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Norwich Bulletin - 9/5/2004

The Perfect Crate

Many people firmly believe that crating your dog for any length of time is cruel and they refuse to even consider it. Thousands of dollars are spent by families every year because of the damage done by the new puppy who is inappropriately given the run of the house while their owners are at work or out for an evening.

Couches, tables, bedding and other expensive items are often chewed to pieces while rugs are ruined because of urine stains. There really is an easy answer to these problems and it is a crate.

The first and hardest thing to get into your mindset is that a crate is not a punishment. Crates need to be a positive place where your dog can find security and pleasure. An attractive crate makes for a welcoming den - a nice blanket, yummy treats, a favorite toy and a chew stick help to make the pup comfortable. The crate needs to be in a place where your dog will not feel isolated (our dog's crate is in our bedroom), so the pup feels part of the family.

Our Dogo Argentino Daisy is six years old and she loves her crate. When Daisy first comes in from outside she is a wild woman running through the house, jumping on furniture, scaring the cats and refusing all direction. We now bring her in and crate her for a half hour with a favorite chewie, to give her time to calm down.

When the crate is opened, half the time, she prefers to stay where she is cuddled into her favorite blankie or, if she decides to join the rest of the family, she calmly walks out to us and plops down on the couch. When we are not home, Daisy is usually out in her very large kennel, but during the winter, Daisy is an indoor dog because of the cold. The days that both my husband and I are gone, she spends in her crate.

If she did not, she would destroy parts of my house I am not willing to have destroyed. Daisy likes to rip things up when she is alone, and in order for us to enjoy having her as a pet, it is our responsibility to monitor her behavior and it is best done by crating.

Using a crate properly, establishes limits for your dog when you are away from the house and unable to monitor your dog's behavior. A crate is also a safe area for your dog to be if your having a party and you have a less than social canine. Dogs who are afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks, often find refuge in their familiar crate.

The best way to get your dog to live happily with his crate, is to introduce the crate when he is a puppy. Rather than have to punish him when he messes or chews your favorite pair of shoes, you can crate him before the trouble actually happens. While crates certainly don't train your pup for you, they are a useful tool in both housebreaking and chewing.

You need to make sure the crate is the proper size for the pup/dog. If the crate is too big, the pup will use part of it as the bathroom and that won't help in the long run. You also have to be around to hear the pup. If the pup is whining, chances are he needs to go to the bathroom and should be taken out. After meals and naps, before going into the crate, their should first be a trip outside.

Choosing the right size and the right type of crate is essential to making the perfect fit of crate and dog. The crate should be big enough to allow the dog to stand up and lie down comfortably. If you know your dog is going to grow into a big dog, then consider getting a divider so you will have the proper size crate in the beginning and the crate can grow with the dog!

It should be put in a room where there is activity. Starting the pup or dog in the crate for a few minutes at a time and working your way up in time is the best way for the dog to learn he is not being abandoned or "caged."

Remember, as your dog gets accustomed to his crate and enjoys the security of having his own space, do not leave your pup crated for longer than three or four hours at a time or your adult dog for longer than eight hours. If you crate your dog at night, you should make sure he has plenty of uncrated time during the day.

There are also many types of crates available aluminum, plastic, foldable tents, mesh or fabric, fiberglass, plastic, wicker and wire. All have pros and cons, including cost, ventilation, cleaning, etc.

Before choosing a crate, I suggest doing some research on line. Log onto to www.inch.com/~dogs/cratetraining.html or www.ddfl.org/behavior/cratetraining.htm. Both sites can give you direction on the type of crate that will suit you and your dog best, as well as tips on how both you and your pet can enjoy the whole crate experience.

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