Canine housetraining, Part 2: Managing developmental issues with puppy crating

Canine housetraining, Part 2: Managing developmental issues with puppy crating

Make sure clients know the ins and outs of correct crate training
Sep 01, 2011

My 4-year-old Australian Shepherd rescue, Picasso, is an example of a dog that was inappropriately crated. Pic was kept in a crate for 23 to 24 hours a day, from 8 weeks of age through 10 months (when he was relinquished to rescue). The crate was too small for him, and it likely had poor traction—factors that contributed to his deformed hips and hindlimbs. Now he has monitored freedom and somehow manages to run, but arthridides are in his future, and they did not have to be. Crating is common to us, but it's used less often in other parts of the world. Whether a client uses a crate is an individual choice, but all clients who use them must do so in a humane manner that meets the needs of the dog.

How does a crate work?

Get off on the right foot: Finding just the right size and introducing a puppy to the crate in just the right manner are two of several things clients must know as they start out the process of housetraining.
A crate (a cage or kennel) can be useful with most puppies and can be an essential step in the housetraining process. Small, enclosed areas encourage puppies to develop conscious muscle control to inhibit elimination at inconvenient times. Some puppies immediately feel more secure when they're left alone in a crate with blankets, toys, food, water and, if the crate's large enough, a papered area for urination and defecation. Puppies need big crates if they're going to spend long periods of time in it, but urge your clients to hire a pet sitter to exercise their puppies if they must spend time away from their puppies. Alternatively, veterinarians can offer puppy daycare, which will be helpful to young dogs in many ways.

The crate has three main purposes:
1. To encourage the puppy to start inhibiting the urge to eliminate.

2. To keep the puppy safe from all disasters—from electric cords to toxic substances lurking in the home.

3. To keep the humans sane when the puppy is too rambunctious.

Puppies are rambunctious. They need an aerobic outlet for all that energy. The crate is not meant to keep them incarcerated or to substitute for aerobic exercise. Clients need to know they can't keep puppies in crates eight to 10 hours a day as a way of mitigating their energetic and aerobic needs. If clients need a pet that can be kept caged for most of his or her young life, please encourage them to consider a gerbil.