Dog-owners have different opinions about crate training. The practice is easily abused and over-relied upon as a substitute for actual training and disciplining. While a crate may be intended to be a safe place for your Samoyed to curl up and relax, it can scare your pet.
Dogs need positive reinforcement and incentives to adjust to crate training. This is in contrast to the popular opinion that dogs are denning animals, and that denning is instinctual. If curling up in crates was instinctual, then no Samoyed would need to be conditioned to do it.
The Great Debate
Crate training is practiced in many parts of the world except Sweden and Finland where it is illegal. Many owners refuse to crate train their dogs as it can create lasting emotional and physical damage. Crate training is bad and is completely avoidable if your Samoyed is trained properly.
This article will challenge the popular notion of crate training and provide alternatives and answers as to why crate training is bad. Is the crate a convenient den for your Samoyed? Or is it a confining cage with zero merits?
The Crate - A Modern Den?
The rationale for crate training is that denning animals exist and that all dogs, including Samoyeds, are one of them. A den is a safe sanctuary for an animal to hide inside. Hungry predators and extreme environmental conditions can be life-threatening, and a simple hole, or den, is a solution for survival.
Moles, groundhogs, gophers, and wolves are denning animals. The ancestor of the dog, the wolf, is a maternal denning animal. The mother wolf would provide a den for its offspring during their most vulnerable stages. After the babies mature, they leave the maternal den and set off into the world. This is where the science begins to get muddy, and the expert opinions polarize.
The Cons of Crate Training
In fact, crate training can have several adverse effects on your Samoyed such as:
- Separation anxiety
- Eating disorders
- Stress sores
- Bladder conditions
- Impaired temperature regulation
- Impaired joint and bone health
- Muscle atrophy
- Poor circulation
Should You Crate Train a Samoyed?
Samoyeds are naturally energetic working animals that crave physical activity. They have a high prey drive and need for exercise. Crate training a Samoyed can be difficult simply because it goes against so much of the natural drive of the animal.
The constant stretching and moving provides a release for anxiety and serves as a natural exercise. Samoyeds that are confined for long periods will age poorly and undergo an increased risk of adverse health conditions. Physical confinement is physically distressing, regardless of whether the Samoyed is emotionally conditioned to curl up in crates or not.
The regular confinement of a Samoyed in a restricted space is physically harmful. Abuse of the crate-training method only exacerbates physical harm. Irresponsible owners use the crate as a means to avoid their Samoyed. Samoyeds are social and playful. They don’t learn what is good or bad through crate training. Isolation is a source of considerable distress. For this reason, crate training a Samoyed is more difficult than training most other dogs.
Crates Are Poor Substitutes For Dens
A crate is intended to provide security and comfort. It is meant as a safe space against a loud and overstimulating environment. Most Samoyeds need significant incentives like treats and ear scratches to learn to enter a crate. Using the crate as a punishment is a guaranteed way to make your Samoyed hate the crate and condition it to feel distressed every time it enters one.
If your Samoyed tries to dig or bite through the crate it can easily hurt itself. The isolation and lack of movement exacerbate anxiety instead of relieving it.
Is It Good To Cover Your Dog’s Crate?
You might notice your Samoyed excessively barking, whining, or desperately digging when left inside a crate. If your Samoyed notices something distressing in its environment and cannot move its body, it might panic. A common remedy to quell anxiety is to cover the opening of a crate with a blanket, towel, or sheet.
This removes the negative stimulus from sight and gives your Samoyed a dark, quiet enclosure that can provide comfort.
The point of a crate isn’t to instill learned helplessness, but to create a safe space. Take care to choose the right material for your crate. The sheet must be breathable and not insulate heat. Some crates come with attached covers that are aesthetically calming as well. The crate should have everything your Samoyed needs, such as bedding, toys, and access to water. There has to be sufficient space for your Samoyed.
Much like the crate requires positive conditioning for your Samoyed to love it, the cover requires the same. If your dog displays fear or aggression when you put the cover on, that’s a clear sign that it’s causing more problems than it solves.
Is a Crate Necessary For a Samoyed Puppy?
