Dog in crate

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July 2021

Creating a safe space for your dog

Crate training

A crate can be an excellent way to create a safe space for your dog. A safe space can benefit many dogs, including anxious dogs, dogs who have experienced trauma, rescue dogs who need time to settle, dogs in a busy household, dogs requiring crate rest after injury or surgery.

Most dogs will benefit from a safe space at one point or another. It is somewhere they can retreat to and be left alone to rest and feel safe. 

However, recently I’ve been hearing that training pressure is actually making dogs unsure and reluctant to use a crate.

This can happen if you focus on training a dog to rest in a crate, when it’s not actually somewhere your dog wants to be.

My experience

When I first got my rescue dog Poppy, I wanted her to be crate trained. Poppy had other ideas though and never took to the training.

Although she learnt to go in on the crate on cue, she never wanted to stay in it. She much preferred to curl up on our bed or hide underneath the bed. This was somewhere she had identified as being a safe and cosy space. So, eventually we abandoned the idea of the crate. 

However, when my daughter was due to be born, I was really keen to ensure Poppy had a safe space downstairs. I decided to re-introduce a crate, but this time I tried a different approach. 

Instead of training her to use the crate, I set it up to create a safe space in a way I knew Poppy would approve of. I made sure to get a large enough crate to ensure she had enough room to feel comfortable and then removed the door so there was no risk of it accidently closing and distressing her.

To make it cosy, I used a blanket inside the crate that I knew Poppy loved to sleep on and placed the crate in an area of the living room that I knew she liked to rest in. All I did was occasionally add a few treats to encourage her to investigate it and left the rest to Poppy.

She gradually started to use it and now it has become her main resting place! 

Follow your dog’s lead

A safe space doesn’t have to be a crate. You can create a cosy safe space within a dog pen or whatever works with your space.

If you want your dog to use the space, my main advice would be to make it comfortable. Ultimately, give them a choice and follow their preference. Some dogs just don’t like to be confined. Sometimes it may take a little trial and error to find what suits your dog.

Dogs are individuals, so what one prefers will likely be different to another. Their preferences may also change depending on the environment. In hot weather, your dog will likely prefer somewhere cooler to rest. Likewise in the winter they’ll probably want somewhere cosy.

It’s important to remember that to truly be a safe space for your dog, it must be an undisturbed area. This means not letting children or other animals play in or around it and avoiding pulling or coaxing the dog out.

Sometimes, taking the pressure off and following your dog’s lead can be the best route to success! 

Making sure your dog feels safe and comfortable is a priority. If you are having trouble with your dog at home, then this is something that I can help with via my dog training classes. Get in touch today on 07507709685 for help with your pet’s training and behaviour journey.