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Subject: rec.pets.dogs: Crating Your Dog FAQ
This article was archived around: 21 May 2006 04:22:58 GMT
Last-modified: 20 Nov 1997
There are many FAQ's available for this group. For a complete
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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
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Crating Your Dog
Cindy Tittle Moore, firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of Contents
* What Is Crating?
* Prices and recommendations
* Proper use of a crate
* Crating do's and don'ts
* Decreasing Crate Time
* Does everyone use a crate?
What Is Crating?
A crate is a portable "kennel" that is just large enough to contain
the dog it is intended for, made of either metal or plastic. "Crating"
is the practice of using this kennel for training purposes, usually in
housetraining and houseproofing a dog.
Crating is a controversial topic. There are those who believe that
crate training is indefensible and others who believe that it is a
panacea. The reality is likely somewhere in between.
What does the dog think?
First, you must understand what the crate represents to the dog. Dogs
are by nature den creatures -- and the crate, properly introduced, is
its den. It is a safe haven where it does not need to worry about
defending territory. It is its own private bedroom which it absolutely
will not soil if it can help it. Judicious use of the crate can
alleviate a number of problems, stop others from ever developing, and
aid substantially in housetraining.
Where is the crate? It should be around other people. Ideally, set it
up in the bedroom near you. Have the dog sleep in it at night. Dogs
are social and like to be around their people. Don't force it into the
crate. Feed your dog in the crate.
Can they be abused?
Certainly. Anything intended for a dog can be abused. That doesn't
make it wrong; it does mean you need to know what you are doing.
Things to remember:
* The crate must be large enough for the dog to stand and turn
* A puppy should not be left in for more than 3 or 4 hours at a
* An adult dog should not spend more than about 8 hours a day in
* No dog should be forced to remain in a soiled crate. You must
rearrange time spent in the crate to avoid this happening in the
* Not all dogs require constant crating; most can be slowly weaned
off once they get older and you can trust them more in the house,
* Properly introduce dogs, especially older dogs, to the crate. Most
dogs like their crates, but not all do so immediately.
* Even when you are no longer using the crate regularly, leave it
available for napping. A crate trained dog is always more easily
handled: in the car, at the vets, when travelling, etc.
Prices and recommendations
A plastic airline approved (leakproof) crate will run from $10 to $75
depending on the size. These are the cheapest prices available. If
flying with a dog, most airlines will sell a crate at near-wholesale
prices. Vendors at dog shows often have good prices, especially for
slightly imperfect ones. Pet stores sell them at astronomical prices.
Mail order stores have competitive prices (but watch out for added
shipping costs), and they sell wire mesh cages. Wire mesh is
comparable in price to plastic airline crates, but the sizing is
Wire cages are not as appealing to dogs that like the safe, enclosed
nature of a crate, but they have better ventilation for use in warm
places. You might, for example, have a plastic crate in your house and
a wire one for the car. Since many models fold up, they are also often
easier to transport and store.
The crate should be large enough for the dog to lie down, stand up and
turn around in comfortably, but not large enough for the dog to
relieve itself at one end and sleep at the other. You may buy a crate
sized for an adult dog and block off part of it with a chew-proof
obstacle until the dog grows into it, or you may buy a succession of
crates as the dog grows.
If you use a crate in your car, consider something like the Crate
Mate, which is a heavy pouch that attaches permanently to a plastic
crate. It has a clear window for information about the dog, including
owners name/address/etc./vet info/medication info/etc. All this is in
red thirty point type. There's also room for 3-4 days supply of food,
medication, etc., leashes, collars, even a water bottle. They're in
bright colors so they can't be missed. Order from Custom Dog Supplies
(see Resources) or make your own.
Proper use of a crate
Crating a puppy or dog often seems unappealing to humans, but it is
not cruel to the dog. A dog's crate is similar to a child's playpen,
except it has a roof (dogs can jump out of a playpen) and is
chewproof. Also, a crate is not suitable for activity or exercise, but
rather for rest. Dogs are carnivores and do not need to be constantly
active during the daytime, like people (as gatherers) do.
If a crate is properly introduced to a dog (or puppy) the dog will
grow to think of the crate as its den and safe haven. Most dogs that
are crated will use the open crate as a resting place.
The major use of a crate is to prevent the dog from doing something
wrong and not getting corrected for it. It is useless to correct a dog
for something that it has already done; the dog must be "caught in the
act". If the dog is out of its crate while unsupervised, it may do
something wrong and not be corrected, or worse yet, corrected after
the fact. If the dog is not corrected, the dog may develop the problem
behavior as a habit (dogs are creatures of habit), or learn that the
it can get away with the behavior when not immediately supervised. A
dog that rarely gets away with anything will not learn that if nobody
is around it can get away with bad behaviors.
