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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

By nature, dogs have a great need for rest and sleep. This is absolutely understandable, considering how much energy they expend on playing, running, romping, sniffing and so on every day. It is therefore important to provide the dog with an adequate resting zone and a safe retreat. An animal-friendly dog box can be a great option here.

Does a dog box make sense?

First of all, a dog box should NEVER be used as a sanction or similar. Even if you “need a rest”, locking up the dog is not an option. Locking the dog away as a punishment is also an absolute no-go. The design of a dog box must also meet certain criteria (see below). 

If you want to offer your pet an opportunity to relax (in addition), then the answer is a resounding yes. Fearful, insecure dogs in particular can benefit enormously from a crate, as the nature of the box means that they are exposed to fewer environmental stimuli. 

A dog box also makes sense when it comes to safety, for example when transporting the animals, after surgical procedures and much more. 

Another advantage of a box is that it also signals to people that the dog wants to be left alone. 

What should a dog crate be like?

Only when the dog box fulfils certain requirements does it make sense to place the dog in it. Depending on the purpose for which you need the dog box, the parameters should be adapted. For example, folding boxes made of fabric are well suited as a place of retreat, while they are too unsafe for car transport.  

Guidelines for the dog box:

  • The right size: It is important here that the dog can stand in the box and turn around and stretch with pleasure without any problems.
  • The right material: The materials used must be safe for the dog and should be easy to clean. Make sure that the dog box has no sharp edges or protruding parts. There should be no possibility of gnawing and scratching in the interior. The meshes should be small enough so that the dog cannot put its paw or snout through them. 
  • Good air circulation must be ensured. The climate must be comfortable for the dog (not too hot, not too cold). 
  • Only 1 dog per box.
  • Regular cleaning. Be careful not to use any harsh cleaning agents!
  • A water-absorbent pad is recommended in case of a mishap.
  • Chewing articles and/or so-called lick mats can help to relax the dog.
  • Dogs also like to be cosy. A cuddly blanket or a small pillow can provide cosy hours. You can also put a T-shirt that smells like you inside. 

Important: Training to the box (see below) must take place beforehand, especially if the box is to be closed. If you need help with this, you can ask a trainer for advice.

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What types of dog crates are there?

There are now many different types of dog boxes, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Boxes made of fabric: Some of them are foldable, relatively light and washable, but also quite insecure and hardly permeable to air. Recommended as a place of retreat when travelling, but not for transport.
  • Hard plastic boxes: These are easy to clean, stable, escape-proof and also suitable for transport. However, these boxes heat up quite quickly and injuries from small parts sticking out can be possible. 
  • Boxes made of aluminium: Are very stable, robust and have good air circulation, but they are quite heavy. 
  • Wooden boxes: They are very stable, but the risk of injury is quite high (wood splinters), and a wooden box is also difficult to clean and extremely heavy.
  • Wire mesh boxes: Are very stable and at the same time quite light. Some models are also collapsible, thus space-saving, but there is no protection against draughts or similar. As a resting area, the box should be partially covered with a blanket.

Choose the box according to your dog’s preferences (open, well-shielded, cosy etc.) and according to your use (car, home, transport etc.). Arrange it so that your dog feels comfortable in it. 

Why is a dog box good at home?

A well-trained dog box is the ideal retreat. Here your dog can rest undisturbed and withdraw independently if something gets too much for him or he wants peace and quiet. It is important that he is really left alone in his box. Many dogs like caves because they are somewhat shielded from influences (noises, movements, etc.).  

How long can a dog stay in a box?

If the dog box is a place of retreat, as a resting zone for the dog, there is no time limit. As long as the dog likes to use the box, it is welcome. In most cases, the dog will then leave the box on its own.

If the crate is to be closed, your dog not only needs enough space, water, etc., but also bear in mind that confining dogs is not species-appropriate and may only be done for a short time in certain situations (e.g. medical orders). However, the dog should be accustomed to this situation in advance. With appropriate training, see below, this will certainly work out quickly. When the box is closed, you should keep a close eye on the dog and observe its behaviour so that you can open the mesh door or similar if necessary. You can also just leave the door ajar so that your dog can nudge it open with his muzzle. 

Locking an untrained dog in a closed dog box for hours is not only prohibited under animal welfare law, but also a torture for the four-legged friend! 

More information can be found in the study “Accommodation of dogs in boxes and similar accommodation – possibilities and limits of short-term undercutting of minimum requirements under animal welfare law” by R. Binder, N. Affenzeller, etc

How do I get my dog used to a box?

Some of our best four-legged friends have no problem at all settling down, others find it difficult to settle down or are hyperactive. Some will accept the dog box as a place of retreat immediately, sometimes even on their own, while others can’t do anything with it at all.

Training the dog to use the box as a quiet zone is recommended in advance, but how does it work?

  • The first step is to place the crate in a freely accessible, quiet and uncrowded place. Let your dog get to know the “strange thing”, sniff it out and explore it.
  • Positive reinforcement is the key, “correct” behaviour is rewarded. If the dog shows interest in the box, you can praise him, if he goes in on his own, you can give him a treat. Clickertraining is also recommended.
  • If he doesn’t go in on his own, you can also try putting a trail of treats inside the box. Or put his favourite toy inside. (If your dog is sceptical or fearful, click every time he looks in the direction of the box and do not lure him inside).
  • If the box has a removable lid, you can start training without the lid.
  • Patience, forbearance and calmness are important during these first steps. Try to give your pet the necessary time and don’t push him.
  • You should not close the box until your pet can stay in it without any problems and come to rest.
  • After that, you can lean the door or something similar, then close it briefly and slowly increase the time.
  • Never forget to praise your darling after every successful step. 
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