A Pet Owner’s Guide to the Dog Crate
What is a dog crate?
A dog crate is a rectangular enclosure with a top and a door, made in a variety of sizes proportioned to fit any type of dog. Constructed of wire, wood, metal, or molded plastic, its purpose is to provide guaranteed confinement for reasons of security, safety, housebreaking, protection of house-hold goods, travel, illness, or just general control.
The dog crate has long been accepted, trusted, and taken for granted by dog show exhibitors, obedience and field trial competitors, trainers, breeders, groomers, veterinarians, and anyone else who handles dogs regularly. Individual pet owner, however, usually reject the idea of using a crate because they consider such enforced close confinement unfair, and even harmful to the dog.
Cruelty or kindness?
As the pet owner sees it:
“It’s like a jail – it’s cruel – I’d never put MY dog in a cage like that!” If this is your first reaction to using a crate, you are a very typical pet owner. As a reasoning human being, you really value your freedom; and since you consider your pet an extension of the human family, it’s only natural to feel that closing him in a crate would be mean and inhumane, would probably cause him to resent and even to hate you, and might well result in psychological damage.
BUT YOU ARE NOT A DOG!
As the dog sees it:
“I love having a room/house of my very own; it’s my private special place, my ‘security blanket’ and the closed door really doesn’t bother me” If your dog could talk, this is how he might well express his reaction to using a crate! He would tell you that the crate helps to satisfy the “den instinct” inherited from his den-dwelling ancestors and relatives, and that his is not afraid or frustrated when closed in. He would further admit that he is actually much happier and more secure having his life controlled and structured by human-beings – and would far rather be prevented from causing trouble than to be punished for it later.
SO…to you it may be a “cage” – to him, it’s “home”.
Why use a crate?
A dog crate, correctly and humanely used, can have many advantages for both you and your pet. With the help of a crate:
- Can enjoy complete peace of mind when leaving your dog home alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed and that his is comfortable, protected, and not developing any bad habits;
- Can housebreak your dog more quickly by using the close confinement to encourage control, establish a regular routine for outdoor elimination, and to prevent “accidents” at night or when left alone;
- Can effectively confine your dog at times when he may be underfoot (meals, family activities), unwelcome (guests, workmen, etc.), over-excited or bothered by too much confusion or too many children, or ill;
Can travel with your dog without risk of the driver being dangerously distracted or the dog getting loose and hopelessly lost, and with the assurance that he can easily adapt to any strange surroundings as long as he has his familiar “security blanket” along.
- Can enjoy the privacy and security of a “den” of his own to which he can retreat when tired, stressed, or ill;
- Can avoid much of the fear/confusion/punishment caused by your reaction to problem behavior;
- Can more easily learn to control his bowels and to associate elimination only with the outdoors or other designated location;
- Can be spared the loneliness and frustration of having to be isolated (basement, garage, outside) from comfortable indoor surroundings when being restricted or left alone;
- Can be conveniently included in family outings, visits, trips instead of being left behind alone at home or in a boarding kennel.
You want to enjoy your pet and be pleased with his behavior…Your dog wants little more from life than to please you…A dog crate can help to make your relationship what each of you wants and needs it to be.
Use – but don’t abuse!
The use of a dog crate is NOT recommended for a dog regularly left alone all day, though some individuals may learn to tolerate it. If it is attempted, the dog must be well exercised both before and after crating, given lots of personal attention, and be allowed complete freedom at night (including sleeping near his owner.) It is also most important that the crate be large enough to permit him comfortably to stretch out fully on his side and have ample freedom of movement; it must also be equipped with a clip-on dish for water. Ideally, someone should come in during the day to provide a period of attention and exercise.
In the case of a puppy, the crate must be used strictly as a “play-pen” for general confinement, having plenty of space for a cozy box for sleeping at one end and papers for elimination at the other, with clip-on dishes for water and dry food. Although a puppy can be raised in this manner, the limited human supervision may result in his being poorly adjusted socially and difficult to housebreak and to train in general.
Crate or no crate, any dog constantly denied the human companionship it needs and craves is going to be a lonely pet – and may still find ways to express boredom, anxiety, depression, and general stress.
