Why shouldn’t you use dog crates as a punishment?

We need our puppies and dogs to love their crates. That way they become their den, safe space and place of comfort and quiet. Anything which threatens those feelings of calm and relaxation will make the crate worthless. This is why we don’t use dog crates as a punishment.

Let’s take a look at how we might accidentally make the crate punishing, how to fix it and what sort of ‘time out’ solutions we can use instead of confining your dog to a dog crate.

What’s a punishment?

When we think of punishments we tend to think of the more extreme examples but some dogs can find the mildest of negative experiences punishing. So how can we avoid using dog crates as a punishment?

Did I accidentally make the crate punishing?

Did I put the puppy in their crate whilst I cleaned up their mess?

Did I use the crate to contain my puppy and their pees and poops?

Did I get annoyed at my puppy and put them in the crate as a time out?

Did I leave my puppy to cry in their crate?

Did I use the crate to separate my dog from things they wanted to play with? (other dogs, people etc.)

Did I use the crate to transport my dog somewhere and they don’t like the car or were car sick?

Did I use the crate to transport my dog somewhere they don’t like, like the veterinarian or the groomer?

As you can see, there are lots of occasions where our dogs might have accidentally associated the crate with another, more negative experience.

What’s the purpose of a dog crate?

Dog crates are for…

A quiet place for your dog to be alone

Emergencies / Vets

Travel in the car

Short periods of time (Whilst hoovering/tradesmen visiting etc.)

To assist with toilet training puppies

Dog crates are not for…

‘Storing’ your dog when you’re busy

Putting your dog in a time out if not trained

Containing an excited or overly energetic dog until they calm down

Removing your dog from a situation as a punishment

Containing a dog who is distressed or anxious

can you use a normal dog crate in the car

Why punishments are incompatible with crate training

People who believe the use of crates is cruel usually imagine that they’re used as a punishment or that the dog finds them to be a negative experience. In reality, crate training is all about showing your dog that this little space is theirs, and it’s safe and comfortable and it’s a great place to be.

Anything that we do to threaten that completely ruins our crate training, even if your dog has been using a crate for years, one bad experience can set back training or mean that we need to start again.

Dogs are incredibly good at making connections between things, that’s how most training works.

When we crate train we want this;

Dog sees crate + dog has lots of prior positive experiences with the crate = dog loves their crate

and not;

Dog sees crate + dog has lots of prior negative experiences with the crate = dog hates their crate

time out

Giving your dog a ‘time out’ without using the crate

Is the time out for you or the dog?

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s us that needs the 5 minutes of peace, not the dog, so the first thing to consider is why you’re putting the dog away somewhere.

If it’s you that needs to be doing something else and can’t keep an eye on the dog then maybe the crate is the best place. After all, the dog’s not done anything wrong, should have been trained to love their crate already, and you’ll be popping them in there for a short period. This is exactly one of the reasons why you crate trained your dog.

If your dog isn’t crate trained yet then now is not the time to use the crate.

There’s a saying in the dog training world that ‘you cannot train a dog at the moment you need the training’.

This means that any training that you need to do with the dog, needs to be done before the moment that you need it. You don’t let your dog off their lead to teach a recall, you teach it before you let them off. It’s the same with crate training. If you’re in a situation where you need to crate your dog then your dog needs to have been crate trained already.


Babygates / Petgates

I love baby gates (pet gates) in houses with puppies and ‘new to you’ dogs. Babygates are easy to install, easy to pop your dog behind and very low stress for the dog.

They can still see you, smell you and hear you but they’re safely contained so that you can get on doing the thing you need to whilst not being able to watch them for a while.

They can be contained in any room, on either side of the babygate and the dog doesn’t feel restrained. The only downside to baby gates is when your dog grows large enough to jump over but by that point they should be crate trained or not need to be contained as much. And if you have a rescue dog then you can buy extra tall versions which will reduce the jumping over, or I’ve even seen 2 baby gates installed in door ways, one above the other, like barn doors.

Another plus for gates is that they can’t be scratched or chewed the way a closed door can, saving your house from damage.

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All articles on tetradog.com are written by qualified behaviorist and dog trainer, Cheryl Walker.


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