By Dr. Maribeth Hartwick
Part of raising a healthy dog is providing him or her with their own sanctuary, and crates are a perfect solution. Both puppies and dogs can be easily trained to enjoy the retreat to their crate.
Every puppy needs to learn the skill of resting calmly in a crate. It may never again be as easy for the dog to adapt to one than in its puppyhood. Even if you prefer not to use a crate routinely, seriously consider this conditioning for your pup. We will never know what may happen in that dog's life that may make a crate an absolute necessity. Being comfortable in a crate will be needed at the veterinary hospital, when traveling by plane or long distance, at the groomers, during an emergency evacuation, boarding, or when restricted activity due to medical illness/recovery is necessary. It is also a lifesaver for many dogs/owners during the adolescent destructive chewing stage that can last several months up to a few years in some breeds. Crate training helps tremendously in housetraining and provides safety and security. It improves the dog/owner relationship because fewer problems means less discipline for the puppy and less frustration for the owner.
Before you get started, you must properly plan and consider which type/size of crate will work best, where to place it in your home, how to set it up (what goes inside the crate), and how to establish a schedule for bathroom and play breaks. Puppies/dogs need exercise and mental stimulation. They have dozens of things to learn. They need to bond to you and need your guidance to grow up happy and healthy. When you are home and awake, supervise the puppy in person rather than using the crate. Puppies sleep about 14 hours each day; ideally, crate time should be scheduled so that the puppy can use it for sleep. The number one rule is to be careful not to abuse the crate. Too much crate time is inhumane!
Make the crate a happy place!! Never use the crate as punishment, but rather to avoid potential problems. Be patient and loving - dogs want to please! Most importantly - enjoy your pet!