Is crate training a good idea?

NO. I know many books and breeders swear by this method, but after years of trials I am opposed to it with little exception. Crate training takes advantage of the Lab’s natural tendency to use the bathroom in a place other than what they consider their immediate living environment. Supposedly, you come home and let him out, and he immediately dashes for the bushes. He therefore gets used to going in the correct place, and it becomes habit. Good in theory. There are a couple of drawbacks that make other methods more attractive.

The primary goal in “housebreaking” is to establish good communication between Master and Puppy. When you crate a puppy, he barks almost continuously for a week, unless he is sleeping. (Go to the cage to comfort him, and he will bark for eternity). How do you know the difference in the bark that says, “Let me out of this cell!” and the one that says, “I’ve really gotta go!” You miss the visual cues that tell you he needs to go. Another drawback is that all puppies will eventually get to the point where they can no longer hold it. (Remember, puppies also get upset bowels from time to time). When this happens, they are forced to defecate in their crate. They get it on their coats, and are forced to smell it. You have just trained your puppy – in reverse! Now he has no problem going – anywhere!

What about that claim that the Lab likes his kennel? I have heard people say, “He goes there anytime he gets stressed – he really likes it!” Of course the Lab goes there – he finally got used to it. Just like a hostage gets used to his closet. Let’s take a look at this from a different perspective. If your child spent excessive amounts of time in small dark rooms, you may choose to take him to a head doctor. However, if you had locked your child in this type of environment during infancy, he would have grown accustomed to it. Would you consider this healthy?

I know you may have friends that swear by this method. I also remember when everyone swore by Asbestos tablecloths. For alternative methods, see “What is the best way to housebreak my puppy?”

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