Do you have experience using a crate for a puppy? What did you feel the pros/cons were?
December 10, 2004 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Do you have experience using a crate for a puppy? What did you feel the pros/cons were? Anything in particular we should know if we get one?

Possibly pertinent details: We are hoping to get a puppy next week. We're getting it from a pound/adoption agency (Humane Society or similar), and it will probably be a male, medium-sized mutt of some sort. This will be the only dog in the household (at least for a while). We both work away from the house, but one of us generally spends a few hours at home in the middle of the day. We've had dogs before but have never used a crate.
posted by widdershins to Pets & Animals (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In my opinion, the crate is the best way to house train a dog. Have the puppy out of the crate whenever you are around and can keep an eye on him, so if he does have a mistake you can stop it immediately. The dog generally won't pee in the crate, because he/she will think of it as their den. So, because you can put an immediate stop to almost all accidents, the dog seems to get the message pretty quick. And don't worry about the dog being unhappy in the crate. The dog I currently have is about 3 years old and even though she has access to the backyard, generally chills in her crate until I get home from work everyday. She loves it.
posted by trbrts at 10:23 AM on December 10, 2004

Mu current dog had a full wire crate. I sorta advise against this, as she learned a masterful way of backing her ass up against the wire and dumping her contents on the floor, outside her crafte, next to our bed while we slept. This sorta goes to ruin the whole crate idea ie. dogs wont mess their own dwelling. ..
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 10:23 AM on December 10, 2004

Crating a dog makes it feel safe when it's alone. I can't imagine why someone would just let their puppy run around while they're not home- lots of opportunity for mischief. My dog (1 year chihuahua) loves her crate.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:25 AM on December 10, 2004 [1 favorite]

I adopted a pup at about 9 months old, closing in on a year old now. She was going to the bathroom in the house all the time. So we got a crate.

This was our technique and she does not go to the bathroom in the house anymore.
Firstly, we started crating her at night when we went to bed so she wouldn't pissandshit while we were sleeping. Right when we let her out, we would not pet her or play, !just "let's go outside!" and rushed her outside.
Secondly, we would crate her anytime we were not home. Make sure the crate isn't too big because they will go the bathroom in it and sit in a different part (btw, put some old clothes that smell like you, it will comfort him/her.)
Now, she goes into the crate without us having to bribe or force her.
Patience. We would get angry at first but as soon as we laid off and vowed to teach her well, she improved drastically.

Good luck, it can be a blast to have a sweet, loving dog around the house.

on preview: wire crate? put an old blanket over it.
posted by mic stand at 10:27 AM on December 10, 2004

I've used wire crating twice now, both times for young pups from the Humane Society. Both dogs are now about two years old. It's worked splendidly for both animals. One is a very active deaf dog; we were afraid she'd chew things when she was out so we crate her at night and while we're at work. When she's in her kennel she is generally asleep. The other dog is her little buddy - he really doesn't need to be crated anymore because he's got the rules down pat but I can't figure out how to get him to understand that. He's very submissive and likes his crate almost too much - it's his big ugly safety zone crowding up our kitchen. I was actually thinking of posting here asking how to get him to give it up.

Both of them are completely LOATH to use the bathroom in their crates. The deaf dog stole a hot pepper off the counter recently and literally stuck her ass against the bars of the kennel to have an emergency poop.

The main thing is to make it small enough for them so they see it as their den, and then make it larger as they get older/more in control of their bathroom functions. And treats and toys just for kennel-time help a lot, too.
posted by pomegranate at 10:33 AM on December 10, 2004

I've done both (raised with a crate and without).

Pros of a crate:
- keeps dog and your possessions safe (a dog who learns that he can chew shoes up to relieve stress has to be retrained to chew only appropriate items, using a crate means that you can provide appropriate enticing chewables so that the dog learns easily what it should chew)
- makes housetraining much easier (as long as you are not leaving the dog crated so long it has no choice but to relieve itself in the crate, and as long as the crate is the correct size, you can get dividers to adjust the size as the dog grows - the dog should be able to stand, lie down and turn around comfortably, much bigger than that is too big)
- gets dog accustomed to confinement (most dogs will require boarding or hospitalization at some point in their lives)
- gives dog a safe place to go to when it wants to be alone
- travel safety (crating in the car, crating in hotels)

The cons of a crate tend to be directly related to misuse (leaving for too long, not actually training the dog to be crated, etc).

