This is a frequently asked question by many dog owners. They think that locking the crate at night will make their dogs in a better position to feel secure. Obviously, this isn’t true.
Most dogs feel a sense of fear and anxiety when it comes to the crate door. This is especially true for dogs that have been badly treated and been locked in a crate previously.
It is bound to be a nightmare for those dogs if they find the crate door to be locked, especially at night when they are alone.
Nevertheless, if your dog is still a young puppy of less than 12 weeks old (still learning to control his bladder), having him locked in a crate during the night would save you from accidents in the house.
Therefore, it is recommended to keep the crate door locked at night till your dog is house-trained and has learned where he should do his potty without your supervision. The exception to this is when he is suffering from separation anxiety.
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Never Lock the Crate If Your Dog Is Suffering from Separation Anxiety
Many dogs bark because they fear being alone or trapped in an enclosed space such as a crate.
If your dog has signs of anxiety whenever you are not with him, it is recommended to keep the crate door open at night.
This will give him more freedom as he can come out of the crate and look for you whenever he needs you.
Looks out for signs of anxiety in your dog, such as:
- Crying, barking, or howling excessively.
- Chewing in a destructive manner.
- Digging to escape from the house.
- Constant pacing or circling.
- Persistent urinating or defecating in the house.
- Frequently drooling or salivating.
If your dog is exhibiting any of the above signs, you will need to address his anxiety disorder.
Your dog will feel more comfortable in his crate if he recognizes it as his den (through crate training). This will make him want to stay in it whenever he feels anxious.
Let your dog explore the crate under your supervision to make him get used to the scent and “feel” of the crate.
He would be more willing to make his first move into the crate if you are with him. Toss some of his favorite treats into the crate so that he will feel it is a rewarding experience to go into the crate.
To make him stay longer in the crate, leave his favorite toys in the crate to keep him company. Let him learn to stay inside the crate while you are around.
Do not force him to stay in the crate. Keep the crate door open so that he is free to leave the crate whenever he wants to do so. This will make him feel safe to be in the crate.
By making the crate a cozy place filled with his favorite toys, the goal is to train him to be comfortable being in it.
You should always supervise him when he is in the crate during the crate training phase.
Observe his body language and make sure that he is not feeling stressed out and upset while in the crate.
You should never make your dog feel that going into his crate is a punishment for him and the act of locking his crate door is certainly going to make your dog think so.
Keeping Their Crates Locked While They Are Still Young to Prevent Accidents
Dogs are naturally curious animals, and they are much more prone to getting into trouble when left unsupervised. This is especially so if your dog is still a young pup that has not been house-trained.
It takes puppies at least 12 weeks to be able to control when they go. Around 6 weeks old, you can begin taking him outside at least once an hour to let him go potty. Even though this can reduce indoor accidents, he has a long way to go (until 12 weeks old) before he is ready for proper house training.
Once your puppy is ready for house training, it will take another 4 -6 months of training before he is fully house-trained.
Some puppies may take up to a year, depending on the size of the dog. Usually, the smaller the breed, the longer the training takes.
This is because, in addition to having a smaller bladder, smaller breeds have a higher metabolism and require more frequent outside trips and would therefore take longer time to train them.
Therefore, to keep your young dog out of trouble (tempted to go exploring, get into mischief or accidents) when you are not there to supervise him, an easy solution is to keep him locked up in a crate during the day while you are away or in the night while you are asleep.
To ease his fear and anxiety, leave some of his favorite toys in the crate to keep him company and leave a piece of your old clothing in it as well.
The scent of your old clothing will make your dog feel that you are somewhere near him and that will calm him down.
You can also make use of music therapy to ease your dog’s anxiety while he is locked in the crate.
Listening to music or white noise can help your dog relax. Studies have shown that playing music to dogs at animal shelters reduces stress, barking, respiratory rate, and cortisol levels in animals.
You can also do the crate door closing exercise with your dog during his meal time.
Leave his meal in the crate and as he steps in to eat his food, gently close the crate door. Open the door as soon as your dog is done with his meal.
Each time you feed him, leave the door closed a little longer, until your dog spends about ten minutes in the crate after eating without exhibiting any fear and anxiety.
Make the Crate a Cozy Place for Your Dog to Love Staying in (You Won’t Need to Lock It)
If you had a cozy and secure crate for your dog to stay in, wouldn’t he like to stay there whenever he feels tired or stressed out?
Crates are therefore an essential part of your dog’s life—that’s why picking the right one is so important!
You must choose the right type and size of crate for your dog if you want him to stay and sleep comfortably in it.
When it comes to crate, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind:
1. The crate must have an open view, so that your dog can see you from his crate and won’t be anxious. Metal crates would be an ideal choice.
2. The door must be wide enough for your dog to pass through and the size of the crate must be spacious enough for your dog to stand up and turn around without any difficulty. If your dog is very active, he might feel uncomfortable in a small crate.
3. If possible, place the crate where your dog can see you from his crate. This will make him feel more at ease.
4. It is important to provide your dog with comfortable bedding in his crate. Your dog should have a soft bed of blankets or a pillow that he likes.
5. You should never use a crate to punish your dog.
It’s important to make your dog love his crate. If the crate does not appeal to him, he will not stay in it.
It is not a good idea to keep your dog in a crate and lock him up. This can make your dog feel uncomfortable and stressed as he will be wondering why he is being locked up in a small enclosure.
This is especially so if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety disorder and will feel uneasy when the crate door is locked.
It could make your dog feel like he is being trapped, which could lead to him becoming destructive and trying to break out of his crate.
To prevent this, place the crate with the door shut but the latch unlocked so that he can still move in and out of his crate freely and to go for his potty outside during the night.
This will make your dog get used to the crate door being closed.