The Crate Debate
By Lynn Whittaker, Bow Wow U
While you may want to take your new pet everywhere you go, sooner or later you will have to leave Spot home alone. What do you do to ensure that your furniture, shoes, and TV remote control are still in one piece when you return? Will using baby gates be sufficient to keep your dog out of mischief, or will you have to resort to placing them in a crate or kennel, i.e. doggy jail? If crating is not an option for you, or you will be gone for long hours, consider hiring a qualified professional pet sitter to come to your home during the day for a walk and potty break. This is especially important when you have a young dog.
Many people believe that crating a dog hurts the dog’s feelings, and is akin to punishment. Understanding that dogs like their ancestors the wolves are den creatures can make things a bit easier on the new parents of a puppy or young dog.
The crate is an invaluable management tool. It serves several purposes. A dog may be crated to train for housebreaking, as most dogs do not soil where they sleep. A crate may be used for transportation; if you should need to put your dogs on an airplane, they will have to be crated. The crate is also great for confinement during the day when you are away at work. Leaving a young dog alone in a house can allow them to become destructive, where he or she may damage your house, or worse, get into something that may injure the dog.
When choosing a crate consider “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” It is important to get a crate just large enough for your dog to get up, turn around and lie down. Anything bigger might invite trouble. If you are looking to housebreak your little dog or puppy, purchasing the largest crate may deter your efforts, as the dog may have enough room to soil in the crate and still sleep at the other end. Once a dog begins soiling in the crate it becomes more difficult to change that behavior. A crate that is too small may cause arthritic issues later on in life if the dog’s mobility is restricted.
It is also important to consider what type of crate you should purchase. If your dog is small and will grow up to be a larger dog, it might be advisable to purchase a crate with a divider in it so the crate can grow with the dog. If you have a dog that might have some separation issues (fear of being left alone), you may opt for a Vari-Kennel, which is constructed of plastic and metal. Sometimes crates like this create more of a den-like atmosphere as the dog’s view is restricted. The metal crates provide a more open-air atmosphere where the dog is able to see all around him or her. If you purchase one of these for your puppy, you also can place a blanket over the crate to recreate the den-like feeling. Sometimes restricting the view has a calming effect on them. There are also soft-sided crates that are lightweight, portable, yet still provide confinement. Many people who participate in dog competitions, such as Agility, Rally-O, and Conformation use these crates as they are easily transported. You need to consider whether your dog is a potential candidate for this type of crate, as they are not foolproof. Dogs can eventually scratch through the netting, rip the zippers or pull on seams if they are the least bit destructive, or excitable.
Deciding to open the crate door and release your dog to freedom depends on how your dog behaves at home in your absence. Age shouldn’t be a factor. It would be advisable to slowly allow your dog freedom in the home if you feel your dog is ready. There are some dogs that prefer the crate, despite having full access to the house.
Whatever crate you should choose, remember that confining your dog can prevent injury, harm, and even death. It’s a safe way to keep your furry family member safe and out of harm’s way while you are away. Despite the potential woes for dog owners, I remain a fan of this great invaluable management and training tool.