We know that acclimatizing your puppy to using a crate can be beneficial for owners as it helps us with toilet training, travelling and behavior management but do dogs enjoy crates or is that just something we tell ourselves to justify using them? Let’s take a look.
Do dogs choose to use dog crates?
Puppies who have developed a negative association with crates, by either being placed in it for too long or being left to ‘cry it out’ when they first used the crate, will not choose to use the crate when it’s presented to them as an option.
So whether or not a dog will choose to use their crate voluntarily is entirely dependent on the animal’s history with the crate. This is why it’s so important to ensure those first introductions to being in a crate are done gently and correctly. You can get our free guide to crate training here if you want to check you’re training correctly.
Why do we choose to use crates?
- House Training: One of the primary reasons for using a dog crate is to aid in house training (also known as potty training) puppies or newly adopted dogs. Dogs have a natural instinct not to soil their sleeping area, so crates can be used to limit a dog’s access to the rest of the house until they are reliably trained to go outside.
- Safety and Containment: Crates provide a safe and secure environment for dogs when they cannot be supervised. This can be especially important for puppies and dogs that may have destructive tendencies or get into unsafe situations when left unsupervised.
- Travel and Transport: Dog crates are often used for transporting dogs safely in cars, airplanes, or other forms of transportation. They help keep the dog secure during travel, preventing them from moving around the vehicle or becoming a distraction to the driver.
- Behavioral Management: Crates can be used as a tool for managing certain behaviors in dogs. For example, if a dog is anxious, aggressive, or overly excited in certain situations, a crate can provide a calm and controlled space where the dog can relax and decompress.
- Creating a Safe Space: a place where the dog can retreat to when they need a break from stimulation, children, or other animals, promoting their overall well-being.
Do dog crates recreate a den?
However, no matter what your dog’s opinion of crates is, puppies and dogs (and a lot of other animals) will naturally seek out a covered, small safe space to be when they’re anxious, want to be alone or just want to be quiet and sleep.
So even if they’ve become reluctant to use the crate you bought them, they’ll still seek out somewhere else to fulfil this purpose.
Why do dogs seek out a den?
Dogs seek out a den-like environment for several reasons, which are rooted in their natural instincts and behaviors:
- Safety and Security: In the wild, dogs’ ancestors sought out dens or burrows to find a safe and secure place to rest and protect themselves from predators. The enclosed space of a den offers protection from potential threats, both physical and environmental.
- Comfort and Warmth: Dens provide a cozy and warm environment, which can be especially appealing to dogs during cold or inclement weather. The snug space helps retain body heat and keep them comfortable.
- Privacy and Solitude: Dogs, like humans, sometimes need privacy and solitude. Dens offer a quiet, isolated space where dogs can relax without the distractions and commotion of the outside world (and get away from the children!)
- Shelter from Elements: Dens provide shelter from rain, wind, and other weather elements. Dogs seek out shelter when they need to escape adverse weather conditions, and dens serve this purpose effectively.
- Stress Reduction: Dens can help reduce stress and anxiety. When dogs are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, retreating to a den-like space can provide a sense of safety and comfort, helping them calm down.
- Raising Puppies: Mother dogs often create dens for raising their puppies. These dens protect the vulnerable puppies from potential threats and help maintain a controlled, warm environment for their development.
- Storage of Food: In some cases, dogs may use a den-like space to store food or bones, a behavior that is a vestige of their scavenging instincts.
Do dog crates make dogs feel safe?
Crates can absolutely be used to give dogs a designated “safe space” or den-like environment within the home which will make them feel safe and secure.
This can be any place where the dog can retreat to when they need a break from stimulation, children, or other animals, promoting their overall well-being but a crate creates a specific, enclosed place that can be just theirs.
That’s why it’s super important to let everyone know in the family, especially children, that the crate is a no go area and the puppy is to be left alone when they’re in there.
What are the signs that my dog doesn’t enjoy his crate?
Dogs can sometimes have mixed feelings about crates, and whether they enjoy the den-like quality of a dog crate depends on the individual dog and their previous experiences with crates. Here are some key stress points to look out for that might indicate that your dog is definitely not enjoying being in his crate and that you might need to take a few steps back in your crate training and make some more positive associations with it.
My adult dog pees and/or poops within minutes of being shut in his crate
An extreme reaction and one which will be out of fear, any type of elimination including vomiting is a sure sign that your dog needs to be retrained slowly to accept their crates.
My dog/puppy cries constantly when they’re in their crate
Letting a puppy cry it out is the worst thing you can do and will lead to anxiety, fear and the inability to settle themselves in the future potentially leaving you with a dog with separation anxiety.
Puppies mustn’t be expected to just accept being in a crate, they need to be trained to use one and that training may take time.
My dog won’t eat in his crate
The refusal of food, especially a treat or some human food, is a surefire sign of stress in any situation.
Pacing or restlessness
Not being able to settle, relax or sleep in their crates is a sign that being in it is causing them anxiety.
Trying to escape
This is a clear sign that the dog is majorly uncomfortable and resolving the problem should be approached by retraining the dog, and not by buying a more heavy-duty crate.
Avoidance and Evasion
If they’re giving you the runaround and trying to avoid being put in the crate then it might not just be a fun game for them but a sign of distress and anxiety.
Excessive licking and chewing (themselves)
A less major reaction but still a sign of anxiety, excessive licking or chewing leading to sores and fur loss is a sign of an anxious dog.
If your dog shows any signs of being anxious or uncomfortable then the way to approach resolving it is to go back to the point where your dog is comfortable and retrain them from that point. So if your dog is happy in the crate with the door open, start from there. If they get anxious even being near the crate then the training will need to start from further away.
Remember crate training is all about making your dog love the crate by creating positive associations and a history of good things happening whilst they’re in or near the crate.
Ready to start crate training your dog?
All articles on tetradog.com are written by qualified behaviorist and dog trainer, Cheryl Walker.
- · Foundation degree (Level 5) in canine behaviour management
- · WSDA instructor (World Scent Dogs Association) and level 1 competition judge
- · ADTB Puppy level instructor Diploma
- · Diploma in Puppy Training
- · Diploma in canine behavior training
- · Canine First Aider
- · Veterinary Support Assistant Diploma
- · Completed Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Sirius academy
- · Owner of an extraordinary working Cocker spaniel called Huckleberry