Why should I crate train my dog?
Having a dog in the house is an amazing experience: Dogs are highly social beings who love sharing the home with their owners. But sometimes, we have to leave the house without them. So, how can we keep them from aggravating our neighbours with their barking during this time? And how do we prevent them from scratching on doors or chewing on rugs? This is exactly where crate training comes in. Here at Fenrir, we are big believers in the benefits of crates. And in this article, we will explain why.
Top 3 reasons to crate train your dog
1. Crates Keep Dogs Calm
Countless dogs suffer from separation anxiety. As soon as they see their owners preparing to leave the home, they become nervous and unsettled. Such anxiety is one of the main reasons why so many dogs whine and bark excessively whenever they are left at home unattended. Other reasons for unwanted barking include frustration, boredom, and pent-up energy. During their owner’s absence, such dogs may sit in front of the window, frantically barking at every person, car, cat or bird they see passing by.
Dogs that are prone to excessive vocalising greatly benefit from crate training. Of course, we always should provide enough exercise and mental stimulation to balance out the dog’s time in the crate. As we like to say: Tired dogs are good dogs – and tired dogs are also happy dogs. Crates are extremely effective tools for inducing a state of calm relaxation in dogs. And calm, relaxed dogs typically will not feel the need to bark without good reason.
Crates are also useful for keeping dogs safe and calm on the road: If you like taking your canine companion on outings, install a crate in your car or van! Not only does this guarantee your dog’s safety during the ride, but it also tends to keep them calm. After all, they cannot see much of their surroundings whilst crated. If you transport them on a safety harness in the back seat, however, they have a clear view of the environment you are passing through. And many dogs get over-stimulated by this flurry of stimuli. This can lead to unpleasant, nervous whining and noisy barking during the ride.
2. Crates Keep Dogs Safe
Owners of young puppies often feel overwhelmed by the need to supervise their new pets at all times. This can be extremely tiring, stressful and inconvenient: Because we all have other things to do during the day, and we cannot watch over an infant dog 24/7.
But puppies have an uncanny ability to get themselves into trouble. If left unattended, they can slip out of the house and run out onto the road, for example. But even if you lock them into a room, puppies often find ways to damage your possessions - or to endanger their own health. Licking plug sockets, chewing on cables, carpets or shoes, scratching on doors, swallowing socks, or eating foods that are toxic for dogs: These are only some examples of the misdeeds young dogs can commit. This is why crates can be veritable lifesavers for puppies. They also free their owners from the burden of having to watch over them all of the time. Crate training puppies is one of the best measures we can take to ensure their safety, and our own peace of mind.
But crates are not only ideal for keeping puppies safe: They bring the same benefits to adult dogs and their owners. Crates provide comfortable, den-like spaces for dogs to rest, relax and recharge. Having a crate in the house allows people to go out without having to worry. This is particularly important for owners of dogs that are prone to chewing or scratching. Once your dog is conditioned to their crate, you can send them in there on different occasions. For example, you might have workers in the house, or guests who are afraid of dogs. Maybe you need to open the door for the mailman or the pizza courier. Whatever it may be – there are times when you need to secure your dog somewhere, preferably without them making a lot of noise or becoming destructive. And teaching them to go into their crate on cue gives you this opportunity.
3. Crates Facilitate House Training
Another great application for crate training is housebreaking puppies, and also adult dogs. For example, not all rescue dogs are housetrained. And even if they are, some may still go to the bathroom indoors in their new home. Losing their previous family is quite traumatic for a dog. The best thing we can do for them is to provide a comfortably safe spot in the home: the crate. By giving our new dog this place of refuge, we help them to relax into the new situation with more ease. At the same time, crate training helps them to relearn where to go potty – and where not. After all, dogs instinctually avoid soiling their dens. By taking them to their designated bathroom area right after a couple of hours of crate time, for example, we help them to form healthy habits. This method even works for dogs that have never lived indoors before. And it definitely works extremely well for puppies. To housetrain young puppies, we recommend taking them outside for bathroom breaks every hour, on the hour.