That said, I wean a dog off crating as soon as I feel it's safe. With a baby gate you can fence off gradually increasing areas of the home. But don't do this before the dog is reliably choosing appropriate chewies (Kong toys stuffed with food are perfect), and is housetrained, and has been both for quite a few months (and definitely not before one year of age at the earliest for most dogs). Remember that it's easiest and best to prevent problems from occurring in the first place, and crating makes this substantially easier. If you crate at night (I don't), please have the crate in your bedroom, dogs are pack animals and should not be banished from their pack.
posted by biscotti at 10:33 AM on December 10, 2004

Another nice thing about the crate is it does teach the dog to hold its bladder for a bit and associates going outside immediately after being let out as its time to relieve him/herself.
posted by mic stand at 10:38 AM on December 10, 2004

We used a crate for our puppy (basset hound) from the moment we got her (8 weeks old), and would recommend using it for any puppy. However, be aware that you will need to let the puppy out frequently when they are young. When we first got our dog we would never leave her crated for more than 2 hours. This included the night time. I would get up every two hours at night to let her out. After a while she would bark for out. There is a rule of thumb of 1 hr crate time per month of age (or some such). The crate should be large enough to allow the dog room to lie down, (at their adult size) and be able to turn around, but should not be much larger (as the dog might use half for sleeping half for pooping/peeing). Our crate came with a divider so that we could increase the dogs space as needed.
Our dog only whined in the crate for about the first 1/2 hour of her first night in it. Also, I think I read somewhere that it is not recommended to keep the crate in your bedroom (but I could be wrong on this).
These days we give the dog the full run of the house but her crate is available in the kitchen. She will hang out in her crate if she is feeling ill/insecure, if everyone is in the kitchen or just for the heck of it. She also enjoys hiding her raw hides in her crate.
posted by evilelf at 10:41 AM on December 10, 2004

I have been rasining english bulldogs for a while, and I completely agree with the information about the wire crates. Do it -- it is not cruel, and even now that he is not crated he will still hang out inside if he needs to get away.

evilelf -- every two hours at night? really? wow!
posted by hummus at 11:01 AM on December 10, 2004

Thank you all very much for your answers. A follow-up question:

Our home is a two-level townhouse. We would probably have the crate downstairs in the livingroom during the day, but I would prefer to move the crate upstairs to our bedroom at night. Is it OK to move the crate, or does this make it feel less 'safe' for the dog?
posted by widdershins at 11:04 AM on December 10, 2004

Nah, we move ours all the time. Neither dog has had much to say about it, but they like watching us curse when we bang the crate against the freshly-painted door jambs.
posted by pomegranate at 11:05 AM on December 10, 2004

Also, I think I read somewhere that it is not recommended to keep the crate in your bedroom (but I could be wrong on this).

It's certainly recommended by just about every modern-thinking dog behaviourist and trainer, especially while the dog is young. I can think of no good reason to banish a pack animal from its pack, especially as a puppy.

You can move the crate, or just get two.
posted by biscotti at 11:08 AM on December 10, 2004

hummus -- Really, every two hours, but not for too long. I slowly increased the time as the dog settled into a routine. My wife jokes about it now that we have a new baby (2 weeks old), and she has a hard time getting to wake up for diaper changes...
widdershins -- Just don't move the crate with the dog in it. We left the crate mostly in one place but did move it seasonally (to a 3 season porch for the summer).
I was never comfortable with the idea of the crate being in the bedroom. Now that the dog is housebroken she is allowed to sleep in our bedroom but often as not decides to sleep downstairs.
posted by evilelf at 11:17 AM on December 10, 2004

I've had a German Shepherd from a good line of dogs since she was 6 weeks, but most of the following applies to any dog. I've used a crate since her first day at home, always making sure she was let out at least once during the work day. The routine was always the same: out of the crate, directly outdoors, do your business, we'll play/hang as time allows, then back outdoors before going into the crate. She never spoiled her crate. Gradually, she earned a longer "leash", she could stay out of the crate longer and be in a room by herself and such, but any mistake meant we would take a step back for a few days.

