If done right, crate training for pets is far from cruel

Visiting a friend the other day, I couldn’t help but notice her outside feline friend curled up inside of a pet carrier situated on the back porch. The sun rays reflecting off the concrete emitted a bright glare as the small patio radiated the afternoon heat. Seemingly, the black ball of fur had sought the shelter of shade inside the carrier. I marveled at how comfortable the young cat looked as she settled in for her afternoon nap inside the small enclosure.

Sitting across from the slumbering kitty, we talked of the benefits of crate training animals and how different people interpret the concept. I think some folks have the notion that putting an animal in a crate is inhumane. The thought of caging an animal exudes negative connotations for many.

In contrast, there are people who understand the benefits of providing a positive scenario to their pets — in the crate. For many animals, the enclosure is their haven for peace, their section of space in this crazy world. Additionally, for animals who live outside, such as my friend’s young cat, the crate serves as a means of shelter.

I personally never believed in crate training until I acquired Brea, a 5-year-old German rottweiler, who found solace in her crate as a young pup. To her, the crate was home, a safe place that brought her comfort. The metal door on the plastic box was generally always open, yet she would often lay in the enclave, quietly observing the daily activity.

The realization of her need for the crate created a whole new awareness in me. Subsequently, the following years working in the animal industry provided many other opportunities to witness animals’ crate habits. Ultimately, I learned that for many pets, their crate is their home.

While it is much easier to train a young animal to go into the small space, teaching an older animal to accept the new territory can be challenging, especially if previous crate experiences include car rides to unfamiliar or unpleasant destinations, such as a doctor’s visit or a new house.

If these impromptu encounters are the only times your pet is crated, chances are their perception of the enclosure is extremely unfavorable. Forcefully mandating your pet into the crate or leaving them in the small enclosure for hours while you are away can also manifest anxiety issues toward the confinement. 

The key to helping your pet learn to adjust to the new environment is to make it an enjoyable experience. Place their favorite blanket and toys in the enclosure and leave the door open. Let them explore the area without fear of captivity. Offer treats inside the crate to generate a pleasing atmosphere and as a reward for accepting the new surroundings.

Follow-up with a verbal “good boy/girl” every time your pet enters the crate. When your best friend is comfortable going in and out of the enclosed space, close the door for short periods. Over the next few days, gradually increase the time your pet stays in the kennel. One of the basic tools while training your pet is to realize that an animal will generally willingly go into a crate if they have no reason to fear it.

Time, patience and consistency are the three elements for success when working with an animal. Keep it simple, straightforward and positive when training your pet. With persistent guidance and support, teaching an animal to trust an unknown or overcome an obstacle will ultimately deepen your bond.   

Crate training your pet can also help curtail their stress during unpleasant situations. Animals that fear loud noises such as thunder or fireworks typically seek the comfort of the small enclave to escape the frightening clamor. Many pets, experiencing high anxiety due to separation or other behavioral issues, will often calm down once inside their crate. And for those animals that convey anxious behavior in a vehicle, limiting their mobility to a crate not only ensures their safety, but yours as well.   

Some folks may perceive crate training as a cruel and inhumane means of confinement. However, as I learned through personal experience, many pets appreciate the safe and quiet solace of the enclosure.

The crate should not be regarded as a form of punishment, but instead as a means to provide comfort to your best friend.

Charlé Thibodeau has been a passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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