An Introduction To Crate Training

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Is there a more divisive topic than the idea of crating a dog? Owners seem to be very much split on whether or not a crate is a good tool for managing and training dogs or is it a device of torture and confinement. The problem is that crates are very often misused by uninformed or irresponsible owners, their use is often misunderstood and some people don’t know how to choose the right crate for their dog.

Correct Use Of A Crate

When used correctly and responsibly, crates are a great tool that can be used to manage and train a dog.

  • Contain and keep dogs safe for short periods of time while they cannot be directly supervised by you.
  • Provide a safe place for your dog to den up and in sleep in at night or just to nap in during the day.
  • Containment for your dog when they ride in the car with you. They can help with issues during the time of potty training.
  • Help keep chaos and disorder from breaking out during feeding times in multi dog households.

Incorrect Uses For A Crate

Misguided owners have been known to abuse dogs by crating them incorrectly, for too long, and for the wrong reasons. A dog should never be crated for long hours every day due to long term behaviour problems or because there is no one home to supervise the dog. If a dog is crated for 8 or 10 hours a day, everyday, that is not fair to the dog. No dog would do well with being crated for that long everyday, much less a high energy Husky.

Containing a dog for behavioural issues for the very short term is acceptable but it cannot be the long term solution for the dog. There has to be other long term plans in place for addressing the root causes of the behaviour issues. Also, crates should never be used as a punishment for a dog. If you punish your dog by crating it, you can expect that the dog will associate the crate with unpleasantness and he will not want to spend any amount of time in his crate.

When Crating Is Not Advised

Even when crates are used correctly and for the right reasons, some dogs will not like the feeling of confinement. Dogs who suffer from severe Separation Anxiety should not be forcibly crated until their anxiety issues have been addressed otherwise confining them to a crate will only add to their reasons to be anxious.

Also, puppies and dogs should never just be shut into a crate and left without first having taken the time acclimate them to the crate and to being crated. Unless positive steps have been taken for dogs to associate their crate with pleasant feelings, crating them will feel like caging them.

Puppy Crating Time Guidelines

If you are crating a puppy, please be aware of these guidelines for how long it is advisable to crate young puppies.

  • 8–10 weeks old, then crated time should not exceed more 30–60 minutes.
  • 11 – 14 weeks old, then crated time is 1–3 hours.
  • 15–16 weeks old, then crated time is 3–4 hours.
  • 17 weeks or older, then crating for 4–5 hours is permissible.

Crating a puppy for too long too quickly causes the puppies to associate their crate and with being crated with feelings of dislike and unpleasantness, so take your time to desensitize them to the idea of the crate. Once a dog associates the crate with confinement and distress they will do their best to try to break out of the crates at any cost. It is much easier to crate train a dog correctly the first time than to have to retrain the dog at a later date.

What Kind Of Crate Do I Buy?

There are numerous kinds of crates on the market these days. What kind of crate you should get would depend on how you intend on using the crate. If you want to contain a dog while you are out, then a soft sided crate would not work very well for that. If you want to travel (fly) with your dog then you must buy an airline approved hard sided crate. If you are travelling by car, a folding wire crate or collapsible soft sided crate would certainly be a good option. If you want your dog crate to make a fashion statement in your home then you may want to consider buying a crate that is decorative as well as sturdy.

How do you want or need to use your dog crate? Having a clear answer to that question helps when it comes to choosing the right crate for your dog. Here are the pros and cons for each of the four types of crating systems.

Wire Crate

Pros – Wire Crates are generally sturdy enough to stand up to the stronger jaws and claws of a Husky or Malamute but there are always notable examples out there that can easily destroy their wire crates. Wire crates are collapsible for easy flat storage and handling. They are very convenient if you are going visiting and you are taking your dog with you. Wire crates come with a movable wire divider that you can use to make the inside space smaller if your dog is not yet full grown. They come with plastic trays that are easy to clean and are water proof should your pet spill water or have an accident in their crate. Air circulation is very good through the wire panels keeping your Snow Dog cool and comfortable while he is being crated.

Cons – The wire bars and their welds can be snapped by dogs determined to escape their kennels. If you plan on traveling by flying with your dog you will be required to purchase a second crate as wire crates are not airline approved. If you are dealing with a very anxious dog, he may feel safer or more secure with a more enclosed type of crate.

Hard Sided Crate

Pros – Hard sided crates are very durable as there are no welds to snap or plastic trays for your dog to destroy. It is airline approved for travel by air. It is more enclosed for dogs that like the enclosed feeling of being in a “den”.

