The Pros and Cons of Crate Training Your Westie

Love it or loathe it – this is always a controversial topic.

“If they refuse to go all the way inside the crate at first, that’s okay, don’t ever force them to enter. Just continue tossing treats into the crate until they walk in calmly.”

Crate training can be a good training tool if used correctly and if it is not abused. As a dog trainer I conduct puppy consultations a lot. Mention a crate to some owners and they will immediately look horrified and cannot imagine putting their puppy in a crate, while others love crate training and swear by it. It is perhaps no wonder then, that this is a very controversial topic.

What do we do with a baby at night to keep them safe? We put them in a cot that looks remarkably like a crate. I brought my own dog, Charlie up in a crate when he was a puppy, but this is just my own personal choice. I also had a playpen around the crate, with the crate door left open and this worked very well for Charlie because he got used to the crate with the playpen around it. Crate training a puppy, or a dog includes teaching them to associate their crate with safety and security. The hope is that the crate becomes the place to go when the pup feels overwhelmed or sleepy. It is especially important puppies get undisturbed rest and sleep time because this is crucial for their wellbeing in their training. Regardless of everything you have read or heard, you really must consider the pros and cons of crate training and whether it is something that you believe is right for you and your puppy.

The pros of crate training

One of the ways to effectively toilet train your puppy is to use a crate, puppies have weak bladders up until about 16 weeks old (three months old). They must pee several times a day and they have to learn to do their business outside and not indoors. The crate is a terrific way forward for teaching them toilet training. When your puppy wakes up from sleeping you can take them outside for toilets. When you are crate training your pup, have your puppy spend about 10- 30 minutes in the crate and try again immediately taking them outside for toilets, this helps to set your pup up for success. (If your pup is sleeping leave them until they wake up). Puppies or dogs will consider their crate as a den and will tend not to urinate or defecate in their crate. This does not mean you can leave your puppy or dog for hours on end in a crate. Ensure your puppy or dog has multiple opportunities to go to the toilet, such as after playing, sleeping, and eating. Adult dogs should not be left any longer than four hours in a crate in the daytime, any longer than this is not looking after your dog’s wellbeing.

Puppy space

Everyone in a family has his or her own personal space, and it is only fair your puppy has a space to be calm on their own, a crate can do just that. They will have a safe, quiet place to lie down and to relax away from the noise of a typical day.

Destructive behaviour

Dogs and puppies often produce different strange and destructive behaviours such as inappropriate chewing (especially when puppies are teething) and this is a quite frequent problem with puppies. The crate helps to keep them safe from danger if they cannot be supervised by you when you are busy.

Separation anxiety

If your puppy is brought up correctly and associates the crate with good stuff that happens when they are in the crate, such as treats and toys, separation anxiety shouldn’t be a problem in the future for your puppy, because you would have built your puppies confidence up slowly to having some time alone away from you in their crate. It is important to note that if your dog is already suffering from separation anxiety you should never confine them in a crate, as this would make the situation worse. In this case, the best thing you can do is contact a dog behaviourist who can provide the correct guidance to follow to solve the problem.

Dogs that need cage rest after surgery

Another good reason to get your dog used to crate training is you never know in the future if your dog could get injured, they may have to spend a few days in a veterinary clinic and they would have to be inside a crate or cage for their own safety. Your dog will not be as stressed, and you may have to continue crate rest when they return home.

Safety transporting, and family adventures

A dog that is familiar with its crate will travel comfortably and safely by car and feel relaxed. The reason many places restrict dog access is that free-roaming untrained dogs create liability issues. When you show your dog is well trained then most facilities will let you bring your dog along for the adventure. It makes it much easier to bring your dog along for a family outing, or trip, or even longer holidays when they are used to travelling in a crate, or you may even have to crate them in your hotel room if you go for dinner. This is much better than leaving your dog behind at home if they are content being in a crate for a brief time.

Natural instincts

Dogs have a particular affection for confined spaces, they like going under beds, under coffee tables, behind settees. Giving them a safe place can come in handy, especially around bonfire night, if your dog feels anxious or frightened.


A crate is useful for socialisation exercises if you have a Westie that is not keen on being around people it does not know. When there are lots of children running around your home, or you may have guests having a meal, you can prevent triggering over excitement by bringing your pup back to their crate. You can even use this tool to prevent unwanted behaviours, such as begging at the table when you are eating, the crate comes in handy until you have your training skills under control.

The cons of crate training

Some owners do not use the crate correctly, they use the crate as a punishment if the puppy has done something wrong, thinking they will learn by putting them in the crate. This can be very damaging for your puppy or dog. The crate should never be used as a punishment.

Away from home working

Your dog or puppy should never be left for extended periods each day in a crate. Consider getting the services of a dog walker or pet sitter to break up the monotony of your dog’s day to provide them with socialisation and exercise. A crate should have enough room for your Westie to turn around, stand up, and lie down comfortably.


Your first goal should be to ensure the crate is put together properly. A crate constructed improperly could result in it collapsing on your puppy or dog causing injury. Always remove your puppy or dog’s collar to prevent accidental choking. Your dog or puppy’s collar could get stuck on the door which could result in strangulation. Make sure the crate is not left in direct sunlight such as by a window. Make sure your dog has access to water.

The crate can leave your dog traumatised

If your dog keeps having bad experiences with its crate, this could result in your dog becoming traumatised and anxious and unable to trust you. This can be one of the major disadvantages of crate training if you keep getting it wrong.

And finally…

Remember to slowly build up your puppy or dog’s confidence in their crate. Put the crate in an area where the family spends the most time, such as the family room. Make the crate comfortable with their bed inside. Make sure the crate door is securely fastened open, so it won’t hit your puppy or dog and frighten them. When they are coming in and going out of the crate, encourage your pup or dog to enter the crate by tossing some treats inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way inside the crate at first, that’s okay, don’t ever force them to enter. Just continue tossing treats into the crate until they walk in calmly. You can even use a toy, just make everything is positive about the crate. This step may take time or as long as several days. Have some enrichments ready for your crate training such as a food stuffed Kong, so if they do go in the crate, you can give them the Kong, but leave the door open until your puppy or dog is happy and confident being inside their crate. I have clients today who have crate trained their dog from a puppy and they leave the crate door open, and their dogs are still happy to go in the crate.

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