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?
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.
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.
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.