I don’t want to crate train my puppy – dog crate alternatives

Bringing a new puppy into your home is exciting, but hard work too! People often advise using a dog crate to help with things like toilet training and giving your pup a safe space. We get it, though – not everyone is into the idea of using a crate, and that’s okay. Although I would always advise crate training for emergencies and vet visits, you really don’t have to use dog crates daily if you don’t want to. Let’s take a look at why people use crates, what they’re trying to achieve, and some dog crate alternatives.

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Housebreaking Aid:

Crates help establish a routine for potty training, as dogs instinctively avoid soiling their living space.

Crate solution

Although puppies can only hold their bladder for a short time, using a crate can encourage them to hold onto their pee within that timescale allowing you to get on with things knowing you won’t have to worry about any unexpected puddles.

For example, a 12 week old puppy can hold it for a maximum of three hours, so if you’ve let them outside for a pee break, you can safely pop them in the crate for an hour or two while you attend to anything you need to. Whilst the puppy is in the crate it will not want to pee and soil its sleeping area.

Always remember that your puppy’s ability to hold its pee is a physical limitation and not a choice. Popping puppy in a crate overnight will not encourage them to hold it longer, they just physically can’t.

Non crate alternative

The crate works by confining the puppy in a small enough area that he/she feels they can’t soil in the area. As soon as it becomes a large enough space for them to move to one end and pee away from their bedding area then they will.

So if you’re not going to use a crate for toilet training then the alternative will be to confine the dog in an area that is easy to clean, close to the exit outside for fast redirection if they start going and you’ll need to keep a close eye on your puppy for signs that they need to go.

Taking them out every hour, and extending this time as they get older also works to teach them that outside is the correct place to eliminate.

Security and Safety:

Crates provide a secure environment, preventing puppies from getting into potentially dangerous situations or chewing on hazardous items.

Crate solution

Having the option to pop your puppy in a crate whilst you trail electrical cords around the house doing DIY, sweeping up a broken glass or putting your groceries away is an absolute gift.

Non crate alternative

Anything that divides the puppy from the hazard is a good alternative, be it a puppy pen, a door, using a baby gate or putting them in the garden temporarily.

Establishing a Safe Haven:

Dogs often view their crates as a safe and cozy den, offering a retreat for relaxation and stress relief. aids settling in a new environment, and mobile, moving house, holidays etc.

Crate solution

Pairing your dog’s crate with positive associations such as food and play makes the crate a place of security and enjoyment for your dog and means it can be used to promote relaxation in stressful circumstances. Never, ever use the crate for punishment as this will destroy that sense of security.

Non crate alternative

Alternative items can be used to create positive associations with and therefore be used as a form of ‘security blanket’ for dogs. A particular dog bed, mat or item of your clothing can be used to soothe a dog in an anxious situation, as long as only good things have happened in the past when that item has been present.

Preventing Destructive Behaviors:

Crates discourage destructive habits like chewing furniture or belongings when you can’t supervise your puppy.

Crate solution

Having the option of using a crate obviously separates your dog from being able to physically get to anything they might want to chew or destroy when you’re not there to watch them and redirect them onto things they are allowed to chew.

Non crate alternative

The no crate approach would be to either use a different barrier to separate your dog from chewable items, or remove all the chewable items away from your dog’s reach. Baby gates and closed doors can physically stop your dog from getting into things they shouldn’t, and then you can remove items from the space that you’ve chosen to leave your dog in.

In both cases however, it’s a good idea to investigate why your dog may be exhibiting destructive behaviors, rather than just containing the dog, as it could be any number of behavioral issues that need addressing.

Travel Convenience:

Portable and familiar, a crate makes car trips and visits to the vet more comfortable for both the owner and the puppy.

Crate solution

Crates in the car, especially crash tested dog crates, are the safest way for your dog to travel, keeping them and you and your passengers safe in the event of a collision.

Non crate alternative

The second best way to travel with your dog in a vehicle is to attach them via a crash tested dog harness to a seatbelt anchor on the back seat.

Guest Management:

When guests are over or repairs are underway, a crate provides a controlled space for your puppy, ensuring everyone’s comfort.

Crate solution

Although using your dog’s crate for ‘storage’ is not an ideal solution, using it as a barrier between them and your guests or workers can be useful. Ensure the crate is located in a position where your dog can see what’s going on and feel a part of the action, otherwise you might end up with a frustrated or scared dog if they can only hear the commotion from a distance.

That said, be aware that your dog may prefer to be away from the action if they have that type of personality, so be sure to keep an eye out for stress signals and react accordingly.

Non crate alternative

Again, any type of barrier will work. I like baby gates as the dog can still see through them and can experience the sights as well as the sounds. They even make extra tall pet gates now for those jumpers who can scale a normal height gate.

Sleep Training:

Crates aid in establishing a consistent sleep routine, helping both puppy and owner get a good night’s rest.

Crate solution

Your dog’s crate will become part of their bedtime routine, indicating alongside their last trip to the verge for a wee, that it’s bedtime. If your dog has been crate trained correctly, it should already associate the crate with relaxing and chill time, so they will settle much faster in a crate.

Non crate alternative

Having a set nighttime routine is just as important without a crate but should end with your dog being in the place you want them to spend the night. That way they can make the association between that location and bedtime.

So whether that’s your own bed (yes, it’s allowed!) or a dog bed, try and ensure that only relaxing things happen in those spaces. So if you want your dog to sleep on the bed with you, don’t play games with your dog on the bed, keep it chilled and relaxing for that space.

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Mealtime Management:

For multi-pet households, crates help prevent food aggression and ensure each pet eats peacefully.

Crate solution

Each dog gets fed in their own crate, or with two dogs you can have one in the crate and one outside. All dogs need to have finished their meals before letting them out and only after you’ve collected the bowls as some dogs will argue over an empty dish too.

Non crate alternative

Again, barriers are your friend. Be it a closed door, one inside and one outside, fences, baby gates or x-pens. Divide the dogs until they’ve finished their meals and you’ve picked up the bowls.

Emergency Preparedness:

In emergencies or sudden situations, having a crate-trained puppy facilitates quick and safe relocation.

Crate solution

A crate trained dog will feel safe and secure in a crate, even if it’s not theirs, in an emergency situation such as floods or fires.

Non crate alternative

There isn’t one. All emergency situations will require your dog to be contained and kept safe so this will mean going into a crate. If your dog hasn’t been trained then they will find this an extra stress on top of being in an emergency situation. Even if you don’t want to use a crate in the house or vehicle, it’s well worth training your dog for a situation like this as a life skill.

Veterinary or Grooming Preparation:

Getting your pup used to a crate makes visits to the vet or grooming salon less stressful for both the puppy and the professionals.

Crate solution

A crate trained dog will feel secure and safe in a crate for a short time.

Non crate alternative

As with an emergency situation, there just isn’t a crate alternative for a vet stay. They will need to be contained and if your dog hasn’t been crate trained then they will find it stressful in addition to their illness or injury. Being crate trained is a life skill for your dog.

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

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