You may have a few friends at your house and want to show off your amazing dog training skills. Fido has learned new tricks, and you are ready to dole out belly rubs and high praise for his talents. You call him out of his crate from the other room, but he doesn’t come. After a few calls, you get up to see what he is doing. Even with excessive coaxing, he just stays put. He is ordinarily eager to come when you call. Why is your dog staying in his crate? How come he is not his usual energetic, bouncy self?
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The Root of the Behavior
There are two schools of thought regarding dog crating. One is that when used appropriately, crating creates a den-like environment for the dog. The other side of the argument says dogs are not instinctively denning animals and crating are inhumane and abusive. These two sides come from observing crates used well in training to give dogs a secure feeling, and from observing abuse of the crate, leaving dogs in for long periods of time as punishments or neglect. If you’ve used the crate appropriately, under the supervision or advice of your vet or trainer, your pup will most likely enjoy the space and not endure harm. For this article, we’re going to focus on the appropriate use of the crate and figure out why your dog likes it so much. Dogs need a den, or a small space just for them, to feel safe, cozy, and secure. When a crate is used appropriately, it can give dogs this feeling of a safe space and it can be a sanctuary for a dog. Dogs will sometimes find small spaces to hide if they don’t have crates, like under furniture or by digging holes and curling up in them. A crate can feel like a doghouse for the indoors. It can act as his bedroom, which is comforting and homey.
The ideal crate for your dog is one big enough for him to stand without hitting his head and wide enough so he can make a circle like he does when he’s choosing a spot to sit. If your dog can comfortably use one side as a sleeping area and another as a toilet, it’s too big. It should also have ventilation, either through a metal structure or a material crate with holes. And make sure there’s a comfy bed. If you need to leave him in the crate for several hours, make sure he has water. Combine those crate tips with appropriate training, such as teaching your dog when to rest and be active, sleeping without disruption, a safe place when anxious or tired, preventing destructive behavior, or being in a controlled environment when unsupervised. If your dog has positive associations with the crate, he is more likely to enjoy it.
Encouraging the Behavior
Remaining in a crate when company is over is usually acceptable behavior for a dog. Perhaps he’s anxious and needs a retreat, or he is just tired and doesn’t want to be bothered. The crate is his go-to resting space, and it’s great that he’s using it appropriately. This will be helpful for you when you travel with the dog, go to vets, or have friends watch him. He’ll have a comfort to take with him. However, too much of something is not healthy. If you notice he’s spending excessive time in the crate, it’s time to assess the situation. If he’s choosing to stay in the crate more and more and refusing to go outside, to play, or to eat, something might be wrong. If any unusual behavior shows, you should take him to the vet. Dogs tend to retreat to a den when they’re not feeling well, and this might be a sign that he is sick. If you have adopted a dog who came from a shelter or several homes, he might be fearful of the crate. If this is the case and you are determined to crate train your dog, take him to your vet and a trainer to approach this safely. If your dog has negative associations with a crate, you don’t want to worsen to it.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If your pup likes the crate, make sure you continue its appropriate use. You can use it as a time-out, but don’t do that too often or it will lose its effectiveness, and you can ruin the positive association with the crate. And even if your dog enjoys being in his crate, do not leave him in there for too long. He can stay in a crate overnight or half a day. However, if he is crated this much, he needs to be exercised, socialized, and played with during the rest of the day. This will keep him loving his crate with his tail wagging. Some dogs appreciate the security of the crate more than others, and that is fine. If your dog whines, yelps, or barks when crated, it’s important to take them to a trainer to learn how to use the crate appropriately. The primary focus should be using the crate safely without abuse or creating negative associations.
A dog who likes a crate is most likely one who was trained safely and appropriately from a young age. You should be glad your dog feels safe and secure in his spot. He can recharge there and come out as his friendly and happy self when he is ready.