Hercules: Crate Training Case Study 

Throughout the years, I have met many dog owners who are averse to using crates for their dogs. Many people view crates as cages for their dogs, and confining them like that is deemed “mean” and in some cases, even “cruel”.

We always recommend starting crate training at a young age!

It is no surprise there is this viewpoint in the dog owning world. What causes this misinformed opinion is because there are many dog owners who use the crate inappropriately, maybe even cruelly. I have seen and spoken with owners that have crates for their dogs, but only use them as a “time out” place for when their dog is misbehaving and must receive some sort of punishment. I’ve seen dogs unnecessarily stuck inside these crates for nearly fifteen hours straight, or more!

Like wolves, dog exhibit the same “den-like” behavior, where safe, comfortable enclosed spaces is something they are drawn to. When using a crate correctly, a dog can establish it as their den or safe place. However, if the dog always negatively associates the crate as a place of punishment and prolonged isolation, then there’s a good chance the dog will hate being inside the crate, and develop/show signs of anxiety.

However, this is not to say that the crate cannot be used for management purposes. In many ways, this is crucial for a lot of dogs and their owners, especially in the early stages of their newfound relationship after adoption. Take for instance one of my clients and his dog Hercules. When brought into his new home, Hercules took it upon himself to make that home his, and ONLY his. He would mark inside the house, chew anything up that he could find (furniture, shoes, his owner’s phone, and more!), and he also became very hyperactive and territorial. Hercules would sleep in his owner’s bed and soon became aggressive over the bed, including toward his owner! And when left alone in the house, there would be unpleasant surprises waiting for his owner—waste in the living room, holes in the couch, things knocked over, and even complaints from neighbors who said that Hercules would be whimpering and howling inside the house for several hours straight.

Hercules was a bundle of behavior problems—territorial behavior, lack of obedience and direction, separation anxiety, destructive chewing, and poor focus. When Hercules was enrolled in my training program, we worked on the core problems which were his anxiety and lack of respect for his owner. Through physical exercise and training, we showed Hercules how to be a success through obedience, while also having his owner display consistent leadership. When it came to Hercules and his territorial behavior over the bed, we then introduced a crate into his life, which would not only address that issue, but also be used to manage the chewing and marking, along with building his confidence and combating his separation anxiety.

While Hercules could be rambunctious at times, we NEVER used his crate to punish him. It was strictly used for management, and we always maintained positive associations for Hercules when it came to his crate. He did not view his crate as a bad place or like a dungeon, but rather a place he could go to so that he may feel secure and relaxed. This is what makes the crate such a useful tool if utilized properly!

Any tool can be used for the wrong purposes. As a dog trainer, it is my job to teach dog owners how to use these tools effectively and humanely. A crate is not necessary for every dog training case, but it can help a lot and add a lot more progress and positivity into the home!

To learn more about my dog training program here in the Virginia Beach area, call 800-649-7297 or email me at training@hamptonroadsdogtraining.com!