Why a crate is important for a happy balanced dog

Crate training is a way of introducing your dog to their own kennel or crate in order to help them to see it as a safe and familiar space. But some people still regard a crate as ‘a cage’. Daryl Cook, the owner of Devon Dog Training, explains why having a crate is the best thing you can do to ensure a happy and balanced dog.

If we removed all of the humans from the planet today, how would the dogs begin to behave tomorrow? My training techniques are holistic and use this premise; how would the dog act if not influenced by human behaviour?

Historically a dog’s primary occupation is to spend his time seeking food and shelter and in the absence of you, the owner, your dog would be exactly the same given a life in the wild. This day-to-day, hand to mouth existence is most simply illustrated by Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs*, dogs are fulfilled by simply achieving the lowest levels of this hierarchy. As an owner, as a compassionate leader of your ‘pack’, it is your responsibility to recognise those needs (from the dog’s perspective) and to fulfil its requirements. It’s down to you to provide the elements of Maslow‘s theory that apply to your dog; food, shelter, warmth, affection, companionship.

Today we are focusing on a secure place to sleep.

Going back to my original question, with no humans here to feed him ‘Fido’ would spend most of his first day hunting and scavenging for food. At the end of the day, night draws in and he’ll need somewhere safe to sleep. On his own, away from the safety of a pack, this isn’t easy. A bush might offer some shelter, but when it rains, Fido will find his new roof to be less than adequate. He’ll be unrested after a night spent with one eye open to ensure he isn’t being attacked as he sleeps.

On his second night, he may find a small cave with a roof and three walls for protection. Here he might manage to sleep better than the night before, but still he has to be vigilant in case of attack.

Contrast this with the crate that you are offering. There Fido has security on all sides, a lockable front door keeps everyone out and with some appropriate bedding inside, who could ask for more? He can sleep well. He is warm and he is dry. Ultimately, he is happy.

I can’t count the number of times that a dog I have worked with that’s displaying behavioural issues has been helped by introducing them to a crate. It’s a place where they can reduce their stress levels and in turn relieve your own stress – and dogs can pick up on your stress far more than you could ever imagine! Whilst it satisfies their instinct to be in the perfect den, it can help you to develop good routines that include toilet training, limiting the destruction of property, barking, digging, fence jumping and chewing and protecting them from the intrusion of very young people in your home, noise or unusual activity. It also spares them from loneliness, anxiety and frustration they might feel when you need to leave them home alone for short periods of time.

We don’t cage our dogs through cruelty or because we don’t have time for them, we crate them and offer them a secure safe space where they can rest properly and switch off. Crates are a powerful part of helping your dog to be happy and balanced.

In collaboration with Devon Dog Training.

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