tasker, you could be reinforcing your dog for choosing to go lie in the crate with the door open. I was able to crate train my dog to choose a crate over all other settling places.
Putting your dog or puppy outside is really not the answer to a dog that is not crate trained. In this case you have a dog that is learning to have fun outside without you! And when they are in the house you spend a lot of time taking things away and managing the things he is getting into. In other words you are a fun-wrecker. Then you put him outside and he can literally do what ever he wants. This is not how you want to lead your puppy into the world, and generally dogs managed in this way end up spending less and less time in the house with their family where they would love to be.
A properly crate trained dog puts you in charge of everything your dog wants and makes training easy. Going back to where we started, a well trained dog is welcome almost anywhere and ironically needs to be crated very little. And if they are crate trained, they are also more comfortable in a vet hospital stay, and are allowed to fly, stay in hotels, and attend certain events such as agility classes and longer workshops where crate training is a requirement.