A king has his castle, a child yearns for his own room, and an infant is placed in a crib or playpen for safekeeping. Yet, a training crate for a dog is too often deemed cruel. Don't our canine friends deserve the very same consideration for their well-being in our absence?
Why Crate Your Dog?
Crates are both training and safety devices. They are a benefit to both dog and owner. Crating on a humane schedule teaches puppies bladder and bowel control, and limits a teething demon to his own property. A crated dog has a better chance of surviving an auto accident and little chance of causing one.
You will find the welcome mat out at more inns and motels if you promise to crate the dog whenever you leave the room. Besides, the dog will feel more comfortable when left alone if he is in his own "room."
A crate is also a wonderful management tool. A dog who is uncomfortable when visitors come over, or with active children in the home, a crate offers the dog a place to have his privacy and his space. When a dog goes into their crate voluntarily, with the gate open, be sure the children know to leave the dog alone. That is his space and the children should not pet him, nor crawl in there with him.
What Is a Training Crate?
Dog crates come in many different sizes, colors and styles. The most common are the molded plastic airline shipping crates and the open wire types, which usually come with a metal tray on the bottom. For those who plan to do a lot of air traveling with their dogs or for those whose dogs prefer dark, cozy places, the molded plastic is best. Wire crates are preferred in most other instances. The plastic airline crate is generally more secure for some escape artists while a wire crate can be more easily escaped from, if that is an issue for your dog.
The size of the crate is based on the size of the dog. There should be enough room for the dog to stand up, turn around in a small circle and lie down comfortably. The crate is a place for the dog to rest and chew on appropriate hard rubber toys or sterile bones stuffed with goodies. It is not an exercise pen.
If you plan to use the crate as a housebreaking aid, size is of paramount importance. If there is room for Rex to soil and then lie high and dry away from the mess, the crate cannot serve its purpose. Those buying crates for puppies should keep the adult dog's size in mind. Until the pup grows up, excess room should be cordoned off in some manner. Many crates come with a separate 'fence' type item to decrease the size of the crate until the pup has grown.
How long can a dog be crated in one session? The rule of thumb for crating is no longer than one hour per each month old the dog is, up to a FIVE hour maximum. Each session should be preceded and succeeded by an hour of aerobic exercise. If the family is gone at work/school for longer than five hours, perhaps someone could come home midday for lunch and spend some play time with the dog in order to give him a pottie break with some exercise before returning to the crate. Or, maybe a neighbor could come over and help.
Before you leave your dog for that length of time, make sure you familiarize him with the crate. A dog who panics when left alone in a crate could do damage to both the crate and himself.
Young puppies need lots of human stimulus and feedback, so avoid relying too heavily upon the crate in the early months. Most puppies who are 3 to 4 months old can be crated overnight for about six hours, even though they probably cannot control their bladder for that long during the day. Younger dogs crated at bedtime may need to be brought outside at least once in the middle of the night.
Crating is recommended as part of the workday routine until the dog grows out of adolescence at approximately 18 months of age. Adolescence is a time of behavioral inconsistency and learning through trial and error. Beware of leaving a curious adolescent free. Remember Home Alone? The dog may be fine for a few weeks at a time and then one day you come home to find the place in a shambles. Wean dogs off the crate slowly, leaving them alone for short periods at a time.
A crate can provide peace of mind for both you and your dog. Think of it as a leash with walls. After all, both pieces of equipment serve to protect Rex from his own base instincts and errors in judgement. By crating your young dog during the workday, you ensure him a royal welcome upon your arrival home.