Your Dog’s Crate

One element of a dog’s life, whether it is a family dog or hunting dog, that is many times overlooked is the idea of having your pet crated.

The idea of having your dog confined is often viewed as cruel or inhumane. I believe just the opposite. A crate provides your pet a comfortable and safe environment. I highly recommend buying a crate before bringing a new puppy home.

Even small dogs should be kept in a crate at night, that way they don’t take up your bed space!

When it comes to picking a crate, there are many style and shapes available. The most common are plastic crates. These crates normally consist of a plastic housing and have a metal grated door. They are reasonably priced and with most dogs will normally last a lifetime if you buy the proper size.

Metal crates are gaining popularity, however. These crates include a grated style (fence like steel material), which can even fold up and collapse flat. This style is nice to have because of its ability to fit almost anywhere and unfold to house any size dog.

Invest In A Quality Crate
Solid-plated steel or aluminum crates are often used for hunting dogs. One dog or two dog boxes are often seen in the back of pickups in the fall. They are often more expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for if you invest in one of these.

ABS Plastic or fiberglass crates have now hit the market as well. These crates are lighter weight than metal crates and seem to be very durable. These materials also have a high insulation rating and do not seem to corrode as much as other metal materials. The price-points seem to be similar to metal crates so they offer a pet owner another option.

Once you have decided on a style of crate, make sure you introduce your puppy to it as soon as possible. I recommend this introduction should begin the day you bring your pup home. If possible, get a small crate or a cat crate to begin this process. If you already have a crate that will fit your dog when it reaches adulthood, try to block off the back section to make the interior smaller for your young dog.

This will do two things. First, it will help your young dog feel more secure in a smaller area. Remember, your new puppy has been confined to being with his siblings, which most likely was somewhat restricting. This small area will help him feel safe as opposed to having a large area to try and “nest.” I will often put some blankets or old shirts in with the young pup to help comfort them in their new home. Some people will even put an old alarm clock by the crate. The idea is that the tick tock will imitate the beating heart of a sibling.

Making the original crate smaller will also help in the house-training process. If you want your pup to be an inside dog, the smaller confines will help him wait until he is let out to go to the bathroom. If the crate is large, many times he will use one end as a bathroom, and the other end as sleeping quarters.

A hunting dog learns to love their crate in dad’s pickup!

Teach ‘Kennel’ Command Early
As your pup gets older, try to use both positive and negative reinforcement to get him in the crate. Start to teach a “kennel” command by using both treats and leash work to get him in there. Obviously increase the size of the crate as your pup grows or purchase a larger crate if you began with a puppy-size unit.

When traveling, always try to make room for the crate in your vehicle. Make sure you take your young puppy on car rides at an early age and use the confines of the crate to help him during these trips. As the puppy gets older, he will often enjoy car rides in the crate — especially if your first few trips were to the dog park! If you begin this way, his crate will actually calm him down during car rides.

If you own a hunting dog, your crate may even be more important. Gundogs are normally out in the elements, which can get them wet and dirty. The crate will keep your vehicle a lot cleaner and will become his sleeping quarters between hunts or while at hotels. Make sure to keep the crate both cool in the summer, and warm during the fall and winter to make his stay comfortable. Products, such as fans, heaters and dog beds, will help in this regard, and even old-fashioned straw in the winter, or block ice in the summer aid in comfort.

The idea of confinement for your dog actually is something that is very beneficial. Whether you have a family pet or a prized gundog, giving your dog a place where he is both familiar and comfortable will keep him happy. A crate can help in the overall health of your dog both emotionally and physically. Many times it become his “home away from home.”

Discover a fine selection of Dog Crates at Sportsman’s Guide today!

Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels ( In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America. If you have any questions, Jason can be reached at 507-663-6143 or visit ( He provides dog training tips weekly.

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