What kind of crate is best?
The most practical dog crate for use by the pet owner is the collapsible wire mesh type, available in a variety of sizes. Lightweight and easily handled, it allows total ventilation and permits the dog to see everything going on around him. A wooden, metal, or plastic airline crate will certainly also serve the purpose, but it restricts air and vision and is less convenient to handle, transport, and store.
What size should a crate be?
A crate should always be large enough to permit any age dog to stretch out flat on his side without being cramped and to sit up without hitting his head on the top. While the adult size of a pure bred puppy is fairly easy to predict, that of a mixed breed must be estimated based on general breed/body type and puppy size at a given age. It is always better to use a crate a little too large than one a little to small.
For a fully grown adult dog, measure the distance from tip of nose to base (not tip) of tail and use a crate close to, but not less than, this length. The height and width of most crates are properly proportioned to the length, including the convenient “slant-front” models designed to fit station wagons and hatchbacks.
For a puppy, measure as above, then add about 12″ for anticipated rapid growth. If a small crate is unavailable for temporary use, reduce the space of an adult size one (width can serve for length if the crate is large) with a reversed carton or a moveable/removeable partition made of wire, wood, or masonite. Remember that a crate too large for a young puppy defeats its purpose of providing security and promoting bowel control, so its space should always be limited in the beginning – except when being used as an over-all pen (see “Use – but don’t abuse” section.)
Where can I get one?
New crates can be purchased in retail pet shops and discount pet food/supplies outlets, through large catalog sales firms (such as Sears), at the larger dog shows, from dog equipment catalogs, or from a crate manufacturer; prices depend on size, quality, and make. Most brands include a removeable metal pan/tray/floor and some can specially ordered with the door on the side instead of the end. The less expensive brands are quite adequate for most family pets, although those made of non-plated/treated wire may discolor the coat of a light colored dog. A used crate can often be borrowed, or found at a tag/garage/yard/rummage sale at a bargain price.
EVEN THE MOST EXPENSIVE DOG CRATE, HOWEVER, IS A “BARGAIN” WHEN COMPARED TO THE COST OF REPAIRING OR REPLACING A SOFA, CHAIR, WOODWORK, WALLPAPER, OR CARPETING!
Where should I put it?
Since one of the main reasons for using a crate is to confine a dog without making him feel isolated or banished, it should be placed in, or as close as possible to, a “people” area – kitchen, family room, etc. To provide an even greater sense of den security and privacy, it should be put in a corner and/or have the sides and back loosely draped with a sheet, large towel, or light blanket which can easily be adjusted for desired visibility or air. The top of the crate, when covered with a piece of plywood or masonite, can also serve as a handy extra shelf or table space.
Admittedly, a dog crate is not a “thing of beauty” – but it can be forgiven for not being a welcome addition to the household décor as it proves how much it can help the dog to remain a welcome addition to the household!
Crating the puppy
A young puppy (8 – 16 weeks) should normally have no problem accepting a crate as his “own place”. Any complaining he might do at first is caused not by the crate, but by his learning to accept the controls of his unfamiliar new environment. Actually, the crate will help him to adapt more easily and quickly to his new world.
How to use it:
Place the crate in a “people” area – the kitchen, if possible, in a spot free from drafts and not too near a direct heat source. For bedding, use an old towel or piece of blanket which can be washed (should he have an accident) and some freshly worn unlaundered article of your clothing such as a tee shirt, old shirt, sweater etc. Avoid putting newspaper in or under the crate, since its odor may encourage elimination; a corrugated cardboard is better if there is no floor pan. A puppy need not be fed in the crate and will only upset the dish of water.
Make it very clear to children that the crate is NOT a playhouse for them, but a “special room” for the puppy, whose rights should be recognized and respected. However, you should accustom the puppy from the start to letting you reach into the crate at any time, lest he become overprotective of it.
