By Ruthie Bently
You’ve just gotten a new puppy and you decide to purchase a crate because it was suggested by your breeder or a friend. You have never had a dog before, let alone a crate; what do you do now? There are several guidelines when getting a crate for your puppy. I suggest getting the crate for the adult size of the dog, this way you are only purchasing one crate. As rapidly as your puppy is going to grow in the first six months of its life, you could end up with half a dozen crate changes depending on the size of the breed you pick.
When you are purchasing a crate for any dog, they should be able to walk into it, and have the ability to turn around and lay down. They don’t have to be able to hold their heads up when standing, but they should be able to walk in without bending their legs to get in. You can use a cardboard box from the grocery store to block off the back end of the crate and you can cut it back to give the dog more room as they grow and become housebroken.
Because dogs are pack animals they look at their crate as their den, which makes them feel more secure. You should place the crate in a major traffic area of the household. I usually suggest the kitchen, but it doesn’t have to be in the middle of the kitchen’s traffic pattern. You can use any room you like, but since you are using the crate to housebreak your puppy at the same time, you want the floor of the room you choose to be easy to clean.
There are several kinds of crates available; check with your breeder to see whether you should get metal or plastic. I actually use a plastic airline kennel in the house and have a metal crate for traveling. A machine washable and dryable crate pad or towels placed in the crate will make it more comfortable. I actually buy cotton blankets at sales and cut them into four equal pieces. This way I always have a spare blanket in case of an accident.
You should not leave a young puppy in a crate for more than a few hours at a time and never more than six hours after they are an adult. Before crating a puppy for the night, you should take them out to go potty as late as you can. Some people suggest putting the dog to bed by early evening, but I have found that if you are up late, the puppy may be as well. So if you are still up at midnight, take out the puppy. Alternatively, the first thing you should do in the morning after getting up is get the puppy out of their crate and take them out to go potty. So if you are an early riser, it will not hurt the puppy to go out; remember their bladders are not completely developed yet and they may not be able to hold it.
I have used crates for all four of my dogs and am very glad I did. Nimber was a stinker when it came to the teething stage; and because Skye was raised in a kennel, she had access to outdoors 24/7, which she doesn’t have here. Crate training helped her to realize she should be going potty outdoors on grass, not inside on tile.
A crate is a wonderful place for a puppy time out as long as you don’t use it for punishment. It can be useful if you need to go out, and don’t want the puppy getting into anything while you are gone. It can also protect your puppy if you need a secure place to put them for a short time. Just think of it as your four-legged child’s playpen, except that it has a top.
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