Crates, Cages and Kennels – What’s the point?

Dog Doc Question 11: Why would you keep your dog in a cage?

Look what my puppy can do!  Thanks to Sarah for telling me how to teach this trick.  She’s supposed to shut the door as well but I’m not confident about teaching that bit yet.

People often say to me “I don’t like the idea of using a cage for my dog, it seems mean to put them in there.”  As you can see from the video, Ounce does not mind going in her bed, in fact she loves it!

As you can see from the photo, there is plenty of space for Ounce inside her crate.  I’ve covered it with a towel and she has her vet bed in there to make it nice and comfortable.  In fact it looks more like a kennel than a cage.  Here’s what I have put on the Equipment Advice page about crates.

Crates

Your puppy needs its own space and safe place.  The crate or cage keeps it safe and out of trouble when it is alone, rather like putting a baby in a cot or playpen.  It also helps to teach the puppy that it does need to rest and so do you.

When ordering a crate for your puppy, buy one big enough for it to lie in stretched out and standing up in when it is fully grown. Make sure that the mesh is not too big as puppies may get their mouths caught.  Put some bedding inside and tie some toys in the far end of the crate so the puppy has to go in there to play with them. Gently place your puppy in there whenever it falls asleep. Leave occasional treats in the crate for the puppy to find, so the puppy learns to love going in there.

A handy hint to ensure that your puppy is eager to enjoy the safety and calm of the crate is to feed him in there. Then, quietly close the door. Puppies love to search and sniff for pieces of food, and once they have found and eaten everything, they often settle down and drift into sleep for an hour or so. This gives you a chance to do other things without worrying about what the puppy is up to, and it is a good experience for the puppy to curl up and sleep in the cot by choice.  You can gradually increase the time the puppy stays in the crate and initially this should be whilst you are in the room with it.

Make sure your puppy has recently emptied its bladder and bowels before it enters and do not leave your puppy in the crate or puppy pen for more than a couple of hours during the daytime. Although most puppies are content to sleep in their crate overnight, they get very distressed if they have to foul near their beds, so you must be prepared to get out of your bed to let them out if they need to toilet during the night. If they have fouled inside the crate, you must clean it out immediately or the puppy will hate being in the crate.

Never use the crate as a sin-bin or you will teach your puppy to resent it.
Always remove the puppy’s collar when in the crate in case it gets caught up on it.

It’s a bed, not a cage

This is the crucial point.  It is not a way to contain your dog and stop them from moving about and enjoying life.  It is somewhere safe for them to go and sleep.

Five years ago, for our 20th wedding anniversary, my husband and I went to Norway to see the Northern Lights.  Part of that amazing holiday involved going out on a husky sled.  The dogs were great, but they weren’t very domesticated.  I was shocked to see that they were kept in individual kennels, which were little more than holes in the ground, out in the snow.  But I was told that if they were kept together they fought.  And during the summer months they lived a much freer life.  Those dogs were happy and healthy and quite honestly, they had a brilliant life.  They were outside, running about every day, howling at the moon all night long (we didn’t get much sleep!)

It really made me think about the way we keep our dogs and it is something I often reflect on.  I know many people with large numbers of dogs, who usually keep them in separate crates for large chunks of the day and night.  I don’t do that, but if I put a crate up, all my dogs will immediately go in it.  If Ounce isn’t in her crate then someone else will usually go into it (often the cat!)   So my dogs aren’t ‘kept’ in crates, but they don’t sleep on my bed either.

In this country, we want the best for our pets.  That’s great, as long as it is actually the best for the pets, not what we think is the best for them.  If your dog is left alone to chew up your house and you then get angry with it and want to get rid of it, that is not a great solution, is it? Give your puppy a safe, happy place to call their own.  They will thank you for it.

Remember..

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