Although opinions vary about the value of crate training, a crate can be a useful tool when house training a young puppy, or even an adult dog. For dogs, a crate can be a place of sanctuary, a place of retreat from the busy home life. Some experts consider properly conducted crate training as imperative as appropriate healthcare, timely neutering, and obedience training. At the other end of the spectrum are folk who would no sooner confine a dog to a crate than lock their children in the laundry closet.
Not all dogs respond the same way to crates. Some gravitate to them willingly; others detest them and will injure themselves in them while trying to escape. Why the difference? Nurture and developmental experience have a lot to do with the answer. Dogs forced to stay in crates, or other small confined places, under extreme adverse circumstances develop a "post-traumatic" association and will panic when confronted with similar confinement. On the other hand, a dog that has been well managed in a crate as a youngster may positively revel his crate as a place of security and comfort.
For a dog that has been well acclimated, a crate can be a haven, a place of comfort, a retreat from the world…a den, in fact. Many dog owners think that, because dogs are den dwellers at heart, they will all automatically appreciate a crate. But real dens do not have doors. This is why care must be taken to encourage your dog to view his den as a retreat or sanctuary.
Crate Training Your Puppy
For the owner, careful crate training can help to deal with housebreaking. Most dogs respect the sanctity of den, and their nature directs them against soiling the nest area. Thus, a crate can be used to confine a dog between unsuccessful excursions to a selected outside "bathroom" area.
No matter what age you begin crate training your dog, all experiences within the crate should be good ones. Ideally, begin with a very young pup (the most malleable substrate), and establish good associations with each exposure to the crate. This can be arranged by:
Using the above protocol, there is no reason that the dog should not gravitate toward the crate for rest and relaxation. If this is achieved, the dog will find the crate amongst his favorite places in life. Unfortunately, because of bad experiences, many dogs grow up loathing their crate with a vengeance, acting out in one way or another whenever they are confined.
Crate Training Your Adult Dog
The following is a program by which older dogs can be introduced or even reintroduced to crates as a place of refuge. The goal is to systematically desensitize the dog by making the crate appear as benign as possible.