Establish a “crate routine” immediately, closing the puppy in it at regular 1 to 2 hour intervals during the day (his own chosen nap times will guide you), whenever he must be left alone for 3 – 4 hours, and during any short period when he cannot be closely supervised by a responsible person. Be sure to remove collar with tags which could become caught in an opening. At night, in the beginning, you may prefer to place the crate, with the door left open and newspapers nearby, in a small enclosed area such as a bathroom, laundry room, or hall; crying/complaining at 5:00am is easier to endure/ignore if you know the puppy is not uncomfortable. Once adjusted to his new life, and if he has no intestinal upset, he will soon show greater bowel control by eliminating only once, or not at all, and then may be crated all night in his regular place.
Even if things do not go too smoothly at first – DON’T WEAKEN and DON’T WORRY: be consistent, be firm, and be aware that you are doing your pet a real favor by preventing him from getting into trouble while left alone or not being properly supervised. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Increase the space inside the crate as the puppy grows so that he remains comfortable. If you do not choose, or are not able, to use a crate permanently, plan to use it for at least 5 or 6 months or until the dog is well past the teething phase – then start leaving the crate door open at night, when someone is at home during the day, or when he is briefly left alone. If all goes well for a week or two, and the dog seems reliable when left alone, remove the crate itself and leave the bedding in the same spot; although he will probably miss the crate enclosure, that spot will have become “his own place” and his habit of good behavior should continue. Should any problem behavior occur at a future time, however, the decision whether or not to use a crate longer, or perhaps permanently, will have been made for you!
Even after a long period without a crate, a dog which has been raised in one will readily accept it again should the need arise for travel, illness, behavior, etc. and may really welcome its return.
Crating the adult dog
Much of the usual problem behavior of an older puppy (over 6 months) or an adult dog is caused by the lack of a feeling of security when left alone. Although a crate can fulfill this need, and hence hopefully solve the problems, it must still be introduced gradually, with every possible effort made to be sure that the dog’s first association with it is very positive and pleasant. It must also be stressed again here that a dog crate is not intended for frequent long-hours usage for the convenience of an absent owner.
How to use it:
If possible, borrow or rent a crate of adequate size. Place it in a location where the dog will definitely feel part of the human family (though still have some privacy), secure the door open so that it can’t unexpectedly shut and frighten him, and do not put in any bedding. Encourage the dog to investigate this new object thoroughly, luring him inside by tossing “special” tidbits (cheese, liver, hot dog, etc. which are even more tempting than regular dog treats) into the far end, then letting him turn and come back out – praising him enthusiastically. When he begins to enter the crate confidently, place his bedding and something of yours or a towel you have slept with inside and start coaxing him to lie down and relax, still using food if necessary. Continue this pattern for several days, encouraging him to use the crate as much as possible and shutting the door briefly while you sit beside him or there are people visiting and/or audible nearby. Do not hesitate, however, to meet modest resistance with consistent firmness and authority so that the dog is clearly aware of the behavior you desire; your goal may have to be acceptance, not contentment.
As soon as you feel confident that the dog will remain quietly in the closed crate (which could be from the beginning!), you may safely leave him along. Give him a chew toy or a safe bone to absorb his attention and be sure that he has nothing around his neck which might become caught. If you are still uncertain or anxious, leave him at first for only a brief period (1/2 to 1 hour) until he has proved that he will not resist confinement. Once he has accepted the crate as his bed and own “special place”, your pet can stop being a problem and start being a pleasure! In due time it may even be possible to wean him gradually of the crate without his resuming any problem behavior.
Does the crate always work?
Unfortunately, no. Although a crate can indeed be used successfully by most pet owners, there are always those animals which simply can or will not tolerate this form of confinement. This reaction is not nearly as common with a young puppy (but it does happen!) as with an adult dog, especially an “adoptee” of unknown background, a dog which may somehow have suffered a traumatic frightening experience while crated, or an unadaptable “senior citizen”. Some pure bred breeds seem to have a special aversion to crates or show no desire to keep one clean. In some cases, a dog will use a crate readily as long as the door remains open, but will object violently the moment is is closed and/or he is left alone. If should be stressed here, however, that these reactions definitely represent the exception rather than the rule, and that most average pet dogs can be successfully trained to use the crate.
If, despite every effort at positive conditioning and real firmness, a dog is obviously frantic or totally miserable when confined to a crate, forcing him to use one is indeed inhumane and can result in real physical injury should he attempt to chew his way out.
