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rec.pets.dogs: Crating Your Dog FAQ


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Archive-name: dogs-faq/crating
URL: http://www.k9web.com/dog-faqs/crating.html
Last-modified: 20 Nov 1997

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                              Crating Your Dog
                                      
Author

   Cindy Tittle Moore, rpd-info@netcom.com
   Copyright 1995-96.
   
Table of Contents

     * What Is Crating?
     * Prices and recommendations
     * Proper use of a crate
     * Crating do's and don'ts
     * Decreasing Crate Time
     * Does everyone use a crate?
       
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
What Is Crating?

   A crate is a portable "kennel" that is just large enough to contain
   the dog it is intended for, made of either metal or plastic. "Crating"
   is the practice of using this kennel for training purposes, usually in
   housetraining and houseproofing a dog.
   
   Crating is a controversial topic. There are those who believe that
   crate training is indefensible and others who believe that it is a
   panacea. The reality is likely somewhere in between.
   
  What does the dog think?
  
   First, you must understand what the crate represents to the dog. Dogs
   are by nature den creatures -- and the crate, properly introduced, is
   its den. It is a safe haven where it does not need to worry about
   defending territory. It is its own private bedroom which it absolutely
   will not soil if it can help it. Judicious use of the crate can
   alleviate a number of problems, stop others from ever developing, and
   aid substantially in housetraining.
   
   Where is the crate? It should be around other people. Ideally, set it
   up in the bedroom near you. Have the dog sleep in it at night. Dogs
   are social and like to be around their people. Don't force it into the
   crate. Feed your dog in the crate.
   
  Can they be abused?
  
   Certainly. Anything intended for a dog can be abused. That doesn't
   make it wrong; it does mean you need to know what you are doing.
   Things to remember:
     * The crate must be large enough for the dog to stand and turn
       around.
     * A puppy should not be left in for more than 3 or 4 hours at a
       time.
     * An adult dog should not spend more than about 8 hours a day in
       one.
     * No dog should be forced to remain in a soiled crate. You must
       rearrange time spent in the crate to avoid this happening in the
       first place.
     * Not all dogs require constant crating; most can be slowly weaned
       off once they get older and you can trust them more in the house,
     * Properly introduce dogs, especially older dogs, to the crate. Most
       dogs like their crates, but not all do so immediately.
     * Even when you are no longer using the crate regularly, leave it
       available for napping. A crate trained dog is always more easily
       handled: in the car, at the vets, when travelling, etc.
       
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Prices and recommendations

   A plastic airline approved (leakproof) crate will run from $10 to $75
   depending on the size. These are the cheapest prices available. If
   flying with a dog, most airlines will sell a crate at near-wholesale
   prices. Vendors at dog shows often have good prices, especially for
   slightly imperfect ones. Pet stores sell them at astronomical prices.
   Mail order stores have competitive prices (but watch out for added
   shipping costs), and they sell wire mesh cages. Wire mesh is
   comparable in price to plastic airline crates, but the sizing is
   different.
   
   Wire cages are not as appealing to dogs that like the safe, enclosed
   nature of a crate, but they have better ventilation for use in warm
   places. You might, for example, have a plastic crate in your house and
   a wire one for the car. Since many models fold up, they are also often
   easier to transport and store.
   
   The crate should be large enough for the dog to lie down, stand up and
   turn around in comfortably, but not large enough for the dog to
   relieve itself at one end and sleep at the other. You may buy a crate
   sized for an adult dog and block off part of it with a chew-proof
   obstacle until the dog grows into it, or you may buy a succession of
   crates as the dog grows.
   
   If you use a crate in your car, consider something like the Crate
   Mate, which is a heavy pouch that attaches permanently to a plastic
   crate. It has a clear window for information about the dog, including
   owners name/address/etc./vet info/medication info/etc. All this is in
   red thirty point type. There's also room for 3-4 days supply of food,
   medication, etc., leashes, collars, even a water bottle. They're in
   bright colors so they can't be missed. Order from Custom Dog Supplies
   (see Resources) or make your own.
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Proper use of a crate

   Crating a puppy or dog often seems unappealing to humans, but it is
   not cruel to the dog. A dog's crate is similar to a child's playpen,
   except it has a roof (dogs can jump out of a playpen) and is
   chewproof. Also, a crate is not suitable for activity or exercise, but
   rather for rest. Dogs are carnivores and do not need to be constantly
   active during the daytime, like people (as gatherers) do.
   
   If a crate is properly introduced to a dog (or puppy) the dog will
   grow to think of the crate as its den and safe haven. Most dogs that
   are crated will use the open crate as a resting place.
   
   The major use of a crate is to prevent the dog from doing something
   wrong and not getting corrected for it. It is useless to correct a dog
   for something that it has already done; the dog must be "caught in the
   act". If the dog is out of its crate while unsupervised, it may do
   something wrong and not be corrected, or worse yet, corrected after
   the fact. If the dog is not corrected, the dog may develop the problem
   behavior as a habit (dogs are creatures of habit), or learn that the
   it can get away with the behavior when not immediately supervised. A
   dog that rarely gets away with anything will not learn that if nobody
   is around it can get away with bad behaviors.
   