Samoyed puppies can be stubborn, restless and intelligent. Their huge prey drive, the propensity to chewing and digging lead many owners to consider training them during puppy-hood so they grow out of their destructive behaviors. Crate training isn’t mandatory, but you can resort to it to eliminate bad habits during the puppy stage.
Samoyeds are some of the hardest dogs to crate train. They are restless and intelligent. Their determination and stubbornness will ensure you have a hard time getting them to listen to you unless there’s a treat in your hands. They have a strong propensity to dig and chew, leading many to consider crate training their puppies. Use their strong prey drive and work ethic to tire them out. Have your Samoyed dig out the garden until they’re exhausted. Make them your little assistant to reap the benefits of their digging drive.
Steven Lindsay, author of the ‘Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training’ states the purpose of crate training “…should be to get the dog out of the crate as soon as possible. To use the crate as little as possible in the service of training and space-management objectives.”
Use a crate in the initial stages as a pair of metaphorical training wheels. Puppies younger than six months should never be crate-trained as they cannot control their bowels and bladders. Gradually train your puppy with positive reinforcement until they repeat the desired behavior. Then gradually eliminate the crate use.
Benefits of Not Crate Training
It’s possible to crate train your Samoyed without ever relying on a crate and even realize several benefits while doing so. Not crate training a Samoyed can:
- Improve your Samoyed’s physical health. An active and energetic dog is a healthy dog. Increased activity will lead to a reduced risk of diabetes, better muscle mass, and a more social, happy Samoyed.
- Improve your Samoyed’s mental health. Your dog can seek out tight enclosures to satisfy any denning instincts. A crate isn’t necessary. They make do with tight corners, the undersides of cars, etc.
- Reduced anxiety. Zoomies are a well-known cure for releasing pent-up energy. Anxious energy can be dissipated with plenty of play-time.
- Improved bladder health. A Samoyed that eats well, relieves well, and sleeps well is a happy Samoyed.
Alternatives to Crate Training
Your Samoyed doesn’t need a crate to enjoy the benefits of a quiet, enclosed space. There are plenty of alternatives:
- A playpen
Playpens are much bigger than crates and can even accommodate friends. Make sure your pen is stable and cannot be knocked over.
- Baby gates
Gates are simple ways to keep your Samoyeds in play rooms. Carpet-less rooms are ideal. Consider the size of your Samoyed, and pick gates they can’t just jump over.
- A fenced yard
A simple privacy fence around your yard works perfectly. It’s possible to set off to work and keep your Samoyed perfectly happy in your yard. Be aware that they can make quick work of your lawn unless trained not to dig.
There are plenty of doggy daycare facilities that can give your dog all the attention they need while you’re away. This is the ideal way to get a socialized, tired, and happy Samoyed when you come home in the evening.
Training your Samoyed without crates is completely possible and preferable. It is best reserved for puppy-hood. The margin of error when crate-training is slim and not worth the risk and side effects in the long run. With some elbow grease and simple, old-fashioned disciplining, your Samoyed can grow into a happy dog without ever seeing the insides of a crate.
What size crate does my Samoyed puppy need? What size should I buy when it’s all grown up?
An adult Samoyed can weigh up to 65 pounds and grow up to 24” in height. These are large-sized dogs with considerable fur that need big crates. A single crate of 46”-48” will suffice. Many crates come with a divider within that can adjust the amount of space inside. Simply buy a large crate for your puppy and pull up the divider to make it snug and cozy. Pull back the divider when your puppy grows up to make it roomy again. Wire crates, in particular, come with easy-to-use dividers so there is no need to purchase multiple crates. Check out our complete guide on how to choose a right crate size.
My Samoyed keeps shedding an unnatural amount of fur inside his crate. What gives?
Your Samoyed might not be able to control its wagging inside the crate. Their tails are powerful and wagging repeatedly against a crate’s metal bands can cause discomfort and shed fur. There is a chance your dog won’t vocalize their discomfort despite their pain. Your dog can also curl up against the bars and rub up against them repeatedly, causing hair loss. A tell-tale sign of this is finding sores on their body or a raw nose that reveals a habit of burrowing into the crates. Crates come with bumpers and special accessories that can easily prevent this kind of crate-related injury.