What is a crate?

A crate is a portable "kennel" that is used as an aid to train a young puppy or safely transport your dog in a plane or car. It can also be used as a "home" for your dog when you travel, making your dog a welcome visitor in a friend's home or motel.

A crate can be plastic/fiberglass or metal. The plastic crate is used a lot for air travel and is enclosed except for the door and a small grate on each side. The metal crates are more open, and some are made to fold down which makes them very easy to transport.

How does crating work?

Dogs are den animals who seek small, cave like enclosures to crawl into. Most puppies will look for a place to go to sleep that is a tight fit, like under the coffee table. With the crate, you are supplying a perfectly safe environment for your puppy. It is a safe haven away from underfoot and small children and it is a private bedroom, which it will not soil if it can help it. Using a crate can alleviate numerous problems, can stop other problems from starting, and can housebreak a puppy with ease.

Where do I put the crate?

The crate should be in a "people" area, the kitchen or family room. The crate should be within easy reach during the day, so that when things get busy and you can't watch the puppy, the crate is handy. If you need two crates in different parts of the house, get two. Dogs are social animals and if you lock a puppy away where they can't see what's going on, you will have a harder time getting the puppy to adjust to a crate.

What do I do now?

Set up a routine that works for you and the puppy. First thing in the morning let the puppy out to potty. If you want them to eliminate in a certain area, take them there and praise them when they go. Also, a catch phrase like "go now" or "hurry up," if said every time, will help your puppy learn faster. The puppy should take all naps in the crate it will make nighttime easier as the puppy adjusts to being confined. When the puppy is loose in the house it should be confined to the room you are in with a baby gate. If you can't be with the puppy, use the crate. If the crate is properly introduced, the dog will grow to think of the crate as its den. Most dogs that are crate trained will use the open crate as a resting place.

The major use of the crate is to prevent the dog from doing something wrong. House manners are just as important as house breaking. It is useless to correct a dog for something that it did 5 minutes ago; you must catch them in the act. If the dog is out of the crate unsupervised, it may do something wrong and not be corrected, or worse, corrected after the fact. If the dog is not corrected, it may develop problem behavior as a habit or learn that it can get "away with it" when it is not supervised.

The dog will not associate a correction with a behavior unless given at the time of the misbehavior. Corrections after the fact will only confuse the dog and lead to a lack of trust from your dog. If you find evidence of a misdeed after the fact, understand it is your fault, not the dog's. If you use your crate as you would a child's playpen, to keep the puppy safe when you cannot watch it closely, the results will be amazing.

How long do I use the crate?

The crate is a tool; it should be used for at least a year with a puppy. A very young dog should be placed in its crate whenever it cannot be supervised. As the dog gets older, more freedom can be allowed, but not hours at a time. If you leave the house, the dog should be in its crate (also when you are sleeping). Most people make the mistake of allowing the dog too much freedom too soon. This only leads to destructive behavior in the teenage dog. When they are trustworthy while you are home but not within sight, then you can start leaving them alone for very short periods, while you run to the corner store or post office. If all is fine at home when you return, greet the dog normally. Some dogs have separation anxiety when left; coming and going should be no big deal, no big scenes that will leave the dog confused. After the dog has proven himself to be trustworthy, leave the dog for longer periods of time. But the crate should be left for times you need the dog out of the way, or for the dog to go to when they want to rest. Before long, you will find that the dog seeks out the open crate to sleep in.

Crating Do's and Don'ts:

  • Do buy the Series 400 made by "Vari Kennel" this is the correct size crate for your Labrador!

  • Do remove all collars before putting the dog in the crate.

  • Do place the crate in a people area.

  • Do let the dog out often so that it is never forced to soil its crate.

  • Do take the dog out if it whines or barks because it needs to eliminate.

  • If they were just out and eliminated, correct it for whining or barking.

  • Do clean the crate regularly, especially if you have added a floor.

  • Do adjust your schedule so they get out every 4 hours during the day.

  • When you are home and can supervise them, they should not be in the crate (except at night when you are sleeping).

  • Do put safe toys and bedding in the crate. Most dogs will destroy foam bedding and need only a soft rug or a pegboard, cut to fit the crate, to sleep on.

  • Do let the dog out of the crate to potty after eating or drinking a lot. (The dog will have to eliminate.)

  • Don't EVER leave a collar on the dog while in the crate - they can accidentally strangle.

  • Don't punish the dog if it soils the crate. Sitting with "it" is punishment enough.

  • Don't use the crate as punishment.

  • Do not abuse the crate, and leave your dog in it for extended periods of time.

  • Don't rush to give the dog to much freedom out of the crate unsupervised.

  • Start with very short periods and work your way up to longer periods.

  • Don't give your crate away. Keep the crate handy even for older dogs; they are great for special situations that require the dog to be confined.

  • Buying a crate for your puppy will be the best one of the best investments you ever make! :-)