Remy enjoying a nap in her crate
I am a very big believer in crate training. Some people say that it is cruel but not if you use the crate properly. Is it more cruel to come home and yell and scream at your puppy because they had an accident or worse, they chewed something and they are now injured? All of my dogs have been crated trained. My dogs absolutely love their crates. When they become adults, I generally only put the dogs in the crates for meals. I leave the crate door open all day and it is usually their first choice as a place to rest. Also, a crate is necessary for agility trials, obedience shows, etc. and itís great to have dogs that will rest quietly in their crates.
Providing your puppy with a crate provides a safe area and gives the puppy a sense of security as it acts like a den. It is a very effective housebreaking tool because it takes advantage of the dog's natural reluctance to soil its sleeping place. It can also help to reduce separation anxiety, prevents destructive behavior (such as chewing furniture), and keeps a puppy away from potentially dangerous household items (i.e., poisons, electrical wires, etc.). Because I travel so much with my dogs, I use the crate both in the van and at hotels. My dogs get used to hotels very quickly as they sleep in their familiar crate. A crate should NEVER be used for the purpose of punishment.
I recommend that you provide a crate throughout your dog's lifetime. While I have a dog room where I keep the crates, they can be placed under a table, or a tabletop can be put on top of it to make it both unobtrusive and useful.
What Size/Style of Crate?
You should use a crate that is just big enough for your puppy to stand, turnaround and lay down in. You don't want it too small as it will be uncomfortable nor do you want it so big that the puppy can go to the other end and soil the crate. It is ideal if you have a couple of sizes of crates to grow with your puppy. However, this may not be practical. Many of the bigger crates (the wire type) can come with a divider that allows you to have the crate smaller for the puppy but then remove it as he grows. I use a Vari kennel (plastic) for Scout but this type of crate is more enclosed so you have to make sure that the room is cool as the crate can get warm. The only caution for wire crates is that the tail or paw can get caught between the crate pan and the side/bottom. I recommend you remove the crate pan for puppies to prevent injuries. There are now many soft-sided crates on the market. I recommend not using this type of crate until your pup has already been crate trained and you are sure that they will not dig or chew it and try to escape. Once they have learned how to escape from a soft-sided crate, you will always have problems with them escaping.
Furnishing Your Puppy's Crate
Place your puppy's favorite toys and dog treats at the far end opposite the door opening. These toys may include the "Tuffy", "Billy", "Kong", or a ball. Toys and balls should always be inedible and large enough to prevent their being swallowed. Any fragmented toys should be removed to prevent choking and internal obstruction. You may also place a sterilized marrow bone filled with cheese or dog treats in the crate. Be careful of putting plush toys in a crate. Many puppies will get bored and eat these and you don't want them to eat the stuffing.
A small dish attached to the side of the crate or heavy bowl with water should be in the crate if your puppy is to be confined for more than two hours in the crate. Don't overload the puppy with water as this may lead to accidents.
Place a towel or blanket inside the crate to create a soft, comfortable bed for the puppy. If the puppy chews the towel, remove it to prevent the pup from swallowing or choking on the pieces. Although most puppies prefer lying on soft bedding, some may prefer to rest on a hard, flat surface, and may push the towel to one end of the crate to avoid it. If the puppy urinates on the towel, remove bedding until the pup no longer eliminates in the crate.
Location of Crate
Whenever possible, place the crate near or next to you when you are home. This will encourage the pup to go inside it without him feeling lonely or isolated when you go out. A central room in the home (i.e.: living room or kitchen) or a large hallway near the entrance is a good place to crate your puppy.
Introducing the Crate to Your Puppy
It is important that your puppy have a good association with the crate. The following gives some helpful guidelines to introduce your puppy to their new home:
Always remove your puppy's collar before confining in the crate. Even flat buckle collars can occasionally get stuck on the bars or wire mesh of a crate. They are a choking hazard!
Do not crate a puppy or dog when temperatures reach an uncomfortable level. As an IWS has a heavy coat, it is very important to keep the crating area cool. Cold water should always be available to puppies, especially during warm weather.
Be certain that your puppy has fully eliminated shortly before being crated. Be sure that the crate you are using is not too large to discourage your pup from eliminating in it. Rarely does a pup or dog eliminate in the crate if it is properly sized and the dog is an appropriate age to be crated a given amount of time. If your pup/dog continues to eliminate in the crate, the following may be the causes:
Accidents In The Crate
If your puppy messes in his crate while you are out, do not punish him upon your return. Simply wash out the crate using a pet odor neutralizer (such as Nature's Miracle). Do not use ammonia-based products, as their odor resembles urine and may draw your dog back to urinate in the same spot again.
Crating Duration Guidelines
Puppies under 4 months of age have little bladder or sphincter control. Puppies under 3 months have even less. Very young puppies under 9 weeks should not be crated, as they need to eliminate very frequently (usually 8-12 times or more daily).
9-10 Weeks Approx. 30-60 minutes
11-14 Weeks Approx. 1-3 hours
15-16 Weeks Approx. 3-4 hours
17 + Weeks Approx. 4+ (6 hours maximum)
*NOTE: Except for overnight, puppies should be crated for more than 5 hours at a time. (6 hours maximum!)
The Crate As Punishment
NEVER use the crate as a form of punishment or reprimand for your puppy or dog. This simply causes the dog to fear and resent the crate. If correctly introduced to his crate, your puppy should be happy to go into his crate at any time. You may however use the crate as a brief time-out for your puppy as a way of discouraging nipping or excessive rowdiness. I would need to do this with Drake when he was a pup. He would get tired at night and like a toddler, would fit to stay awake and would get very nippy. I learned that it was best to put him to bed in his crate and he would immediately fall asleep with no fussing.
Children And The Crate
Do not allow children to play in your dog's crate or to handle your dog while he/she is in the crate. The crate is your dog's private sanctuary. His/her rights to privacy should always be respected.
Barking In The Crate
In most cases a pup who cries incessantly in his crate has either been crated too soon (without taking the proper steps as outlined above) or is suffering from separation anxiety and is anxious about being left alone. Some pups may simply under exercised. Others may not have enough attention paid them.
When Not To Use A Crate
Do not crate your puppy or dog if:
Buying a Crate
Crates can be purchased through most pet supply outlets, through pet mail order catalogs and at dog shows. For an Irish Water Spaniel, I recommend a large Vari-Kennel #500 or a wire crate (36"Lx24"Wx27"H). I use Vari-Kennels (#500) for Scout and Glider and Clark gets a larger, Great Dane sized crate. He likes to spread out. Wire crates come in a wide range of quality and really inexpensive crates tend to not hold up well as the wire used is very light. A mid-priced crate is best.
The Cost of A Crate
Crates can cost between $75 and $175 depending on the size and the type of crate and the source.
The Cost of Not Buying a Crate
The cost of not using a crate:
The real cost, however, is your dog's safety and your peace of mind.
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