The best thing you can do to make a dog crate more comfortable is to purchase a high-quality bed for the crate. Most dogs already love their crate, so it doesn’t take much to make them happy. A high-quality bed and some comfort toys will do the trick.
Putting your dog in a crate might seem like a mean thing to do, but with the proper setup and training, your dog will come to love his cozy little den.
Dogs naturally appreciate having a small, safe space to hide when the world feels too overwhelming. With the right information, anyone can choose the right size and type of crate and fill it with safe, comfortable accessories.
Crates are a great training tool for your dog. Not only can you use it to secure your dog at night, when he is alone, in the car, or in case of an emergency, but you can use it to train your dog to “settle” when he is overexcited or disobedient.
Never use the crate as punishment if emotions are high. Never force your dog into the crate or leave him trapped for extended periods, or he will become afraid of it. Instead, use positive reinforcement to make the crate seem exciting and desirable.
What You'll Learn
Shapes and Sizes – The First Step to a Comfortable Crate
It might be tempting to choose a huge crate, but this can confuse your dog and cause him to use the crate as a bathroom.
Remember, most dogs enjoy being enclosed when they are resting. Choose a large enough crate for your dog to stand up, turn around, and stretch out his legs, but no larger.
If you are buying a crate for a fast-growing puppy, choose one that is large enough for his adult size and use secure partitions to divide it in half until the puppy is larger.
Crates come in wire, plastic, wood, and cloth varieties. Wood and cloth crates can cause problems for dogs who are very young, old, or not familiar with crates. They may chew themselves free or urinate in the crate.
Plastic and wire crates have a leak-proof tray in the bottom, which is great for dogs who might eliminate. They are also resistant to chewing.
A wire crate is excellent for a dog who likes to see what is going on around him. You may need to hang a blanket over the crate at night to calm your dog or provide warmth on a cold day.
Plastic crates have less visibility, which can make some dogs feel more secure. Cloth crates are lightweight, easy to transport, and quite comfortable but have poor visibility. Wood crates have medium visibility and are often more aesthetically pleasing if you have to keep the crate in a public room.
Take the personality and anxiety levels of your dog into account when picking the type of crate.
Crate Placement is Crucial For Comfort
Put your dog’s crate in a quiet corner of a busy room. This will keep the atmosphere peaceful, but allow your dog to feel part of the pack when everyone gathers together.
If your dog doesn’t want to go in the crate, let your dog explore the crate at his own pace. Toss some treats in when you go by. You can even attach an exciting treat to the back of the crate.
Don’t close the door on your dog until he is comfortable going in and out of his own. It can be tempting to rush this process, but a few extra days of patience can make the difference between a lifelong positive or negative association with the crate.
If your dog develops a negative association, it is possible to take a break and re-introduce the crate in a different context.
Aside from a low-key time out, avoid using the crate as a punishment. Don’t yell at your dog in the crate, force him into the crate, slam the door, or strike the crate.
Avoid leaving your dog in the crate for longer than 3-4 hours as a puppy or 6-8 hours as an adult. If you need to leave your dog in a crate for an extended period every day, consider finding a pet sitter or family member to walk and play with the dog and give him a break.
Kitting Out The Crate
It can be tempting to throw all of your dog’s possessions into the crate, but a few well-chosen items can make the crate safer and more comfortable.
The bedding you choose for a crate depends on the age and personality of your dog.
Puppies should have a bed that is both chew proof and waterproof, in case they have an accident.
Dogs that chew avidly should have a chew proof bed, and senior dogs need a bed with good support that is also waterproof.
Never leave pee pads or newspaper in a crate because it will confuse your dog about whether the crate is a bathroom spot.
There are a large variety of crate-friendly bed types for different types of dogs. The most chew-proof and waterproof bed is an elevated mesh bed. If you go for a more traditional bed, one with a removable, washable cover is always a safe bet for keeping the crate clean. Make sure the bed fits comfortably in the crate without being too large.
Choosing The Right Toys
Dogs love to have a toy to play with while they are left in their crate, but make sure the toy doesn’t pose a choking hazard.
If your dog loves to chew, avoid leaving him soft toys or toys with parts. Strong chewers should also avoid bones, antlers, hooves, bully sticks, and nylabones if left unsupervised.
Any of these treats can splinter and cut your dog’s mouth or digestive system. Only offer them when you are directly supervising.
Puzzle toys and rubber toys with edible filling are perfect choices for the crate. Consider buying a selection of these toys and rotate between them.
You can freeze the toy to make the filling harder and provide fun stimulation. Keep crate toys away from your dog outside of crate time.
Crate Dos and Don’ts to Maximize Comfort and Safety
- If your dog is anxious, consider leaving an item of your clothing in the crate that holds your scent. You can also use your dog’s favorite blanket.
- Take off your dog’s collar or buy a breakaway collar before leaving him in a crate. Collars have been known to catch in the bars of the crate, which can lead to choking.
- If you cover the crate, always make sure your dog has adequate ventilation.
- Give your dog some exercise before crating him, especially if he is going to be left for a long time.
- Don’t leave food or water in the crate unless your dog has diabetes or another condition that requires constant access to water. If you need to leave water in the crate, find a bowl that clips to the side of the crate, a spill-proof bowl, or a lickable bottle that hangs on the crate wall. This will prevent an uncomfortable spill that soaks your dog’s bedding.
- Don’t leave any plant leaves or cords near the walls of your dog’s crate that he might chew.
- Don’t leave the crate in direct sun, on top of a heating or cooling vent, or in a drafty area. If you place a fan near the crate, make sure there is a part of the crate where the dog can go to get out of the breeze.
The Crate is a Wonderful Tool
Crates can be a wonderful tool for you and your dog to enjoy. Keep safety in mind as you choose items to keep in the crate and make sure your dog is comfortable and secure. No matter how comfortable the crate is, try to avoid leaving your dog crated for extended periods.
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