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Crate Training

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Crate training is the process of teaching a dog to go into its crate on command and to be comfortable there while enclosed. Dogs, like all canines, are den-dwelling animals by instinct and a crate becomes a den substitute, providing a familiar and safe haven for the dog. A crate-trained dog benefits the dog and the dog's owner in a number of ways.

This dog is relaxing in its familiar wire crate, which is strapped into a car for safe traveling. This dog is relaxing in its familiar wire crate, which is strapped into a car for safe traveling.


A crate can be used as an adjunct to housebreaking puppies. By instinct, most dogs do not want to defecate or urinate in their den -- in this case, the crate.

The puppy is kept in the crate except during feeding time or during supervised play time. When the puppy comes out of the crate, he or she is taken to the "special area" and given encouragement to "go potty" or other predetermined voice command. When the puppy "goes potty" she or he is profusely praised. Until housebroken, the puppy is either in the crate or is closely supervised.

For maximum effectiveness, the crate must be just large enough for the puppy to be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If there is too much space, the puppy might use the unoccupied end as a bathroom. In addition, timing of the puppy's potty breaks are crucial. Even a confined puppy has a difficult time controlling its urination and defecation. Control gets better as the puppy gets older, but it is the owner's responsibility to ensure that the puppy has ample opportunities to eliminate outside the crate.

Toys and soft material for bedding in the crate make it more comforting for a dog or puppy.

Even an adult dog, when ill or affected by certain medications, can end up soiling the crate, making the dog uncomfortable both physically and mentally, if the owner isn't vigilant and aware of the dog's needs.

Away from home

All veterinary clinics and hospitals keep dogs in crates when the dog must stay for observation or care. A dog who understands the concept of a crate is much less likely to become stressed during medical care and is much easier for the staff to handle when putting him into the crate or removing him.

The same is true for kennels, where an owner might leave a dog while out of town or during emergencies. In true emergencies, such as when an owner's home is destroyed or damaged by wildfires, floods, or earthquakes, a dog who understands and is comfortable in a crate is much easier to manage while the owner is performing other tasks or while the dog must be left in someone else's care in a situation that is also likely to be stressful to the dog and make an unconfined dog more likely to try to escape.

A dog who is familiar with crates so won't chew or dig at it can be placed in a soft crate, which is easier to fold up and to carry than most wire crates. Experienced crate-trained dogs usually stay in the crate until verbally released, even when the door is open. A dog who is familiar with crates so won't chew or dig at it can be placed in a soft crate, which is easier to fold up and to carry than most wire crates. Experienced crate-trained dogs usually stay in the crate until verbally released, even when the door is open.

Control at home

A crate-trained dog feels safe and comfortable in its familiar crate at home. When guests visit, when small children are present unattended, when construction occurs in the home, or in a myriad of other circumstances, it is convenient to be able to put the dog into its crate, where it can relax and sleep, unattended, and the owner can also relax that the dog will not be harmed, will not cause problems, and will not escape out an inadvertently open door. A crate with very see-through sides, such as a wire crate, can be made to feel more safe and enclosed by draping a towel or sheet over it.


When a dog travels on an airline, he must be enclosed in a sturdy crate. Because travel is stressful for the dog to begin with, as is separation from its owner, a dog who is in a familiar and comfortable crate has a tremendous advantage over a dog who must be forced into an unfamiliar crate along with all the other stresses of travel.

When a dog travels by car, a loose dog can create several hazards for itself or its human companions. For example:

  • An excitable dog who sees another animal outside the vehicle might leap into the driver's lap while the car is moving, potentially causing an accident.
  • Dogs have been known to leap through the window of moving cars, injuring or killing themselves.
  • A loose dog barking at a stranger who comes up to the car (such as a police officer) can pose a hazard to the stranger or to itself, as in the case of Leo, the Bichon Frise, who was grabbed and thrown into moving traffic in an incident of road rage in San Jose, California in 2001[1], drawing tremendous media attention and resulting in the man's conviction for the dog's death.
  • Drivers who are distracted by their dogs moving around behind them, barking, or getting into forbidden things while the car is moving can also cause accidents, such as the one that nearly killed writer Stephen King. A British Royal Auto Club survey showed that 11 percent of drivers listed dogs moving around in the car as distractions that they had experienced while driving.
  • In the event of an accident, even a well-behaved dog can become a dangerous projectile that can seriously injure the driver or passengers in seats in front of the dog.
  • Even if the dog doesn't hit a person during an accident, the dog itself can be severely injured or killed, for example by being thrown through the windshield when a car going 60 MPH abruptly crashes and stops, or can be thrown from a tumbling car.
  • If the dog is only moderately injured or uninjured, and particularly if the owner is injured, a loose dog might consider people coming to the owner's aid to be the causes of the accident or threats to its family or property and might attack or attempt to drive off the helpers.

For all the reasons that humans and children must be securely fastened in their seats, dogs also should be. A crate that is securely strapped into the car provides an easy method to contain the dog that still allows the dog to move comfortably during travel.


Crate training usually involves rewarding the dog for entering the crate and for remaining there, using the crate as part of a play session, feeding the dog in the crate, allowing the dog to explore and use the crate until it is no longer intimidating, and so on. This is only a summary of detailed techniques.

Types of crates

There are many types of crates, and variations within the types:

  • Solid plastic crates are usually more suitable than other types for secure travel, such as in an airplane. They might also be safer in a car accident than other types. Disadvantages are that they take up a lot of space and do not fold for storage.
  • Wire crates usually can be folded for storage or transport, although it might be difficult to do and they are fairly heavy for their size. They provide more airflow for the dog and provide people with a clearer view inside. Such crates are often used in car travel, at veterinary hospitals, and at kennels. There are a variety of covers and pads available to make crates safe and more comfortable.
  • Soft crates can always be easily folded for storage or transport and are lightweight. They provide the dog with a stronger sense of security but still allow visibility and airflow. They cannot be used with dogs who are likely to dig or chew at the crate, and they are unsuitable for transporting dogs in any type of vehicle.

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