Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Crate Debate

I am asked quite often my opinion on using crates. My response is always "YES" I am a firm believer in using crates, especially for puppies. A crate has a variety of purposes, such as, assiting with housebreaking, safety, sleeping quarters, management, etc. A young puppy needs management and a crate is the best way to provide that. Young puppies explore the world with their mouth and can be very destructive, having them in a crate with appropriate chew toys can save you alot of worry and expense. If puppies are properly introduced to a crate they enjoy the safety and security it can provide and actually learn to relax and enjoy their quiet time. A crate is not meant to be used for punishment or isolation. It should be the place your puppy naps, sleeps, and relaxes when you can't give them 100% of your attention. You should place your crate in a part of your home that is utilized by your family, avoid placing the crate in an isolated area. Dogs are social animals and prefer being with their human family. When your puppy is in their crate they should not be wearing any collars or harnesses to prevent possible strangulation. Provide them with safe chew toys such as frozen stuffed kongs. Do not leave your puppy unattended in the crate with rawhides or other bones that could become choke hazzards.

How long should you use a crate? That depends on your dog but most puppies should be kept crated at bedtime until they are fully housebroken, typically 9-12 months of age, longer for smaller breeds.    It is also important to remember that you'll want them to be past the puppy chewing as well and that can be 18 months for some dogs. Giving a puppy too much freedom too soon can have tragic consequences so always use common sense and utilize your crate for their safety. 

It's equally important to have your puppy/dog spend time in their crate when you ARE at home not just when you're away.  Quite often people feel that their puppy/dog should be free and with them  when ever they are home, this is not necessary and often creates problems.   Have you ever tried to crate your dog when company is over only to have them bark the entire time because they want to be let out to be with the people.  You can avoid this by having them spend time in their crates when people are home going about their daily routine.  This will allow your puppy/dog to relax and settle in the crate instead of barking to be set free.   To ensure that my puppy is getting enough rest, 18-20 hours per day, they take all their naps in their crate.  It may look cute to see them curled up under the kitchen table napping, but they will get more restful and uninterrupted sleep in their crate.  You can give them something wonderful to chew on so  they associate being confined with good things happening inside the crate.

As you can see from the pictures, Hubble and Faye are quite comfortable napping in their crates. Leo is 8 years old and has always enjoyed his crate. While we no longer place him in his crate, he is regularly found napping in there. And being the kind boy that he is, he even invites Faye to join him!!

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