Even though a crate may not always work, it IS always worth a try – because when it DOES prevent or solve a problem behavior it is truly the “best friend” you and your dog could ever have.
A DOG CRATE RENTAL SERVICE may be available in your area; ask a dog supply store, obedience school/trainer, veterinarian, or humane society.
House Training- If You Work Outside the Home
Here are some tips to help house train your puppy if you work outside the home. Until your puppy is at least 16 weeks old try to arrange for someone to come home during the lunch hour to let him out to do his business and to play with him. Plan on taking vacation so you can spend a couple of days with the pup when he first arrives. Be ready to lose a few nights sleep and plan on getting up at least 30 minutes earlier then usual so you can have time to get him ready for leaving him alone for the day. In just a couple of months you will not remember how much work it was when the new little guy arrived but if you do not put in the time and energy necessary at the beginning your work will be much harder and the training will take much longer.
Part of your house-training plan needs to include some basic equipment.
I believe in using a crate as a place for the puppy to go and rest when it needs some quiet time and as a way to keep him from getting into trouble when you can’t watch him. If you do not feel comfortable using a crate then you will need to come up with some way to provide the pup with a safe place.
- Invest in or borrow an “X” pen (metal exercise pen) or a puppy proof play pen. Purchase a small crate and buy a ton of puppy pee pads.
- Before you leave the puppy in his pen be sure to put him in there for long periods of time so you can check to make sure he isn’t eating or climbing his way out.
When you get up in the morning the first thing you should do is PICK UP THE PUPPY and carry him outside. Follow these rules:
Choose one area where the pup is supposed to eliminate and always take the dog to that spot.
When you take the puppy out to eliminate take treats with you. When the puppy goes potty praise it like it’s the best thing the puppy has ever done and give it a small treat. The puppy will learn to enjoy going outside to do his business.
With your puppy on a leash, take the puppy to it’s “spot” using the same word that tells the puppy it’s time to go potty. Word of warning: use a word that you won’t mind saying in public in case you are at a rest stop and need the dog to “go”.
- Assuming he will stay in his pen, feed the puppy as early in the morning as possible, give him time to do his business at least once and preferably twice if he is under 12 weeks old. Play with him quite a bit to get him good and tired. Put one or two toys in his crate along with a chew toy and a Kong toy stuffed with small pieces of dog cookie. After you have had a good play with the puppy take him out one more time to do his business then put him in his pen and say goodbye. Do not fuss over him when you leave just say ‘Bye’ and take off. If you have a stuffed Kong toy and the puppy is already tired he should settle down easily to play with the toy then take a long nap.
- When you get home from work IMMEDIATELY take the pup outside. The moment you walk in the door drop everything, quietly go to the pup, pick him up and carry him outside. Do not make a big fuss when you first arrive. Act like it is no big deal that he hasn’t seen you for several hours. While you are at home with your baby DO NOT let the puppy out of your sight for one second until you know you can count on him to stay out of trouble. With Cavaliers this appears to be no earlier than 4 months. Many Cavaliers take much longer to mature.
- If you do let your puppy out of your sight or you do not take him out often enough and he has an accident, take a magazine, roll it up real tight then hit YOURSELF on the head with it saying “I should have been watching the puppy!”
- If you use the twenty-minute rule, mistakes should be few and far between. When you see puppy starting to sniff, circle or squat, quickly and gently pick up the puppy and take it to its elimination spot. Do not drag it across the floor, do not scream at it, just pick it up and take it out. If the puppy does have an accident remember to hit yourself with the magazine, then promptly clean up the spot by soaking with straight vinegar or a product designed to eliminate pet odors. Do not use any product with ammonia to clean up a wet spot because the ammonia acts like a beacon to the puppy and tells it that this is where he is supposed to pee.
- By the time the puppy is 12 weeks old he should be able to hold it a little longer so you could wait thirty to forty five minutes between breaks. As he matures the time span can be longer and longer.
