Friday

Choosing a Crate for Dogs and Puppies, Is Yours Too Small?











Someone just asked me which crate they should get for their new 6 week old pup.
I can understand the confusion as there are as many different crates on the market as there are breeds of dogs.
We have come a long way since this crate pictured was used. One of my favorite crates is an antique Doskocil with bakelite trim but it would hardly be considered useful in todays world. Still, I have a parrot who loves it and has deemed it his crate when traveling...all my animals are crate trained and yours should be too. I rarely crate anyone but there will be times in your dog's life when being crated could be a life or death situation and it is imperative that your dog accept his crate quietly and calmly....
I subscribe to the belief that pups should stay with their mother until about 15 weeks of age as do most all responsible breeders. Doing this virtually eliminates separation anxiety issues, housebreaking issues, and crate training.
That's because in a natural world, this is the age where a mother starts letting her pups exert some independence,wandering out of the den and learning about the world around them. And because this is the way dogs are hardwired, I have never, ever taken home a pup younger than this. The weeks prior to going to their new home is a special time for the pups, they copy everything moma dog does, including going outside to potty and laying in the crate...and they learn that the crate is a safe place to be.
Show dogs spend long hours on the road and that requires being in a crate A LOT. It is imperative that they learn to relax in a crate from an early age. I usually suggest that owners get two crates, one for travel,and one for crating at home.
The travel crate should be smaller because in an accident, you don't want the dog to be jostled around. The door should be shoulder height and there should be enough room to lie down and stretch out the front legs and to turn around easily in the crate,but that is it. I am often puzzled by people who say that when you buy a crate for the house, that this is the size they need because it ISN'T. A crate suitable for travel is too small for using in the house. And what is up with the trend to section off a big crate for a puppy so it won't potty in the crate? That is ridiculous. No pup wants to soil HIS space, period. Making it smaller won't stop him if he didn't have enough outdoor time prior to being crated or he has been crated too long. Pups have little bladders that don't hold much for very long. People expect too much of them at a very young age. They are babies, people!
The average pet owner aquires a puppy at 6 to 8 weeks, plays with it all weekend, goes to work on Monday and leaves the little baby in a too small crate for 9 hours and then gripes when they have an awful mess to clean up when they get home.
It is sad but true. They need to be taking the pup to dog daycare or hiring a pet sitter to come let the pup out. And they could simply enlist the help of a dog friendly neighbor to let the pup out several times during the work day.
When he has a potty accident in the travel size crate he will have to lay in his 'mess',making him desensitized to cleanliness over time. But in the larger house crate he can get away from his 'mess' and stay clean. Contrary to what many so called trainers will tell you, the larger crate will help housebreaking issues longterm better than the small crate.
Your pup needs exercise and he won't get any in a travel size crate, whereas in a larger crate he has more room to amuse himself with all the safe puppy toys that you put in there with him before you left. If he is in a too small crate all day he will resort to things like incessant barking ( a hard to break habit once it develops) and chewing on the cage door ruining his teeth. I have seen dogs who have scraped their teeth all the way down to the gums from boredom chewing on the crate door.
Every dog needs his own safe space to be there for him when he wants to get away and rest. Dogs sleep better in crates as they can let down their guard and sleep deeply without having one eye open as we know dogs are wont to do.

Puff was of course, already crate trained when I got him at 15 weeks and he was housebroken so most of his crating came from travel to dog shows and staying in hotels where many of them require the dogs be crated in the room. He had a crate at home which was larger than his showdog crate and it gave him a place of his own to get away from the world and relax. He came and went in that crate at his own digression.
After the accident, where I had the flu and tripped and fell on him, injuring his back so badly he had partial paralysis and seizures,he had to be crated while I was at work.
From my brother who showed Borzoi, I got a huge Wolfhound sized wire crate. I had considered simply putting an ex pen in the kitchen but it looked like Puff might have to be crated forever so I went with the crate. It was a good choice as there was plenty of room for a piddle pad. I don't buy the ones for dogs, I buy the generic 36 inch underpads for people available at any drugstore as it is way, way cheaper than buying wee pads. Your vet doesn't buy puppy piddle pads, he buys underpads made by Kendall which are just like the ones you can buy at any drugstore.(And that scented stuff they advertise will make your dog use the pads,is mostly a gimmick as teaching your dog to use the pad doesn't require a special smell,he is smart enough to know what is a pad and what isn't.)
Puff was easy to convert to pads and it alleviated any guilt he might have had about 'going' in the house as his injury was throwing off his potty timing. There was also room for his bed and toys, including his all important ball and he could bat it around when he was bored. I put the crate by a window where he could watch things outside and also left a radio on. He had no problems adjusting to the fact that he suddenly had to spend most of his time in a crate... If I was at work and he had a seizure, then by being in the crate, in all likelihood he would not injure himself or break anything. I however, had a lot of adjusting to do and a lot of guilt to deal with. He lived this way for several years and now that he is completely well I am SO glad to have that giant crate out of the house,but I must admit I couldn't have done his recovery without an adequate crate. Safety is a big reason to crate your dog, whether it is protection from bad weather approaching or illness related or, ( and this is a common reason) because that Lab pup hasn't gotten out of the chewing stage yet and could chew an electrical cord or ingest something else hazardous (or get their head stuck in a can). The right crate is crucial to your dogs welfare.

For the most part I find that dogs prefer plastic crates to metal ones, but it doesn't seem to have been much of an issue with any dog I have worked with. Plastic crates are really hot inside and that is something you should take into consideration when choosing the type of crate you want. The nylon crates are not suitable really for frequent crating, they are nice if you have a well behaved dog and are going to the park for a day of activities. Don't worry about aesthetics either as you can make any crate fit into your d├ęcor if necessary. That giant Wolfhound crate was draped with a ruched and tassled french-style throw to hide it when I was home. I have had house crates in the past that I disguised with archtectural fragments and books and such so that they blended in with the decor...and there are lots of pretty crate covers available on places like ebay and Etsy. My mom made hers with ties on each corner so she could easily raise and lower the sides.
Definitely don't buy a crate retail as you can find used crates anywhere. Yesterday I saw two on the side of the road with a for free sign on them. Craigslist has them every day. Bleach a used crate with 1 part bleach to 22 parts water and rinse ,rinse ,rinse before using. People used to buy crates from the airlines cargo department at wholesale cost but I doubt you can do that anymore. The airlines would let you buy their crates in advance so the dog could get used to it before flying. Ask people you know if they have a crate they don't want. That is how I got my antique Doskocil and also a wonderful strong, but lightweight titanium crate that folds up into a suitcase and comes with its' own grooming table built in...you never know what you might find if you just ask....