Now 6 months old, she has been sleeping loose for over a month. Once she was completely house-trained for bodily functions and chewing, we made a clean break so her crate is only for used punishment now and she knows she was bad if she gets sent there. That is partly because her crate is in the basement, a practice I have disagree with biscotti about (my kids sleep in my bed, my dog sleeps where I tell it to). My dog stays on the ground floor and the basement in my house, and has only been upstairs once or twice. I love my dog, but not in my bedroom (though for her first week sleeping loose, I slept on the couch next to her).

The main advantage to a crate is teaching a dog self-control. Don't let them whine their way out, life has a schedule and they need to follow it. Also, definitely give them chew toys in the crate and an old shirt that has a strong scent of you. Finally, this guy's book and technique is really interesting.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 11:18 AM on December 10, 2004

Just chiming in with a recommendation for DoggieDoor - it was a font of useful information when we brought home our five-month old beagle. One recommendation that made a huge difference: actually leash the dog to you when he's out of the crate during the intensive housetraining phase - it makes it easier to intervene when/if necessary because you're right there.

Have fun!
posted by deliriouscool at 11:20 AM on December 10, 2004

It's certainly recommended by just about every modern-thinking dog behaviourist and trainer, especially while the dog is young. I can think of no good reason to banish a pack animal from its pack, especially as a puppy.

I was thinking this might be the case (since dogs are pack animals) which is why I added the '(but I could be wrong on this)' , thanks for setting the record straight. regardless, we opted not to keep the crate in the our bedroom and this did not appear to negatively impact training.
And one final note, I do not know where she picked it up from but when our dog is going to be sick (vomit - this has happened a couple of times) she makes every effort to get outside.
posted by evilelf at 11:37 AM on December 10, 2004

I'm a bit late but will chime in as a big supporter of crate training. We have a six month old mini dachshund and he's really taken to it. We crate him all night and during the day (interrupted by a one hour-ish break at lunch), and he seems quite happy with it.

Lots of good advice about, and the only thing I can add (I don't think I saw this) is DO NOT use crate the dog as a punishment. When the dog goes in you should always praise him/her, and use a happy tone of voice--even if you really need to give the puppy a time out for your own sanity, never let the dog know he or she is being punished by being crated. The crate should be like his/her own safe, cozy den, and not a tool for discipline.
posted by handful of rain at 12:32 PM on December 10, 2004

Darn--sorry, I meant to add that re: McGuillicuddy's note on punishment above, I think it's different than what I'm talking about. If you intend to crate the dog at night/while you're out, then you should never use the crate as punishment. If you're only using it as a way to discipline the dog, that's probably a different issue.
posted by handful of rain at 12:34 PM on December 10, 2004

Somehow, we got a puppy that doesn't mind peeing in her crate. She has pretty much grown out of it (she's 1 year old now), but every night she would pee in her crate, and we'd have to change her blanket. Also, whenever we let her get onto our bed, she had made the association with bed = pee, so she'd pee right on our comforter too! I'm really glad she's grown out of this.