- Dogs will naturally keep their “den area” clean. House training is all about teaching the puppy that the entire house is his “den”. The challenge is that you have to introduce the puppy to freedom room by room and not give him free reign of the whole house. If you are not watching the puppy you need to put him in a safe confined area. I prefer a crate because when the puppy is in the crate he cannot eat sheetrock, linoleum, power cords, books, carpet, water hoses etc. If you do not want to crate your dog find a small space where he can be safe from danger. To help keep your puppy confined in a safe area you will need a crate or a very small confined space or attach the puppy to a leash then attach the leash to your belt loop.
- To help the puppy get through the night, take water away about one to two hours before bedtime. It is best to let your puppy sleep next to your bed during at least the first few weeks so if he has to go potty during the night he can let you know. The moment you hear the puppy whine or cry, pick him up and carry him to his eliminating spot. Many accidents occur because the puppy can’t make it all the way from his sleeping spot to his outdoor spot. When he has to go he has to go! Tell him his potty word and give him a few moments to do what he has to do. If he doesn’t do his business bring him back in and put him in his safe area. Wait for fifteen minutes and take him out again. It does not take the puppy very long to figure out that his potty word means it’s time to do his business.
- It is also important to teach the puppy that he has to go on a variety of surfaces and during all kinds of weather. If you take him to a cement area and he doesn’t go put him up for fifteen minutes then take him to that spot again. If it is raining put your raincoat on and go out in the rain with him. Again put him up for fifteen minutes and take him out again if he didn’t go the first time.
- I have a set of bells by the back door that I ring each time I take the puppy out and then teach the puppy to ring when he is old enough to go to the door by himself. It comes in handy because the puppy learns to let you know when it’s time to go!
Continue to do these house training exercises and you will have a dog that will go potty on command in a few moments and you will not have accidents all over your house.
If you do all these things and the puppy continues to have accidents it is important to have your veterinarian make sure he isn’t sick. Sometimes bladder infections can cause puppy to pee in the house even after he has gone outside. If your puppy was raised in an unclean environment where it could not get away from the place it had to go potty it could prove to be very difficult to house-train. Puppies who are forced to live in their own mess get to a point where they don’t care about cleanliness. When that happens you are often unable to get the dog house trained. There are many reasons for not buying a puppy from a pet store. One of those reasons is because you do not know how it was raised and it might be impossible to get it potty trained.
Submissive Urination- Peeing when they say hello
We have all seen dogs, especially puppies, who leave a little trail of piddle when we reach down to pick them up. This action of leaving a wet spot is called submissive urination and is not because the dog is not housebroken. Submissive urination is usually seen in dogs that lack confidence due to genetics or poor socialization. These dogs are acting the only way they know how and urinate as an act of surrender. Some dogs can be easily over stimulated and might urinate if excited. Many dogs are able to develop control as they mature and get more socialized but submissive urination is often genetically linked, so some dogs could have this weakness their entire lives.
If you scold a dog for submissive urination you will make the problem worse. If your dog only urinates in the presence of certain people do some desensitization exercises by having these people meet with you and your dog over several sessions. Have the people come to visit at separate times and enter your home as though it’s no big deal. Ask them to basically ignore the dog, don’t look at it, pet it, etc. for about 5 minutes. If the dog approaches the visitor that’s fine but do not approach the dog. After a few minutes, the visitor can briefly look down at the dog and smile, wait a few minutes more then look at the dog, smile and say the dogs name. By now the visitor should be able to slowly reach down and gently touch the dog without causing too much piddle.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR VET
Written by Suzanne Brown
The best way to start is from recommendations from friends. I would try to compile a list of about 5-6 vets if possible. Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers, pet sitters, people who show in obedience or agility. You can also ask breeders who are members of a local kennel club, but be aware of No 9 listed below.
At this point, I would get in my car and drive to each office. Go in and just have a quick look around. If offered a tour, take it!
1-Do the facilities smell clean? You’d be amazed at the vet’s offices that just plain stink!
2-Is the non-vet staff knowledgeable and friendly? Do you like the people who answer the phone at the vet’s office? No matter how great the vet is, if his front desk people see their job as protecting the vet from having any contact with his clients, you’ll never get to speak with your vet or get in when you have a real concern. These are the people you will first reach when you have a problem and they should be knowledgeable enough to give you advice and information and to also be able to identify the immediacy of your need for veterinary services. Most of these jobs are not highly paid and there are some really dumb people working in these offices. The best offices have people who may well work there for a discount on their own veterinary services and have chosen their employer very carefully.
