Crate Training Offers Your Dog a Healthier, Happier Life

Dog in a crate
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There’s always room for debate on the best way to care for our pets. As an experienced veterinarian, I’ve sure seen a lot of changes in what we do since I graduated from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University.

But sometimes I hear advice that just doesn’t cut it — the kind of thing that runs counter to common sense, practical experience and expert research. Recently, I ran across just such a piece of advice, thanks to psychologist, best-selling author and dog expert Dr. Stanley Coren. In a piece titled "The Politics of Pet Dogs and Kennel Crates," Dr. Coren pointed to a bit of bad advice from an animal advocacy group.

PETA, it seems, has a problem with crates.

According to Coren's post, PETA recently began running half-page newspaper ads advocating against crating. I’d hate for anyone to be put off by a bad piece of advice, so I’m going to offer the reasons why experts in caring for animals are so widely in favor of crates, and why you should be, too. (Please note: Like any piece of equipment, a crate can be misused. It’s not meant for full-time containment, and that’s not what’s being recommended here.)

Crates help with raising your puppy. Puppies don’t come house-trained, and they don’t know what’s safe to chew. For decades now, crate training has been the standard for helping to manage puppies while they learn how to be well-behaved in the house. I have no doubt that the use of crates has saved many a puppy, either from keeping him from eating something harmful or by making house training so relatively easy that the human-animal bond formed tightly enough to prevent it from unraveling during canine adolescence.

Crates keep your pet safe in your car. My dogs don’t travel loose in the car, and yours shouldn’t either. When people tell me their little dogs sit on their laps or their big dogs hang out the windows, I cringe. Crating your dog in the car (or using a seat-belt harness) protects everyone on the road. Dogs distract drivers, and we all know that distractions can lead to accidents. In an accident, an unsecured dog can be hurt or killed by flying around in the car or being ejected; an unsecured dog can also injure another passenger. Even if your pet isn’t harmed while in an accident, he can escape in the aftermath of the crash, when emergency responders are trying to treat victims. So many things can go wrong, and that makes the use of a crate while traveling a true no-brainer.

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