To people whose dogs have the run of the house all the time, crating or caging a dog when the humans aren't home seems strange. To someone unfamiliar with the practice, it could even appear cruel. Crate training is actually good for your dog, though. It will help him learn positive habits and will keep your home and furnishings intact if he becomes agitated or otherwise upset when you're not there to take charge.
Reduces Behavior Issues
Sometimes when the humans aren't around to offer companionship or keep them entertained, dogs become bored or even experience separation anxiety. Those issues can result in destructive behavior like chewing on furniture or other items or digging holes in the carpet. Crating your dog when you're away from home gives him a safe, secure place to be. This is not only comforting to your dog, but it also keeps him separated from things in your house that could be destroyed if he gets bored or becomes anxious.
Eliminates Elimination Problems
Crate training can aid in potty training. Maybe your pooch has a handle on letting you know when he needs to "visit the facilities" if you're at home, but sometimes dogs who are well trained when the humans are around will produce a package or a puddle when their family isn't there to let them out. Since dogs instinctively avoid soiling their sleeping and eating areas, putting your pooch in his crate when you won't be at home will eliminate the chances of you stepping into an unpleasant surprise when you return. Just be sure to take him out for a potty break before you leave so he remains comfortable while you're away.
Decreases Traumatic Reactions
Even if you rarely take your dog along with you, it's still practical to get him used to being in a pet taxi or crate when you're away from home. Getting your pooch comfortable with being in his crate by putting him in it when you're not at home will ensure that events like taking him to the vet or groomer, emergency evacuation or traveling to a new home won't traumatize him.
When Not to Crate
In general, confining your dog to a crate when you're away from home is a useful practice that will benefit you both. However, there are times when crating may not be the best solution, such as when your dog has a medical condition that requires he move about freely. In such a case, using a baby gate to keep your dog in the laundry room or other small room may be the better option. Dogs who are incontinent or otherwise have a problem with elimination shouldn't be locked in a crate. It's not only messy, but can be damaging to your dog's health and natural instinct to keep his bed clean. Some dogs are afraid of crates and should be worked with to overcome their phobia before being put into a crate. Also, if you are going to be gone for more than eight hours, keeping your dog in a fenced-in yard or finding a sitter is a better option than confining him for an extended amount of time.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.