   If the dog is corrected after the fact, it will not associate the
   correction with the behavior, and will begin to think that corrections
   are arbitrary, and that the owner is not to be trusted. This results
   in a poor relationship and a dog that does not associate corrections,
   which are believed arbitrary, with bad behaviors even when they are
   applied in time. This cannot be overemphasized: a dog's lack of trust
   in its owner's corrections is one of the major sources of problems
   between dogs and their owners.
   
   A secondary advantage of a crate is that it minimizes damage done by a
   dog (especially a young one) to the house, furniture, footwear etc.
   This reduces costs and aggravation and makes it easier for the dog and
   master to get along. It also protects the dog from harm by its
   destruction: ingestion of splinters or toy parts, shock from chewing
   through wires, etc.
   
   A young dog should be placed in its crate whenever it cannot be
   supervised.
   
   If a dog is trained in puppyhood with a crate, it will not always
   require crating. Puppies or untrained dogs require extensive crating.
   After a year or so of crate training, many dogs will know what to do
   and what not to, and will have good habits. At this time crating might
   only be used when the dog needs to be out of the way, or when
   traveling.
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Crating do's and don'ts

     * Do think of the crate as a good thing. In time, your dog will too.
     * Do let the dog out often enough so that it is never forced to soil
       the crate.
     * Do let the dog out if it whines because it needs to eliminate. If
       you know it doesn't have to eliminate, correct it for whining or
       barking.
     * Do clean out the crate regularly, especially if you've put in a
       floor and you have flea problems.
     * Don't punish the dog if it soils the crate. It is miserable enough
       and probably had to.
     * Don't use the crate as a punishment.
     * Don't leave the dog in the crate for a long time after letting it
       eat and drink a lot. (because the dog will be uncomfortable and
       may have to eliminate in the crate.)
     * Don't leave the dog in the crate too much. Dogs sleep and rest a
       lot, but not all the time. They need play time and exercise. When
       you are at home, they should not be in the crate (except at night
       when they are still very young puppies). If necessary, put a leash
       on your pup and tie it around your waist while you're at home.
     * Don't check to see if your dog is trustworthy in the house
       (unsupervised, outside of the crate) by letting the dog out of the
       crate for a long time. Start with very short periods and work your
       way up to longer periods.
     * Don't ever let the dog grow unaccustomed to the crate. An
       occasional stint even for the best behaved dog will make traveling
       and special situations that require crating easier.
     * Don't put pillows or blankets in the crate without a good reason.
       Most dogs like it cooler than their human companions and prefer to
       stretch out on a hard, cool surface. Besides providing a place to
       urinate on, some dogs will simply destroy them. A rubber mat or a
       piece of peg-board cut to the right size might be a good
       compromise (be sure to clean under any floor covering frequently).
       
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Decreasing Crate Time

   Remember, your ultimate goal in using the crate is to produce an
   easily housetrained dog and one that can be trusted in the house.
   Therefore, you should consider the use of a crate for a dog to be
   _temporary_. You are always working toward the time when you do not
   need to use a crate extensively.
   
   With housetraining, it is only a matter of time for the pup to outgrow
   the need for a crate. As as puppy gets older, it will naturally
   develop ways of telling you that it needs to go (but probably not
   before about 4-6 months, be patient), especially if you encourage
   this. As this starts to develop, you can decrease the crate usage.
   Always keep a close eye on your pup -- the trouble you take now will
   pay big dividends later. If you need to, put a leash on your pup and
   attach it to your waist. That keeps the pup from wandering off into
   trouble. By the time your puppy is about 6-8 months, he should be able
   to sleep through the night either in an open crate or a dog bed.
   
   Many breeds, especially the larger and more active ones, will need to
   be crated during their adolescence until they can be trusted in the
   home, if you cannot leave them outside in the yard while you are gone.
   There are several things you need to keep in mind. The first is that
   this type of crating is never to be a permanent arrangement except for
   those rare cases where the dog proves completely unreliable. While
   this does happen, it's more common for the dog to be sufficiently
   mature by the time they are two or so to be left alone in the house.
   
   To make the transition between keeping your dog in the crate and
   leaving him out when you are at work, start preparing your dog on
   weekends. Leave him in your house for an hour and then come back.
   Maybe it needs to be fifteen minutes. Whatever. Find the time that
   works, and make a habit of leaving him unsupervised in the house for
   that long. Be sure to praise him when you come back. (Leave the crate
   open -- available but open -- while you are gone.) When you know the
   dog is reliable for this period of time, gradually add 15-30 minute
   increments to the dog's "safe time." Don't be surprised if this takes
   months or even a year.
   
   Now, there are some dogs that are never reliable when left inside.
   This might include dogs that were rescued, dogs that have separation
   anxiety, dogs that destroy things indiscriminately, or who mark or
   otherwise eliminate in the house.
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
Does everyone use a crate?

   Of course not. There are many who think they are cruel and will not
   use them. People in Europe tend not to use them. People who have not
   heard of using them won't generally use them. If you have an outside
   yard with a fence or a secure kennel you many not need to use them.
   
   They are extremely useful. But they are not the only means to achieve
   housetraining or safety in the house or car. They are, in the opinion
   of many, one of the best and easiest ways of doing so, with many side
   benefits.
     _________________________________________________________________
                                      
   
    Crating Your Dog FAQ
    Cindy Tittle Moore, rpd-info@netcom.com
    
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