3-If he passes these first 2 tests, then ask when you might talk to him at length? Can you make an apt to just talk (he may just tell you that he’ll call you when he has some free time). It is preferable to talk in person, and when you do, take one animal with you but not to be seen, just so you can see how the vet interacts with your dog or cat. Make it clear to the receptionist that you expect to pay for an office visit, but that you are interviewing vets in hopes of finding a new one and would like the opportunity to talk with the vet. Tell the vet that you’re looking for a “partner” to best provide for your dog’s health care Tell him you know he knows more about veterinary medicine than you do, but that you may have breed-specific knowledge that he doesn’t and ask him how he feels about this “shared responsibility” for your dog’s health. Talk to him about MVD in Cavaliers. Ask what he knows about it. If he knows little, tell him that the CKCSC and the breed clubs in the UK and Sweden are involved in on going research about this problem and have written various reports and protocols. If he appears interested and requests any written info you might be able to provide him with, this is a VERY good sign. If he doesn’t seem interested, move on to the next candidate. If you’re still talking, then continue with the following questions.
4- Does this office have a large bird practice? Birds are among the most difficult animals to anesthetize. If your vet is good enough to anesthetize birds, he’ll do a great job on your dog. They really have to know their stuff to do this. Does the vet use isoflurene as anesthesia exclusively (not at a different price)? Unless a vet is doing a great deal of orthopedic surgery where other anesthesia may be preferred, he should be only using isoflurene as it is the safest.
5- Can you make an appointment with a specific vet or must you take whomever is free? How many days a week does the vet you are considering work? Weekend? Nights? After hours emergencies? Convenience and accessibility may not be a “deal-killer”, but they certainly are nice.
6- Will they allow you to go in the “back room” with them when they do simple procedures such as removing dew claws, heart x-rays, etc? Are they willing to do simple procedures in the examining room, or are all dogs taken to the back? Your dog will usually be happier if you are there to reassure him, and YOU will be happier if you are there to be sure what treatment/shots your dog is being given.
7-What continuing education does the vet participate in? Does he go to local workshops? Does he go back to vet school for short courses? What are his special areas of interest? What did he do his senior thesis on in veterinary school? Ask him – you’ll learn a lot.
8-Does he make use of the resources available to vets on the Internet? My vet says that it’s like having a vet school library right in your office.
9-Does he have lots of breeders in his practice? If he does, this is NOT necessarily a good sign! My vet has told me that he really prefers not to have breeders as clients as they spend a great deal of time asking him to jeopardize his veterinary license by asking for “blank” signed health certificates, switching x-rays of hips to send to the OFA,
and just about anything else that is unethical and illegal that you could imagine.
10- Does he seem to genuinely LOVE animals? Does he pet, calm, and talk to your animal? How does your animal respond to him? I’ve always been very impressed how even the most skittish cats have been very relaxed in my vet’s presence. Animals live by their instincts – THEY know whom to trust!
11- Who owns this practice? More and more small privately owned veterinary practices are being bought up by large companies. While a vet who owns his own practice certainly expects to make a profit, the large companies really aren’t particularly concerned with HOW they make that profit, and the individual client means nothing to them. Vets in practices owned by large companies come and go – the one you liked last month may no longer be there. A young to middle-aged vet who owns his own practice is not likely to disappear tomorrow. While an older vet may have years of experience and wisdom, he may sell his practice to one of these companies when he is ready to retire.
12-In the end, trust your OWN instincts! If you just don’t feel comfortable or if you end up feeling like you’re a bother or that you’re stupid, find another vet. Remember, good chemistry between you and your vet is an invaluable benefit for your Cavalier. You must have a rapport with your vet and there must be mutual respect. If you say that “Fluffy” just doesn’t “look right” he must respect this and try to find out what is wrong and not just blow you off. He must respect the fact that you know your animals better than anyone. I like a vet who is very bright, well-spoken, and with a good (and often irreverent) sense of humor.