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Crate Training Your Cocker Puppy



The most important piece of equipment you will ever buy is a dog crate.  Many pet owners misunderstand the concept of “crate-training” and dismiss the idea of a crate as cruel or believe that the dog sees it as a punishment. That is not the way the dog feels when the crate is properly utilized. Those in the professional animal community view crates as an accepted, trusted and necessary piece of equipment.  They are taken for granted by dog show exhibitors, obedience and field trial competitors, trainers, groomers, veterinarians, and anyone else who handles dogs regularly.

A dog crate is a rectangular enclosure with a top, a bottom and a door.  They are available in a variety of sizes proportioned to fit any type of dog. They can be constructed of wire, aluminum, or molded fiberglass/plastic.  Its purpose is to provide guaranteed confinement for reasons of security, safety, house-breaking, protection of household goods, travel, illness, or just general control.  A good quality crate will last almost indefinitely. It is escape-proof, chew resistant, easy to clean, and should be well ventilated.

The dog is a den animal (like a wolf or a fox) and the enclosed shelter of a dog crate will satisfy this inherited den instinct.  The crate becomes a dog’s “safe haven” in the sometimes-bewildering world of humans.  The dog will come to accept the crate as its own private retreat.  If you travel with your pet, being able to take his “den” along will give the dog a sense of security in a strange environment. 

Your relationship with your new puppy, or new older dog, will be more rewarding for you both if he is prevented from causing trouble, rather than being punished for it later.  If you use the crate correctly, the dog will have no opportunity to chew your leather shoes, the corner of the couch or your child’s favorite toy.  You will be supervising every minute the dog is loose in the house, and/or you will be keeping the dog tethered to you with a leash, and you will be able to immediately stop unwanted behavior.  Teach your new puppy or dog what is not his to chew or play with by immediately replacing the forbidden item with one of his own toys.  

In the wild, dogs are pack animals.  Puppies born in the wild are raised and trained by all the adults in the pack.  They are constantly being “disciplined” by whichever adult is close at hand.  Always remember that you, and the other humans in the home, MUST be the “pack leaders”.  The dog is happier and more secure having the lowest position in the pack.   A dog will have less anxiety and be more secure if its’ life is controlled by humans.  A dog that thinks it is the pack leader can become aggressive with strangers and possessive of its human “pack”.  This type of behavior can and should be immediately controlled.  It is never acceptable for your puppy to growl at a family member or to bark uncontrollably at strangers.

A dog crate, correctly and humanely used, can have many advantages for both you and your dog.  With the help of a crate:

  •    You can enjoy complete peace of mind when leaving your dog in the house alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed and that it is comfortable, protected, and not developing any bad habits.
  •    You can housebreak your dog (young or old) more quickly by using the close confinement to encourage control and to associate elimination only with the outdoors.  This will allow you to establish a regular routine for outdoor elimination and to prevent "accidents" at night or when left alone, since a dog will avoid soiling its "den" if at all possible.
  •    You can effectively confine your dog (sparing him the loneliness and frustration of having to be isolated in the yard, basement or garage) at times when he might be underfoot - meals, family activities, guests, workmen or if he’s ill.
  •    You can travel with your dog without risk of the driver being dangerously distracted or the dog getting loose and lost.   Your dog can easily adapt to any strange surroundings as long as it has its familiar “security blanket" along.
  •    Your dog can enjoy the privacy and security of a "den" of its own to which it can retreat when tired, stressed or ill (and your dog will make use of the crate of its own volition if you leave the door open when it is older and completely house-trained).  Make it a rule, especially with children, that if the dog retreats to its crate, it must be left alone.
  •    You will have a much happier, healthier relationship with your new dog by using the crate to avoid the fear/stress/punishment caused by problem behavior.  If the puppy is correctly confined when unattended, it will never have the opportunity to soil the carpet, eat the drapes or chew on the furniture, thus the dog will never be in trouble.
  •    Your puppy can be conveniently included in family outings, visits and trips instead of being left behind alone at home or in a boarding kennel.
  •    The dog that is accustomed to a crate will adjust more readily to confinement at a veterinary hospital, grooming salon or boarding kennel when that is necessary.  
The use of a crate is highly recommended for a dog that must be regularly left alone.   It is preferable that someone be available to take a young puppy out for exercise at midday, but most dogs will be able to adjust to a normal work schedule in a short period of time.   

Always use the crate for general confinement and house training.   NEVER use the crate as a punishment.   The crate should be the dog’s safe haven, not a dreaded ordeal. 

*The specialty crates pictured above can be found at:


If you have any questions or would like more information about Cocker Spaniels,
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Copyright © Sandcastle Kennels 2004

Last revised: January 06, 2006