Beyond Potty Training
Think Bigger When It Comes To Using Crate To Help Your Reactive and Fearful Dog
Throughout the years of observing how dog owners live with their dogs day in and day out, and coaching dog owners communicating better with their dogs, I have found a lot of dog owners seeing crates as a potty training tool only.
Methinks it’s time to talk about the use of crates beyond potty training, especially when you have a very challenged dog, a crate can be such a life saver, sometimes literally in that matter.
I’ve seen some of the dog owners have personal trauma regarding confined spaces, and we as humans usually relate confined space to a prison or jail, so when it comes to having the dog in a crate, dog owners feel bad for the dog because they feel their dog is being “punished” in prison.
When you start paying a little more attention to your dog’s behavior, you will notice that even if you don’t utilize a crate in the house, your dog naturally picks spots that usually resemble a crate: a small, dark, confined area - a corner of the room, under the bed/desk, a corner in the bathroom as their “safe place.”
In fact, one of my clients’ dogs had a spot in a tight space between doggie daddy’s working desk and the wall.
While the dog training world is extremely divided on how to train dogs, I’d say one thing most dog trainers can agree on is the important use of the crate.
Unfortunately I have seen a lot of dog owners didn’t allow the crate to “unleash its full potential”, and sometimes they even mis-used it and cause their dog to have more trouble being comfortable inside.
The crate is actually a very versatile piece of equipment when it comes to helping your challenged dogs.
#1 Management and safety.
There’s a dog owner whose dog has bitten house guests and reached out to me for some guidance. The first thing I told them is to start crate training the dog, because in order to help the dog, we need to prevent the biting incident from happening again, don’t even mention the safety for both the humans and the dog.
#2 Creating trust.
Often dog owners don’t realize that having a crate that the dog knows it’s the safe space to be, increases the trust between the dog and the owner, as long as the owners continue to ensure the crate IS the safe place for the dog.
#3 Foundation to prepare your dog to face more challenged situations.
Once the dog knows the crate is an ABSOLUTE safe place, we can then introduce more distraction and challenging scenarios while the dog remains in the crate.
It’s safe, as stated above, then the dog can work through the challenge knowing it’s safe inside the crate. Just like when we visit a lion's den in the zoo, we know the lions cannot escape the glass, so we can stand on the other side of the glass and observe lions’ features and living space without worrying we’re being attacked by them.
The crate is just like that thick glass between us and the lion, and allows the dog to relax when observing a challenging or scary situation outside.
#4 A place to chill.
As the core of my training is about relaxation, a place to chill is a must for the dog to have. A crate has some unique characteristics that a doggie bed on the floor is not able to replace, especially for your shy, fearful and reactive dogs.
Using the crate to chill and calm down may seem similar when dog owners use it to “punish” the dog by putting the dog away in the crate when the dog is “bad,” but the application is very different and the goal we aim to accomplish as well as the process is very different. That will be another article for another day.
Think bigger, think beyond potty training, thrive with your dog.
About the author
Grace Henke is a reactive and fearful dog training expert and the founder of Fair Love Dog Training. She helps dog owners to live a fuller life with a calmer, more relaxed, and well-behaved dog: https://fairlovedogtraining.com/