1. Dog crates and cages. Is it cruel to crate? How long should you crate?

    More Q & A on dog crates and puppy crates.

    Continuing our blogs on dog crates and cages, we answer some really important and popular questions which keep being asked. We all want the best for our puppy and adult dog, and we hope that we can help you find the right course of action for you.
    We already have page on crate training your dog - click HERE to see it - but it is our intention to expand on this in the near future and if you want personalised advice please drop us an e mail by using the 'contact us' link at the foot of this page in the left hand column.
    But here we explore two questions, "Are dog crates cruel?" and "How long can a dog or a puppy be left in a crate or play pen?"

    Are dog crates cruel?

    Simple answer - no, of course not. Read on to see why!
    You will see that most dogs love their crate - it is their own bit of private space.

    "just the right place to go when your dog is tired, nervous or just wants a bit of peace and quiet"

    There are many people who are initially reluctant to crate a dog or puppy because they see it as cruel and think the dog will not like the confinement. Some even liken it to a jail! But this is looking at a crate through human eyes and bringing human thoughts to a very doggy question. A dog or puppy simply has no pre-conceived ideas and assuming you have had the time to correctly crate train your dog, then it will see the crate as a place of security, privacy, quietness and safety. Dogs are by instinct a den animal, and the crate is a den. By crating you are responding to this very basic doggy instinct. It is the opposite of cruelty!
    Of course a dog crate can be abused but that is not the fault of the crate, but a fault of the owner. You will find that using the crate appropriately can help with toilet training, combatting any urge towards destructive behaviour and teaching your dog and puppy to relax and chill out. It should be a place of happiness. By good training, love and patience you can achieve these aims.
    A dog often welcomes the crate as it's own safe place; it's own den; it's own place of refuge. Try leaving the door open when you are around, place a few toys and a bed inside (see previous blog) and you should reap the rewards. Your dog and puppy will love the safety and security that a crate can bring. It is just the right place to go when your dog is tired, nervous or just wants a bit of peace and quiet - perhaps away from children, visitors or even the TV.
    Most dogs love their crate, so time spent on crate training is time well spent and the crate will add enjoyment to your dog's life as well as your own. An added bonus may well be that you use the crate during car trips and travel, in hotels etc., where the relaxation the crate brings will help to combat any other stress or distraction. 
    So no, a crate is not cruel. Used correctly it can be one of the kindest things you can do for your dog or puppy.

    How long can my dog or puppy be left in a crate?

    This depends on many factors including the age of the dog or puppy, and how training has been carried out. How long is too long? There are a few general 'rules of thumb' and these are explained below.

    "Whatever the age of a dog or puppy, it should never be crated for longer than it can control its bowels and bladder."

    The age of your dog or puppy is a big factor, as well as to how you prepare for crating. Your dog should always be thoroughly exercised before any prolonged crating, and given adequate time to eliminate all waste. This way the chance of crate defecation is reduced, and the dog will be much more prepared to sleep. The length of exercise time obviously depends on the breed, and your breeder or vet will be able to guide you here.A big or energetic breed will need a lot of time.
    The crate should be prepared with bedding, toys, water and all the comforts your dog enjoys. The crate should be welcoming. Full crate training must already have been carried out so that your dog is content within the crate. Only then can we begin to think of how long your dog or puppy can be left without a break.
    So, the age of the dog is important.
    It is unreasonable to expect a puppy to be able to control its bladder for very long, so a young puppy can only be left for a short time without the risk of 'accidents'.
    Many behaviourists and experts have an 'hour a month' rule, although it is unreasonable to expect a puppy of up to eight weeks to spend more than an hour crated. It will simply not be able to control its bladder. Whatever the age of a dog or puppy, it should never be crated for longer than it can control its bowels and bladder.
    So, a two month old puppy may be able to last 2 hours crated, a 3 month old 3 hours, and so on. Many experts say that a puppy up to the age of 6 months should spend no more than 3 or at the most 4 hours crated during the day, and give a guide of 6 hours as an optimum maximum time as the dog gets older, although this period may be able to be extended by an hour or two if the dog is comfortable with that. For ourselves (we have scotties) we like to set a 5 hour maximum, but this sometimes has to be extended due to particular circumstances, and if this is the exception rather than the rule then little harm will be done. If you leave your dog or puppy whilst you are at work, please try to get home once or twice during the day to allow the dog to relieve itself, or if this is not possible ask a friend or relative to let the dog out for you. Otherwise hire a dog walker - it probably is not as expensive as you fear, and you will have peace of mind.
    A dog is a social animal and ideally should not be alone for most of the day. If you are away a long time, then as soon as you get back, give your dog some exercise and food.
    Nightime crating is slightly different and the time can be extended so that you get a good sleep as well, although until the puppy is thoroughly toilet trained be prepared for a night of broken sleep.
    It is true that some dogs may suffer from separation anxiety even after a very short time, and may attack the crate, perhaps biting the the mesh. This is not a fault of the crate but is an obvious safety hazard and must be treated seriously, taking advice from your vet as necessary. However, crate training is key, and if your dog is exhibiting behaviour which is unwanted, then the answer is probably training, training and more training.Good behaviour should be rewarded. We will return to this subject in a future blog, but if you are unfortunate enough to have trouble, return to training and take the advice of your vet.
    However, most dogs can be safely left for a reasonable time within their dog crate when planning and training will hopefully be relied on to solve most potential problems.
    In the puppy Q&A section of this website we do have some guidance on owning a puppy and going out to work. You can read this by clicking HERE.
    As with most things to do with a dog's welfare you will find that kindness, consideration, common sense, planning and training will help to overcome most things, and these qualities certainly apply to deciding the length of time you can safely crate your dog, and we hope that these few notes help decide the optimum time for you.

