When welcoming a new dog into your family, a common question is if you plan on crate training or not.
There are both pros and cons to using a crate to guide your dog’s behavior – and one size does not fit all for all households.
Let’s take a look into the benefits of crate training and also the reasons why it might not be the best option for you.
We’ll also dive into how long this type of training might last and alternatives to making sure your dog is the happiest (and most well-behaved) pup he or she can be.
But first here is a quick comparison before we go into more details…
Crate Training Pros and Cons Overview
3 Benefits of Crate Training
What Kind of Crate Training Schedule Should I Follow?
A dog left too long in a locked crate may start to emotionally withdraw and become hyperactive because dog’s need to release energy by exercising and/or playing.
As puppies, they can only be left inside a crate for a small amount of time. As they grow, this time can be increased – but remember, less time is best for a happy, healthy dog.
With their small bladders, puppies under three months old need less than three hours inside a crate per day.
At 15-16 weeks old, you can allow an additional hour, up to 4 hours total.
After the age of 17 weeks, you can increase this to 5-6 hours maximum crate time.
If you must leave the house for a full 8-hour workday, consider hiring a dog walker to give your pup a bathroom break and short walk during the day, especially until you’re able to stop crate training.
Of course, this schedule is flexible based on how your dog handles being in the crate.
If your dog shows signs of stress and hyperactivity, lessen his time in confinement. Dogs need our care for more than just food and shelter, they need our love and attention as well.
When To Stop Crate Training
When to stop crate training depends on your dog’s personality and your schedule.
For example, if you have a docile Labrador who loves to sleep while you’re away, then you might be done with crate training as soon as he’s over his chewing phase, which is generally around 18 months of age.
On the other hand, if you have an easily excitable Terrier whose favorite pastime is tearing up your bed, blinds, anything – well, he might have to be crated for life while you’re away!
In general, if your dog doesn’t exhibit signs of separation anxiety, you can stop crate training around age 3 – and then let your dog have free reign on the home.
This is the age that most dogs can reasonably decipher between their toys and your belongings and should be long-ago housebroken.
If your dog does suffer from separation anxiety, she may never be fully trustworthy when left alone.
A behavior training specialist might be able to help overcome the issue.
It’s not enough to ensure your belongings won’t be damaged while pup is locked in her crate – her happiness is important as well, so training and working with your veterinarian is key.
If you work long hours and can’t afford to hire a dog walker for breaks throughout the day, you might consider stopping crate training around 1 year of age.
Instead, find a dog-proofed space in your home to block off – equipped with chew toys and water bowls.
If space allows, keep the crate in this area with its door open so your pup can use his bed for nap time.
Don’t quit cold turkey when you think you’re ready to give up the crate. Gradually increase the time that you’re away, to see how your dog manages on his own.
Consider letting your neighbors know, so they can alert you if they notice excessive barking – or that your window treatments are suddenly gone!
3 Reasons NOT to Crate Train
4 Alternatives to Crate Training
If crate training doesn’t seem right for you, or the first tries didn’t go well for your dog, there are plenty of other options to create a happy, healthy family life with your dog.
1. Baby Gates
A baby gate is probably one of the easiest ways to confine your dog to a certain area of your house without having them cooped up in a crate. You can keep a blanket or dog bed and water bowls for them.
If you can close off an area with a hard-surface floor, even if they do have an accident, it will be easy to clean up.
And, you can still keep them away from household items that may harm them – and ones that you don’t want them to use as chew toys!
2. Exercise Pen
If you don’t have an easy way to close off an entire room with a baby gate, an exercise pen (also called “doggie playpen”) offers a spacious solution that’s more open than a crate.
It’s the same concept as the gate, just with creating a room of their own with the pen enclosure instead of closing off an existing one.
3. Fenced Yard
Weather permitting, if you have a well-secured, fenced backyard, you can consider keeping your dog outdoors.
Of course, this is best used if your dog is not a barker. You don’t want to ruin any relationship with your neighbors – and some cities have rules regarding how long a dog can be unattended outside, especially if they’re disturbing the peace.
4. Doggie Daycare
If you have the budget for doggie daycare, this option ensures that your dog has constant human care throughout the day – and doggie friends to play with.
Your dog will more than likely love the extra attention and be tired out from playing.
Then when you get home, you’ll be rewarded with extra snuggle time.
Wrapping It pUp…
To crate train or not is a personal decision based on what works best for your household and your dog’s personality.
As long as you take the time to research the pros and cons, you can make an educated decision.
Do you work long hours?
Can your dog handle being confined, or will that cause him anxiety?
Do you have the time to dedicate to crate training?
It’s not an easy task to undertake, but crate training can offer many benefits that can develop good behavior and help housebreak your pup.
This is not for everyone, though – especially if you work long hours or your dog gets extreme anxiety from being confined.
Luckily, there are alternatives that will work just as well. As long as you keep in mind your dog is not just your friend – he’s family and deserves to be treated as such!