Are Gates and Crates Really Necessary When Training a Puppy?

Happy dog in their crate

One of the most adorable things about a new puppy, beyond their puppy smell, is their curiosity. Everything is new to a puppy, even sounds. Isn’t it just the best when you make a new or surprising sound, and in response your puppy tilts his or her head in just the the cutest way. Curious about where that noise came from and what it means!

Puppies are like small children. Curiosity, exploration and adorableness are at level 10 with puppies and children. While babies take some time to get their ‘sea legs,’ puppies come pretty well prepared for zooming about your house. And, they often do just that. Leaving a wake of concern and likely a mess in their wake. They can’t help it, they’re puppies. We can’t help it, we worry about their safety… They are puppies after all.

While it may seem like dog gates and crates are about confinement, they truly aren’t. They are about safety, security and comfort. Gates help set boundaries for a new puppy, enabling him or her to learn what areas are okay, and safe, for exploration for them at their young age. Gates, when properly set-up, can even help establish a safe piddle spot for your puppy. As a pet parent, you simply cannot be everywhere all the time. You only have two eyes to keep on your cutie pie, and two hands to scoop up your puppy if danger, like a busy kitchen or a set of stairs, is near.

But, did you know that crates and gates actually work together to help reinforce your training efforts? They do! Crates are meant to be your puppy’s safe place. Dogs are natural den lovers, it’s in their DNA (source). That’s why a crate is easy to use when training. They offer your puppy a place to take a break and chew on a treat, or take a nap, after a job well done. Eventually, your puppy will use his or her crate as a place to safely chill and keep an eye on things. Gates help reinforce your training ‘down’ or ‘off’ efforts. Simply set up a gate in the area or by the object you want your puppy to stay away from. Building on your #12weekpuppychallenge work, you’ll be able to use the gate to help your puppy learn how to stay ‘down’ from things, and to safely explore his or her new home.

Here’s What To Look For In Crates and Grates

What To Look For In Crates 

One of the most important things to look for in a dog crate is size. You will want to get a crate that’s appropriate for your puppy’s size. While this may mean that you purchase 2 to 3 crates while your pup grows to full maturation, it will help you in the long run. Here’s why: dogs are natural den creatures. That means they don’t like to piddle where they sleep. They tend to treat their den as their sanctuary. If you get a crate that’s too large, your puppy will use one half for sleeping and the other half for pottying. Knowing this gives you the information you need to properly potty train your pup.

Generally speaking, crates come in a variety of types: wire, plastic, soft-sided and heavy-duty. Wire crates are great for airflow, have removable trays for cleaning and fold for easy storage. Plastic crates provide more of a den-feel for dogs that value their privacy or are more nesting oriented, and they often meet airline travel guidelines. Soft-sided crates are lightweight, good for smaller dogs, effective for quick trips. Heavy-duty crates are super solid, and best for puppies that may not know their own strength or size. To see some of our crates, click here.

What to Look For in a Gate

There are almost as many gate types as there are crates. But what you want to truly focus in on is a gate’s strength, construction durability, materials used and how easy it is to set-up and to take down. It’s important to choose a gate that can withstand a bit of strength and pressure, depending on the size your puppy will eventually reach as an adult. Puppies tend to jump around. When they do this, they can accidentally fall against the gate. That’s why it’s key to ensure the gate you select has a secure locking mechanism. Also, we recommend picking a gate that doesn’t fall down or over once it’s set up. This type of security can be accomplished through pressure-mounted sides that expand securely between walls of a walkway or hallway or in a door jam; and through an interlocking mechanism, or by nature of it being made wide and well balanced. 

Dog gates are constructed out of plastic, metal or wood. Some require a permanent installation, while others are freestanding. We’ve used all types of gates, and we generally gravitate toward pressure-mounted gates because they can be easily moved about our home as needed. However, if there are areas that you want to establish as permanently out-of-bounds for your dog, then the installed versions work great. If you go with freestanding, we suggest that you watch your puppy from a safe distance to see if s/he will or won’t attempt to move it to sneak out. Sometimes freestanding gates can be pushed open by the paws of determined puppies. To see some of our gates, click here.

Crates and Gates, You Can’t Go Wrong

Whether used separately or combined, crates and gates make for a safe and well-adjusted puppy. They can also help you, as a pet parent, through what most people find the typical challenging puppy training times, such as chewing and potty training. Also, remember to use crates and gates to reinforce training. If your puppy starts to jump on the gate or crate door when you approach, don’t encourage the behavior. Just calmly use the opportunity to reinforce “down” or “off” to redirect their behavior - and provide a treat when success is achieved. By working with your dog’s natural den-loving instincts, you can use these tools to help your puppy feel safe and secure - and that’s worth its weight in gold.

Rebecca Sanchez

Rebecca Sanchez lives in Seattle with her husband and three dogs and is a published author, and nationally recognized leader in the pet industry. Known as The Pet Lifestyle Guru™ Rebecca firmly believes “we need animals as much as they need us!” Rebecca specializes in researching and writing about holistic dog health and nutrition, and develops DIY recipes designed to enhance a pup's well-being.

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