    Future blogs.

    This is an ongoing series of blogs about dog crates and puppy crates which is intended to be of help. If we have not answered whatever is troubling you yet then click on the link below and ask us to write a blog about your concern. Or if you have any other questions about crates, cages, play pens, dog runs, healthy diet or any other doggy question then let us know. If we can help, we will.

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  2. Dog Crates - Where to put them and what to put inside.

    Dog Crates - Where to put them and what to put inside.

    Blogging on dog crates.

    We have been asked many, many questions over the years about dog crates - how to use them, is it cruel to crate (no!), which type of crate is best for you, what size etc etc.
    So we are introducing a series of blogs which will help with most crate questions. This first blog in the series is intended to help with a couple of less obvious, but still important, crating questions. 

    Where should I put my crate in the home?

    The first thing to remember is that dogs are generally social animals and love company, so a crate should never be in a lonely place. But it does depend on how you are using your crate, and what you want out of it.If you are just using it as a bed then remember that a dog likes to sleep - a lot! So it should be in an accessible room whether this be your lounge, kitchen, utility room, hallway or bedroom. If you leave the crate door open then your dog can pop in and out at will.
    Ideally it should be in a busy room where your dog is not alone and can feel a part of what is happening around it. To put the crate in too quiet an area may make your dog feel lonely or isolated, and this is not good. View the crate as you would view your own armchair and put it in an important place in your home and you will find that your dog loves it!
    Do not place it in a draughty area, or in direct sunlight, or too near a fireplace or radiator. I know this can be difficult but it is important that your dog doesn't feel too hot or too cold - take the 'Goldilocks' approach and all will be well.

    What should I put in my dog crate?

    Well, dog crates should be comfortable and welcoming. The comfortable part is quite easy to solve by using a crate mat or piece of Vetbed to take the hardness off the floor. At home, we use both. When we are dog tired we all like to snuggle so you may even consider putting a bed or snugglebag inside the crate, and this will be very popular with your dog.
    You may also consider a water bowl which hooks or clamps on to the crate side - a very popular accessory but perhaps one that should not be used if you are using your dog crate as part of toilet training! 
    And then we come to the fun bit. Especially in the early months and years a dog likes to chew, and you don't want it chewing the crate walls so think about chew toys. It is usually unwise to leave a dog alone with a stuffed toy, or one made from cheaper rubber or plastic, or one with a squeaker as if these are ingested the dog can become seriously ill. So choose your toys and chews carefully and go for a well known brand name such as Kong or Nylabone. Some Kong toys can be stuffed with treats which are always popular, and there is such a variation of Nylabone chews that your dog need never be bored.
    A well planned dog crate and contents will pay dividends. It is a very important place in your dog's life so will find that opting for quality will bring you peace of mind - and a happy dog.

    Future blogs.

    As we said above, this is just the first in a series of blogs about dog crates. If you want us to write about any aspect of dog crates or playpens then please contact us using the link below, and ask. If we can help, we will.

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