Humane Society of Central Illinois

Sit, Stay! Give Your Dog Its Own Space

By Andrea Arden

Jonathon Hunt of Atlanta e-mailed me for advice about Angus, his new 4-month-old Scottish Terrier puppy. He had enthusiasm for his pup, and he seemed to know quite a bit about dog care and training.

So I was surprised at his response to my suggestion that he get a crate. "I'm not going to crate train Angus," he said. "I think crates are cruel." Many people share Hunt's concern. But used for short periods, a crate is similar to a child's playpen or crib. Using a properly fitted crate (big enough for your dog to stand, turn, and lie down in) as part of your new dog's daily exercise and socialization regimen has many benefits.

I offered 8 great reasons to use a crate:

  1. Housetrain your dog. Efficient and humane training aids, crates take advantage of the dog's natural tendency to keep its sleeping area clean. However, you should crate your puppy for only as long as it can reasonably control its bladder and bowels.
  2. Protect your dog. Crating a dog prevents it from chewing electrical cords or eating poisonous plants, toxic cleaning fluids, or nylon socks (which can tear up your dog's intestines). These are only a few dangers awaiting new dogs left alone in a home.
  3. Protect your property. A crate costs between $25 and $200, depending on its size and where you buy it. That's a bargain compared to the cost of replacing furniture and other belongings your new dog can destroy.
  4. Curb and prevent separation anxiety. You love your dog, but you can't spend every minute of every day with it. The crate can help you teach your dog to enjoy spending time alone.
  5. Introduce chew toys. A dog engrossed in chewing a toy will stay out of mischief. Give your dog time in its crate with two stuffed chew toys, and it'll become hooked on its crate and stay out of trouble.
  6. Give a timeout. A new dog gives you great rewards, but it also can drain you. If your dog becomes excessively excited or starts nipping, use the crate for a brief timeout. Don't do this to punish your dog. (Never use a crate negatively.) Rather, the timeout allows your dog to regain its composure so it can interact appropriately with you.
  7. Travel safely. Whether your dog travels by air or car, a crate is one of the best ways to ensure safety. Additionally, when you stay in a hotel, keep your dog in a crate to prevent damage.
  8. Provide security. Crates provide your dog with its own quiet place to hang out - especially important if you have a busy household and children. To encourage your dog to accept people petting it while inside the crate, praise it and give it tasty rewards on occasion. Also, let children know not to bother your dog while it is inside the crate. That's its quiet time.

These reasons convinced Hunt to use a crate for Angus. "I have to admit, at this point I can't imagine what I would do without it," Hunt says. "I introduced Angus to the crate by feeding him in there with the door open and, many times throughout the day, placing him in the crate for just a few moments while I closed the door and dropped a treat in. I'm also really careful to only leave him in there for short periods of time. He now trots in there happily and seems to enjoy having his own special place."

Andrea Arden, author of Dog-Friendly Dog Training (Howell Book House, $17.95), teaches at the Manhattan Dog Training Center. Visit her Web site at

DOGFANCY, October 2000