Crate Training Your Dog is not a Substitute for Dog Training

Maya in her pet crate

Maya no longer has to go in her pet crate, but she does so because she wants to.

I recently joined this great G+ discussion group for dog psychology. And I’m learning so much! Not only have I gotten ideas for how to work with Pierson’s dog aggression issues, but I’ve also gotten a great perspective from other dog people all around the world. A topic that was discussed recently was crate training.

When the topic was brought up, all the strongest advocates for crate training were from those living in the US. Many outside the US felt that using a pet crate was unnecessary. From their perspective, this tool for training is an American fad.

Why is crate training your dog so popular in the US but not elsewhere like in Europe where people there love and care for their pets just as much as we do? Someone in the G+ discussion mentioned Cesar Milan. We’ve heard from numerous famous dog trainers about how great it is and it has caught on like wildfire. We hear all the hype about how helpful it is for potty training. We hear about how much dogs enjoy the makeshift ‘den’. And we hear it is a great behavioral solution to keep dogs from chewing on their stuff when they go to work all day. And sometimes the message goes so far as to say there is nothing wrong with leaving a dog in a pet crate all day.

Some of these things can be true. But the pet crate is merely one of many tools you can use for dog training. How many people do you know use the dog kennel as the one and only training method and as a substitute for other training? Because people are busy, they leave the dog in the crate all day while they go to work and don’t do much obedience training at all. For example, instead of training a dog to chew on his own toys and not your stuff, some people simply put their dog in a crate. Instead of rewarding a dog for going potty outside, some people only potty train by leaving their dog in the crate. And instead of teaching a dog not to get on the furniture, the dog is left in the crate so that he can’t get on the furniture.

Crate training your dog can be a very helpful tool. But you have to train them outside of the crate too if you ever expect them to really learn to behave properly. Have your dog stay in the crate when you aren’t home, but train them when you are home. Teach them the boundaries, like not being allowed on furniture. Give them alternatives to chewing on your stuff. Teach them that going potty outdoors is the best behavior. And test them from time to time by leaving them out of the pet crate when you are gone for short periods to see what they do.

There may be times when you have no choice but to leave your dog in a crate all day. I’ve done it on accident when I spent longer away than intended and my pet sitter wasn’t available. If you work all day and you don’t work close enough to home to visit your dog on your lunch break, make arrangements with a pet sitter. While a dog may be comfortable in their pet crate, it can’t be good to leave them in there for 9 to 10 hours straight.

Maya was the first and only dog I have ever crate trained. It did have great benefits in that it helped me potty train her and helped to keep her from chewing up my stuff when I wasn’t home. But because I also trained her in other ways, she no longer has to be locked in her crate. She goes in there on her own when she feels like it. It still is her security ‘den’. But because I can trust her not to get on the furniture or get into things when I am not home, she doesn’t have to go into her dog kennel unless she wants to.

Trying to crate train Pierson ended in disaster. He tried so desperately to escape the pet crate that I believe the bloody nose he got the following morning was a result of that fierce desperation. So Pierson was trained without one and he is now just as well-behaved and trustworthy as Maya.

If you are crate training your dog or if you promote using the dog kennel for training, remember that other obedience training methods must be used in conjunction. Don’t use the pet carrier as a substitute for dog training. Getting a dog means taking responsibility and taking responsibility means taking the time to train your dog without taking shortcuts. Positive reinforcement training is a great bonding experience and a fantastic way to get a well-behaved dog that doesn’t have to stay in the crate if he doesn’t want to.

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7 Responses to “Crate Training Your Dog is not a Substitute for Dog Training”

  1. Carrie Ann Says:

    So interesting that outside of the U.S the whole dog crate frenzy isn’t the norm. When I got my Bichon Frise as a puppy, the advice I got was basically, if you have a puppy, you must have a crate. We used it one time, and three years later it’s still collecting dust out in the garage. Now, when people criticize, I can just say I’m taking the European approach…ha! Best wishes, and happy saturday blog hop!

    • Dawn Says:

      It’s funny that someone told you, “you must have a crate”. There are so many dog training tools out there and I don’t think there is any one method that is perfect for every situation, for every dog, and for every dog owner. Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  2. 2browndawgs Says:

    Our dogs are spend time in their crates when we cannot watch them. For one thing, I would not leave three dogs out and alone in my house ever. But also, they travel in crates and are crated when we are training or at hunt tests. They have no issues in their crates. I think people who advocate against crates just do not understand how to use them properly. And as you say, you need to work with the dog when they are out of the crate and for a young dog, tiring them out before you put them in the crate helps.

    • Dawn Says:

      I agree with you, especially on the point that there are people who don’t understand how to use the crates properly. There is so much more involved than just putting them in the crate an leaving them there. Using a crate for traveling is an excellent idea! I have a car so crates are too big. Maya & Pierson wear seat belts. But if I had an SUV, I would most definitely consider a secured crate instead. Thanks for sharing your perspective. 🙂

  3. Flea Says:

    We crate trained our first dog twenty years ago and we all hated it. We’ve never tried it since. We’ve never had to, since I stay home and work from home. I see the validity of having a den, but my dogs have a corner with a blanket (or the tub), or right under my feet. I see the validity of potty training a dog that way, but we also train out dog to go potty on command, which is great when you’re traveling and stopped at a gas station near a busy highway. I am so not the right person to ask. Another thing not to ask me about is people who leave their dogs outside all day and night.

    • Dawn Says:

      If you’re at home most of the time, then I can see why crate training wouldn’t be as necessary. BTW, I need to find out how you train your dogs to potty on command. If I can get Maya to do that, then it will be much easier to pick up after her so Pierson doesn’t eat it. But that is a whole other blog post along with one about dogs who are strictly outside dogs.

  4. Gizmo Says:

    When I was competing in dog sports my dogs were crate-trained so that they would rest calmly in their crates ringside, but since I no longer compete I just don’t use crates anymore…They’re not necessary these days

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