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Home > Pet News and Articles > Crate Expectations/Tips for Using a Kennel

Crate Expectations/Tips for Using a Kennel
Article By: Glenn Redmond

The new puppy arrives in a few days and excitement is hard to contain. A trip to the pet store only increases enthusiasm as we picture the new addition playing endlessly with all the fun toys about to be purchased.

Color coordinated leashes and collars, matching food bowls and the cutest little sweater you have ever seen, make it easy for wallets to be opened.

Nestled amongst designer clothes, a crate sits ominously by itself, seemingly having no right to be there in the first place. Comments are made about how cruel it would be to use one of these medieval torture devices. But in reality, a crate is one of the most important purchases a new owner could make, both for the safety of the pup and the sanity of the owner.

If you see nothing wrong with coming home after a hard day's work only to find your T.V. remote and other assorted items chewed to pieces, as well as many deposits left to clean, then I can see your reasoning.

However, if you have any value for your home at all and concern for your pup's health, using a crate to properly train your dog will be time well spent.

Crates, or kennels as they are often called, come in two main styles. First, there are the kind made of hard plastic with the top and bottom fastened together with screws or clips, and a metal door that fits into place.

Secondly, there are one-piece collapsible metal crates that are fully erected in seconds, and more open than their plastic counterparts. For these reasons, many people prefer the metal kind.

However, metal crates are not airline approved and because they have wider gaps, it's much easier for a puppy to get a paw or tooth caught in the metal rungs. Furthermore, their openness takes away from the den like environment that dogs are innately drawn to.

As you can probably guess, I prefer the plastic type.

It's best to buy a crate big enough to fit the puppy when he or she is an adult. For now, you can block off the excess with some old sweaters or the like, giving the pup enough room to stand, turn around and lie down.

You can make the area larger as the pup grows, rather than having to purchase several crates during the puppy's development.

Cozying up to the crate

The first order of business is to foster a positive association with the crate in an area where the family spends the most time. Start with putting some special treats just inside the door and encouraging your pup to go get them.

In time, start tossing the food to the back of the crate - never forcing the dog to enter/ but offering encouragement. Let the pup go in to get the treats and come back out again, praising lavishly and making a fun game out of it.

Next, start feeding meals next to the crate, progressing to putting the food bowls inside and allowing the pup to eat its meal in there. As the puppy grows more comfortable, start putting the pup in the crate with the door closed. This is where most owners make a big mistake.

Many puppies will whine or cry at first and the new owner, feeling bad for the pup's distress, will try to reassure by talking soothingly or, even worse, opening the door.

The puppy quickly learns that its protests earn attention which, as a result, increases the likelihood of such tantrums. It is imperative to offer no form of attention during this time and wait for the puppy to settle down before allowing the pup out of the crate.

Increase the time as the days go by, using the crate many times a day for short durations, even when you are home, always ignoring the puppy's pleas to be let out. It is a good idea to put a safe toy, such as a Kong or Orbo stuffed with peanut butter and some treats, to occupy the puppy.

In no time at all, most puppies will learn to love their crates.

Things to Remember

  • A puppy has limited bladder control and cannot hold it for long periods of time. The rule of thumb for crate time is the puppy's age in months plus one. Therefore, a three month old puppy would have a four hour maximum crate time, as long as the pup is well exercised and has eliminated before going in. At night, you will have to set your alarm for every 3-4 hours to take the pup outside to go.
  • Never use the crate as a punishment. It is imperative not to form a negative association with what should be a safe and enjoyable den.
  • If a pup cannot be watched for any reason, they should be in their crate. A puppy left alone for even a short period can quickly chew electrical wires or engage in other harmful activities that may seriously compromise their safety.

I would never ever consider raising a puppy without the aid of a crate. Too many opportunities for destruction and too many concerns for the puppy's well being exist without its use.

So, set some money aside for this purchase. It may not look as attractive as those designer booties, but it makes up for this shortcoming in a host of other ways.

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