Cons – Air flow is somewhat inhibited by the solid sides making some double coated dogs too hot while they are being kennelled. While most hard sided crates can be disassembled and broken down into an upper and lower half, disassembly is cumbersome and storage when the crate is not in use is not always convenient. Also, unless the crate will remain in your vehicle, moving a large hard sided crate out to your vehicle every time you take your dog with you is not very convenient. If you are involved in a traffic accident, your dog will be bounced against the very hard sided wall of this crate.

Soft Sided Travel Crates

Pros – These crates are very light, easy to move, easy to set up, and very convenient to store. They have mesh sides that offer good air movement for the comfort of the dog while they are being kennelled. These crates are ideal for use in the car as a containment unit because should you be involved in a crash, your dog will be hurled forward in the direction of travel. The soft sides of this crate will not only catch and contain your dog, it actually acts like a soft wall to cushion and protect your dog from the impact of being launched forward.

Cons – These crates cannot be used with dogs that are not fully comfortably with being crated. They offer no security for a dog that would dig, chew, or try to claw their way out of this kind of crate. They are not sturdy and unless you buy a very high quality crate, the zippers on the doors do tend to fail rather quickly. They are not airline approved.

Decorative Crates

Pros – It is undeniable that a large dog crate can take up a substantial amount of floor space in your home. So many people are moving toward the idea of having a decorative dog crate that looks pleasing to the eye and keeps with the decor of their home.

Cons – While these crates are like furniture in their looks, they also come with a very expensive price tag much like a piece of furniture would. Also, there are no guarantees that your dog will not chew or destroy any of the wooden surfaces that he can reach with his teeth while he is being kennelled.

Buying The Right Sized Crate

Before you buy a crate make sure that you are getting the right size crate for your dog. To figure out what size of crate your dog needs, measure your dog. To measure your dog you will want to take these three measurements.

  1. Measure from the base of the tail to the tip of the nose.
  2. Measure from the top of the skull down to the floor.
  3. Looking down on the dog from above, measure the dog at the widest point across the chest and shoulders.

The correct size crate for your Husky will be a crate that he can easily stand up and turn in around with ease. The suggested crate size for Huskies and Malamutes is 42 inches for the smaller sized Huskies and the 48 inch size for the larger Huskies and Malamutes.

If you have a puppy then you will still want to buy a full sized crate to accommodate your dog for when he is full sized. One of the handy things about using a wire crate for your dog is that they come with a moveable wire divider that can be used to partition off the crate to accommodate the smaller size of the young dog.

Here you can see 10 week old Skylar hanging out in his crate. Note the wire divider behind him keeping the space small and cozy for him. Keeping his space small also helps him from going to the far end of the crate and eliminating there. Once a dog gets into the habit of toileting in his crate, it can be a very challenging behaviour to modify.

Crate Divider

Importance Of Using A Crate While Travelling

Dogs that are loose in the vehicle can become a safety hazard if they are darting around excitedly. If they are running around loose in your vehicle then they can interfere with your ability to maneuver your car and they can serve as the reason for being issued a Distracted Driver ticket. So for the safety of you and your dog please consider restraining your dog while they are in the car.

If you are ever in a collision there is absolutely nothing preventing your dog from being hurled forward during the impact. Even though your car abruptly comes to halt during a collision, the unsecured items inside your car will continue to travel forward at the speed at which your car was travelling. The injury that your dog sustains may not actually come directly from the original impact of your car but from his impact after he got rocketed forward and slams into an immovable object.

A few times every year we hear about a tragic story of how a dog was killed on the road after a collision has happened. After the accident dogs can get loose from the vehicle, are hurt and disoriented, and while they are on the road they can get run over by a passing vehicle. PLEASE, consider restraining your dog when they ride in the car with you. If not in a crate, then minimally they should be restrained using an approved dog harness/seat belt. There is controversy regarding how safe dog seat belts really are during a car crash but it is assured that your dog will become more injured during a crash if he is unrestrained.

Tomorrow, I discuss Tips For Crate Training Puppies and Mature Dogs.

As always we welcome your questions, comments, and stories regarding this topic. When we share our stories we may well be helping someone who is struggling with their Snow Dog.

Helping ALL Snow Dogs … one owner at a time.

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2 Comments

  1. Margit Maxwell on

    I am very glad to hear that you husky is doing so well being crated. I am also happy to hear that you find my articles helpful.

  2. We have a husky that is two years old and we acquired her when she was 10 months old. She was crate trained when we got her. She is crated during the day when my wife and I work which is usually about 9 hours and she doesn’t exhibit any adverse affects. We have never placed her in the crate to punish her and never would. Usually when you tell her it’s time to go to work she grabs her Kong treat toy and goes in there on her own, just as she does when it’s time for bed. Thank you for all of your tips for the care of a Snow Dog, they are very beneficial.

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