I still think the crate is a good thing, but it doesn't seem to work on every dog. I also have the most submissive and quick-to-urinate dog I've ever seen. You'd think she's been mistreated, but we've had her since 8 weeks and given her the best we can.
posted by knave at 12:43 PM on December 10, 2004

Our dog adjusted well to the crate (she was 3 months old when we got her; a Siberian husky). However, she ate the blanket we put in there with her. Also, one time she escaped while I was at work and ate an entire box fan cord except the plug. We don't allow her to sleep with us and she goes in the crate at night time. She's six years old now, and although I think she'd be safe if left out of the crate, it's just habit. Whatever you decide to do, consistency is the key.
posted by cass at 1:43 PM on December 10, 2004

Crates should not be used for punishment ever, my dog sleeps in the bedroom, he does not sleep in the bed. I disagree with Mcgillicuddy pretty well completely, so please widdershins, do your own research (especially into sources based on more current research, like Jean Donaldson's "The Culture Clash" and Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot The Dog" - many of the "traditional" schools of thinking about dog training are based on faulty information which became common knowledge) and decide for yourself.
posted by biscotti at 3:33 PM on December 10, 2004

my kids sleep in my bed, my dog sleeps where I tell it to

Of course it sleeps where you tell it to. It has no bleedin' choice in the matter. If you put it in the oven every night, it's going to sleep in the oven.

The question is whether you should tell it to sleep in the basement, or with its family. Keeping your dog out of the bedroom doesn't make you WROSE THEN HITKLER!!! or anything, but the implicit assertion that letting a dog sleep in the bedroom is somehow wrong or weak is falsitty false false.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:47 PM on December 10, 2004

We crated Fanny (check my user page for a photo) and she was as good as gold. We used a combination of crating plus puppy gate to confine her to the kitchen during the day and I don't remember her having a single accident, ever. And this was while the old basset Hound had completely lost control of his bladder and bowels and so went around the house pooping and peeing as he walked.

We always brought the crate in the bedroom, but now that she is full grown she rarely sleeps in there. She prefers the couch in the living room, the couch in the guest room, or the dogbed right in front of the heater.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:45 PM on December 10, 2004

Of course it sleeps where you tell it to. It has no choice in the matter.

My dog roams freely in our living quarters all day and night, and could freely wander up the stairs at any time. But she has been trained to stay downstairs and she has never come upstairs uninvited. Why does she obey my rules? Because we are pack, and like in any other pack, we have rules we live by so we can all get along.

A pack animal requires lots of love and companionship, but not constant companionship. If a dog were guarding sheep in a pasture, she may be an acre away from half her far-flung flock, and a day's hike from her owner, without it bothering her one bit. If you want your dog in your bedroom that's fine, but it is hardly necessary or universally recommended.

The theory of Natural Dog Training that I linked to is as modern as any theory out there, but doesn't treat dogs like hairy four-legged people. The basic premise is that dogs should be well trained to perform their duty in the pack and they will feel absolutely content when doing so (in my dog's case, her role is hanging downstairs guarding the kids and house). Fitting into your pack will make your dog much happier than close proximity to you ever could.

Handful of Rain is absolutely correct that a crate can't be dual purpose. If its crate is a comfy spot for your dog, it can't be a punishment spot. But after puppyhood, many larger dogs will avoid their crate anyway. The idea that crating isn't a very effective training technique to end negative behavior is in vogue with doggie psychiatrists, but is not proven out by the facts. It is not cruel in any way and it is very effective if your dog prefers being elsewhere.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 6:50 PM on December 10, 2004

I'd like to add the following:

1. Whether you crate train or not, make the rules of your pack as clear as you possibly can for your dog from day one. Clarity and consistency are the most important factors in raising good dogs.

2. Breaking bad habits is much harder than preventing them.

3. Do not make your dog sleep in the oven.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 7:21 PM on December 10, 2004

Have you considered a pug? They're both adorable & hyperintelligent. When the wife & I had to train ours, we simply explained to them in plain English that they were only to use the facilities outdoors, and they understood immediately.
posted by jonson at 2:42 PM on December 30, 2004

Alas. No pug. But an absolutely adorable jetblack Shepherd mutt named - you guessed it - Sirius!
posted by widdershins at 10:55 AM on December 31, 2004

delighted to hear it! email photos!!
posted by jonson at 11:05 PM on January 2, 2005

Well, we meant to get a digital camera for Xmas... but we got the doggie instead! So you'll have to wait for the pics unless I can motivate myself to snailmail...
posted by widdershins at 10:43 AM on January 5, 2005

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