If the dog is corrected after the fact, it will not associate the
correction with the behavior, and will begin to think that corrections
are arbitrary, and that the owner is not to be trusted. This results
in a poor relationship and a dog that does not associate corrections,
which are believed arbitrary, with bad behaviors even when they are
applied in time. This cannot be overemphasized: a dog's lack of trust
in its owner's corrections is one of the major sources of problems
between dogs and their owners.
A secondary advantage of a crate is that it minimizes damage done by a
dog (especially a young one) to the house, furniture, footwear etc.
This reduces costs and aggravation and makes it easier for the dog and
master to get along. It also protects the dog from harm by its
destruction: ingestion of splinters or toy parts, shock from chewing
through wires, etc.
A young dog should be placed in its crate whenever it cannot be
If a dog is trained in puppyhood with a crate, it will not always
require crating. Puppies or untrained dogs require extensive crating.
After a year or so of crate training, many dogs will know what to do
and what not to, and will have good habits. At this time crating might
only be used when the dog needs to be out of the way, or when
Crating do's and don'ts
* Do think of the crate as a good thing. In time, your dog will too.
* Do let the dog out often enough so that it is never forced to soil
* Do let the dog out if it whines because it needs to eliminate. If
you know it doesn't have to eliminate, correct it for whining or
* Do clean out the crate regularly, especially if you've put in a
floor and you have flea problems.
* Don't punish the dog if it soils the crate. It is miserable enough
and probably had to.
* Don't use the crate as a punishment.
* Don't leave the dog in the crate for a long time after letting it
eat and drink a lot. (because the dog will be uncomfortable and
may have to eliminate in the crate.)
* Don't leave the dog in the crate too much. Dogs sleep and rest a
lot, but not all the time. They need play time and exercise. When
you are at home, they should not be in the crate (except at night
when they are still very young puppies). If necessary, put a leash
on your pup and tie it around your waist while you're at home.
* Don't check to see if your dog is trustworthy in the house
(unsupervised, outside of the crate) by letting the dog out of the
crate for a long time. Start with very short periods and work your
way up to longer periods.
* Don't ever let the dog grow unaccustomed to the crate. An
occasional stint even for the best behaved dog will make traveling
and special situations that require crating easier.
* Don't put pillows or blankets in the crate without a good reason.
Most dogs like it cooler than their human companions and prefer to
stretch out on a hard, cool surface. Besides providing a place to
urinate on, some dogs will simply destroy them. A rubber mat or a
piece of peg-board cut to the right size might be a good
compromise (be sure to clean under any floor covering frequently).
Decreasing Crate Time
Remember, your ultimate goal in using the crate is to produce an
easily housetrained dog and one that can be trusted in the house.
Therefore, you should consider the use of a crate for a dog to be
_temporary_. You are always working toward the time when you do not
need to use a crate extensively.
With housetraining, it is only a matter of time for the pup to outgrow
the need for a crate. As as puppy gets older, it will naturally
develop ways of telling you that it needs to go (but probably not
before about 4-6 months, be patient), especially if you encourage
this. As this starts to develop, you can decrease the crate usage.
Always keep a close eye on your pup -- the trouble you take now will
pay big dividends later. If you need to, put a leash on your pup and
attach it to your waist. That keeps the pup from wandering off into
trouble. By the time your puppy is about 6-8 months, he should be able
to sleep through the night either in an open crate or a dog bed.
Many breeds, especially the larger and more active ones, will need to
be crated during their adolescence until they can be trusted in the
home, if you cannot leave them outside in the yard while you are gone.
There are several things you need to keep in mind. The first is that
this type of crating is never to be a permanent arrangement except for
those rare cases where the dog proves completely unreliable. While
this does happen, it's more common for the dog to be sufficiently
mature by the time they are two or so to be left alone in the house.
To make the transition between keeping your dog in the crate and
leaving him out when you are at work, start preparing your dog on
weekends. Leave him in your house for an hour and then come back.
Maybe it needs to be fifteen minutes. Whatever. Find the time that
works, and make a habit of leaving him unsupervised in the house for
that long. Be sure to praise him when you come back. (Leave the crate
open -- available but open -- while you are gone.) When you know the
dog is reliable for this period of time, gradually add 15-30 minute
increments to the dog's "safe time." Don't be surprised if this takes
months or even a year.
Now, there are some dogs that are never reliable when left inside.
This might include dogs that were rescued, dogs that have separation
anxiety, dogs that destroy things indiscriminately, or who mark or
otherwise eliminate in the house.
Does everyone use a crate?
Of course not. There are many who think they are cruel and will not
use them. People in Europe tend not to use them. People who have not
heard of using them won't generally use them. If you have an outside
yard with a fence or a secure kennel you many not need to use them.
They are extremely useful. But they are not the only means to achieve
housetraining or safety in the house or car. They are, in the opinion
of many, one of the best and easiest ways of doing so, with many side
Crating Your Dog FAQ
Cindy Tittle Moore, email@example.com