medicine online

Category: “Pet Care Tips”

Why Crate Training is Recommended

Dogs in the wild live in dens. The den provides wild dogs protection from predators as well as the elements, and it allows for a feeling of security. That’s why you often find dogs curling up under a table, chair, or bed. By giving dogs a secure place that is all their own, pet owners can take advantage of a dogs’ natural instincts to help the dog feel safe, thus reducing isolation-induced stress.

Crate training, if done properly, is a wonderful training tool with many benefits. Apart from the obvious uses for transporting dogs, a crate can be used for short term confinement –to keep your puppy out of mischief so he does not develop bad habits when you cannot give him your undivided attention. A crate can also be used to develop good habits –to housetrain your puppy, to establish a chew-toy habit, and to reduce inappropriate barking and digging. Also, if your dog ever injures himself or becomes ill, the crate will be invaluable during recovery. If you move, your dog’s adjustment to a new home will be quicker and less stressful if he is crate trained. If you stay in motels or visit relatives, your dog will be “damage-proof” if he travels with his crate. If you travel by car, placing the dog in the crate will keep him out from under your feet, away from the driver, and more safe in case of an accident.

Who Should Crate Train

Owners of new puppies and any adult dogs with destruction and/or housebreaking problems should crate train. The only time crate training would not be advisable is in a situation where a puppy will be left alone for an extended period of time and a family member cannot come home to let the puppy out during the day. It is a dog’s natural instinct to keep his crate/home clean, so he will “hold it” as long as he can before eliminating in the crate. The maximum time an 8 week old puppy should be in his crate without a break is 4 hours. Puppies younger than 8 weeks have to “go” about every 2-3 hours so they should be given a crate-break at those intervals. Except for overnight sleeping, crate confinement approaching 8 hours is strongly discouraged. As the puppy gets older (4-6 months) you can gradually leave him in his crate for longer periods of time, but you should never exceed 8 hours for any dog.

If a family member is unable to come home midday to let the puppy out, there a couple alternatives. The most desirable would be for a pet-sitter, relative, or neighbor to come by the house and let the puppy out while he is young. If this is not an option, leave the puppy in a confined area with his crate with the crate door open. This way he can sleep in the crate and come out of his crate to use the bathroom. A collapsible wire barrier called an “exercise pen” (or X-pen) can be used to create a damage proof, safe inside area or a small bathroom can be used. However, using this type of set-up will lengthen the housebreaking process because the puppy will be learning to eliminate in the house. Also, some puppies can quickly learn to climb out of the X-pen.

When You Should Crate Train

Owners of all age puppies and dogs can start crate training at any time. It is best to start puppies immediately, so they do not have the opportunity to develop bad habits. Most adult dogs can be taught to like using their crates if they are introduced to it properly. In most cases, it will take an adult dog longer to adjust to a crate than it will a puppy. The key is to let the dog get comfortable going in and out of the crate on his own. Never force the dog into the crate. To get your canine interested in the crate, you can put his food dish inside so he has to go in to eat. Also, you can make going in the crate a game by throwing treats or his favorite toy inside for the dog to retrieve.

What Type and Size of Crate to Use

There are two basic types of crates: a plastic “airline kennel” and a wire cage. Each has certain advantages. The plastic crates are usually more portable than wire cages and are more “cozy” for the animal. Wire cages typically have more width and height space than plastic cages of approximately the same size. The angled design of the plastic crates makes their width at the base more narrow than the box design of wire cages. You can buy wire cages that are easily collapsible and can be carried like a suitcase, which is helpful when traveling. Most wire cages have removable pans that can slide out for easy cleaning. If you select a wire cage, cover the back completely and top and sides 1/2 way down with a towel to create a den-like atmosphere. If you do not cover a portion of the cage, the dog may not feel safe and secure because of the openness of the cage.

The ideal situation for housebreaking is to use a size crate that is 2 times the puppy’s body length and big enough for the puppy to stand-up, turn around, and lie down in. However, for most people, it is not feasible to purchase new crates as the puppy grows. The best alternative is to buy a crate that will be large enough for your dog when he grows up. As an adult, the dog should be able to lie down comfortable on his side as well as stand, sit, and turn around without difficulty. For housebreaking a puppy, the crate should can be made smaller by using a partition (made of a safe substance) or a divider panel to limit space. If the puppy has too much room, he will eliminate in one area of the crate and sleep in another, thus increasing the time it takes to housetrain the puppy.

Plastic crates and wire cages are available at most pet stores and by mail order from companies such as wholesaler R.C. Steele (800) 872-3773 and Doctors Foster & Smith (800) 826-7206.