Tips & tools for crate training
Crates are wonderful tools. But the concept of crate training raises many questions for novice dog owners - and even for experienced owners who have never used these tools before. Oftentimes, people ask themselves questions like:
✓ How big should the crate be?
✓ For how long can I leave my dog in there?
✓ When should I start crate training my puppy?
✓ How do I stop my puppy from crying in their crate?
✓ My dog refuses to go into their crate – what should I do?
To remain well-balanced and content, canines need a certain amount of exercise and mental stimulation in their lives. How much activity your own dog needs depends on their breed, age, temperament and energy levels. You know your canine companion better than anyone else. And you also know which amount of activity it takes to tire them out. As we like to say here at Fenrir: Tired dogs are good dogs. And tired dogs are also happy dogs.
But how do you get your dog tired if you have limited time? Let us say for example that you are working from home part-time. Preferably, you want your dog to calmly lie in their crate for the majority of your 4 working hours in the morning. The challenge is that you own an adolescent dog with lots of energy. Perhaps, you have a working line Labrador, a lively Cavapoo, or an ever-active Golden Retriever.
Knowing that your dog needs lots of exercise to be content and happy, you start your day early. First thing in the morning, you let them outside into the garden to relieve themselves. Then, once you had your coffee, you take them on a structured walk to the park. To stimulate their minds, you ask them to stay in an approximate heel position all the way to the park and back. But once you have reached the park, you allow them to run around, sniff the ground, and maybe even play with other friendly dogs. Back home, you ask them to go into their crates for around 30 minutes to cool down, and calm down. Then, you feed them. After they have eaten it is crate time again for the next 2 hours. Now, you take your dog outside to enjoy a vigorous game of fetch in the garden – maybe in combination with some obedience drills. Then, you ask your dog to return to their crate for 2 hours more.
This routine gives you 4 to 5 hours to get ready for work, and to fulfil your professional duties. During this time, your furry friend is resting in the safety of their crate. By crating your dog before and after mealtimes, you ensure an optimal digestion of their food. Simultaneously, you protect them from developing gastric torsion: a potentially lethal condition caused by too much movement right before and after mealtimes.
Tools For Mental Stimulation
Once you have provided sufficient activity to tire out your dog, they are likely to settle down in their crate without much prompting. Building this healthy habit of going to their crate after walks and playtimes can take several repetitions. But what if your dog has a hard time settling down? Maybe the stimulation from their previous activity makes it hard for them to fall asleep. And much like little children, over-tired dogs that cannot settle down are prone to behaving in undesirable ways.
This is where fillable chew toys and snuffle mats come in. Giving our dogs something to work on occupies their minds and their bodies. And if they are tired, they will usually start snoozing before too long. Tools such as the Fenrir Hammer and the Fenrir Foraging Mat make mealtimes more fun. They mimics our dog’s natural way of eating. After all, wolves in the wild do not own food bowls. Instead, they have to use their nose, teeth, paws, eyes and mind to forage for food on the ground. Or to lick the marrow out of an animal’s bones. This is why the Fenrir Hammer or the Fenrir Foraging Mat are so natural for dogs. The Hammer can be filled with treats, peanut butter or meat paste. Filled and then frozen, this hardy toy keeps canines of all ages entertained for quite a while. All we have to do is equip it (or the foraging mat) with food - and then, place it inside the crate. In this way, our dog learns to connect crate-time with amazing things, such as toys and food.
Crates are highly effective training tools. They keep our dogs safe, and make them feel safe at the same time. After all, resting in a den-like space is quite natural for canines. This is why most dogs will readily accept the crate as their designated sleeping spot in the home. When balanced with plenty of outdoor exercise, obedience training and affection, crate training can benefit any dog. And a successfully crate-trained dog is easy to live with. In this way, crate training contributes to shaping our dog into the perfect canine companion for us.