Crates and Crate Training (Part Two)
Crates are used to give dogs a bedroom of their own where they can stay out of trouble. Choosing a crate and some introductory training are covered in Crates and Crate Training Part One. Here is some addition information on using a crate with your dog.
Traveling with the crate. Depending on the size of the crate, you can just pick it up and carry it with you. If the crate is very big, you may have to break it down to carry it. Put the bolts in a zip lock plastic bag to prevent losing them, and set it under the front door when you stack the crate. If you do this every time, you will always know where they are when you try to put the crate together. If you are riding in a car and intend to put the dog in the crate, be sure you tie the crate securely down so if the car is in a wreck, it doesn’t fly around in the car. Dogs have a good chance of survival if the crate is tied down securely.
What else goes in the crate? One decision people face is what to put in the crate besides the dog. Do you put a blanket? Food? Water? These depend on the dog. If the dog eats blankets, do not put one in the crate. If they do not chew on them, a blanket makes the dog more comfortable. You should feed your dog in his crate, but remove the bowls afterwards so they are not in the dog’s way. Also, if you feed moist food, it will attract flies if left there. Water is harder. Many dogs will turn over water bowls in the crate. A quart bucket suspended from one of the windows by a clip works best. The bucket can be easily removed for filling and cleaning, but doesn’t turn over. It is reasonably out of the way but the dog does not have to go thirsty.
The crates come with little plastic clip on cups for food and water. These are required if the dog is flying, but are otherwise useless. They do not hold enough to matter, and most dogs chew them to bits. The plastic becomes brittle and dangerously hard, so don’t use them. Keep them in case the dog flies and use metal bowls.
Toys are individual. Some people give the dog a bone or other toy to play with while they are in their crate. Other people worry the dog may chew it up, if it is soft, or hurt themselves on it, if it is hard. This is especially true if the dog is traveling — a bone could become a projectile in an accident. Toys are an individual decision for each owner based on the circumstances.
A word about children and crates. Children are drawn to crates as places to play and hide. They should be told that is the dog’s bedroom and they are not to enter it. Further, if the dog goes in his crate, they are not to bother the dog in there. Teasing a dog in a crate can cause aggression. Climbing in a crate with a dog can end badly as well.
Cleaning crates. If you use a crate with a dog, especially a puppy, to housebreak the dog, sooner or later the dog will have an accident in the crate. Remove the dog, the blanket, any toys, and as much of the accident as you can with paper towels. Then take a rag and a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water, and wash the crate inside well. Then take a clean rag and a bowl of plain water, and wash the bleach solution off. Clean the toys bowls, and blanket, and return to the crate. The outside of the crate can be cleaned in a similar manner.
Crates, when used appropriately, provide a comfortable place for a dog to sleep when he cannot be supervised. They aid in housebreaking and make travel easier on everyone. The best time to start crate training is when the dog is a puppy, but adults can be crate trained with a little effort. Give your dog his own bedroom and make life easier on everyone.