Cage vs. Crate
By Doreen Stapelberg, Guild Certified TTouch Practioner 2 for Companion Animals
A cage is an enclosure that holds an animal captive. A crate is a very different thing. It is possibly the best investment one can make when a new puppy joins a family. It is best to purchase a crate that will be big enough for the dog to comfortably fit into once it is fully grown, because a crate’s usefulness does not end when puppy is house-trained!
Let’s presume that you arrive home with puppy, and her new crate. Put a cosy bed in it for her and encourage her to go into it by throwing treats in, or a toy that she will follow. Do not close the door. Make sure that it is securely fastened in the open position, so that it never bangs and frightens, or worse, hits, puppy. Encourage puppy to go in, and let her come out at will. After a play or walk session, give puppy a biscuit or toy in the crate, and see if she won’t settle down and sleep there. Going into a den is a natural thing for canines – it is a safe haven for them, and this is what you want for your new family member – a safe, cosy place that is her own, to sleep in, and not be worried in. Teach children that when puppy goes into her “den”, she needs time on her own to rest or sleep and should not be interfered with. The crate should be placed in a quiet area of the home. If you are like me, you will put it in your bedroom, as it is going to be used for house training at night.
After you have taken puppy out for her last walk at night, prior to bed time, put her in the crate with a biscuit or chew, and close the door. If she whines or scratches, talk to her, but do not let her out. Do not scold her or smack the crate to make her keep quiet – being in her crate should always be a positive experience. Once she is asleep, you had best go to sleep quickly too, because at some stage you are going to be woken by puppy crying or scratching to get out. Dogs do not, as a rule, soil their sleeping quarters, and as puppies only really gain control of their bladders at around 5 months of age, when puppy needs to go, she needs to do so urgently! Pick puppy up and carry her quickly outside, where you will be able to praise her lavishly for going on the lawn, and not inside. Do not try to call puppy out, she probably won’t make it outside, and every “failure” makes it more probable that she will do it inside again.
When puppy has had a few minutes to relieve herself, pick her up again and put her back in her crate. NO playing! This is strictly a toilet routine! This might happen a few times a night at first, but soon puppy will learn the drill, she will settle, and waking you up will happen less and less. It IS a sleep disturbing procedure, but you end up with a dog that will always let you know when she needs to go out, day or night. It really is worth it!
So what else is a crate useful for?
- Travelling. Your car interior is protected, and so is your dog. Not only is your dog kept safe in a crate, in a vehicle, she also has her own bed, in a place she feels safe, wherever you may be. This is invaluable when away from home. You can leave your dog in the crate while you go shopping, to movies etc. with friends, knowing that she is safe and comfortable, not running around looking for you, perhaps trying to escape a strange house or room, or ending up in a fight with your friend’s dog or cat! Your friend’s/family’s home is also not messed in, chewed or otherwise damaged in any way.
- Keeping people, especially children, from touching or hurting your dog. This is so important at shows, but may be great at home too, when those naughty little children come visiting!
- Keeping visitors, who are not dog friendly, from being bothered by your dog. You may have an elderly parent, grandparent or friend that is in danger of being tripped up, jumped upon or knocked over when they visit you. It is not fair to have to lock your dog in another room while you have company, being in a crate allows them to be with you, while your guests are kept happy and safe!
- A crate becomes a safe haven for a dog. Dogs that are afraid of thunderstorms and fireworks will often be completely calm in a crate. The crate can be covered with a blanket to make it extra cosy and den-like.
- If you take your dog to training classes or workshops, they can be safely contained in their crate while you have a drinks or toilet break; no need to ask some poor person to hold the leash with a whining, pulling dog on the end of it, while you rush off for a few seconds!
- Décor. I’m serious! I have a fabulous Burgundy canvas crate, which matches the curtains in my study, and is the sought after place in that room! If you don’t get the crate, you have to lie on the carpet! Crates come in all sizes and materials these days – there’s one to suit even the most discerning of dogs! Just please don’t get one of those metal jobs! They are HEAVY, difficult to carry without cracking your shins, and a nightmare to set up without losing a piece of a finger, uncomfortable for the dog –and – they look like a cage!
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