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(480) 608-5885 / TLC House & Pet Sitting Service

Crate Training Do’s and Don’ts

For pet owners, a crate may offer several benefits such as: aiding with house training (as dogs do not like to soil the area where they sleep), limiting their pets’ access to the rest of the house, and as a safe way to travel.  However, for a dog, a crate is much more.  Dogs are instinctively den animals.  Their crates serve as their “den.”  Dogs prefer using their crates as a safe place to sleep or take refuge, just as they would use a den to do so in the wild.

Crating Precautions

It is important for owners to foster that sense of security that a dog feels about their crate rather than creating a mood of feeling trapped or frustrated.  Some common mistakes that would cause a dog to experience anxiety while crating them would be: to use a crate as punishment, to leave a dog in their crate for too long without getting human interaction or exercise, confining puppies in crates for longer than 3 hours (which is too long for a puppy to be expected to hold his or her bladder).

Picking the Right Crate for Your Pet

A crate should be the right size for your dog, which would allow your dog to stand up and turn around comfortably.  A crate that is too large may be more difficult to use while house training a dog, since the dog may have room to potty in one corner and sleep in another.  Some options for puppy owners are: renting a smaller crate from a local animal shelter until their puppy is full grown, and then purchase a crate that is the right size for their full grown dog or simply blocking off the excess crate area while the puppy is small.

Crate Training Tips

Crate training should only take days or weeks depending on each individual dog.  Owners should make sure that the process is a positive one for the dog and that they are going at the dog’s pace and not forcing it.  Here are some simple steps to make the process go smoothly:

  1. 1.       Introduce the dog to their new crate- Place the crate in an area where the dog is comfortable and make the crate a relaxing get-away by placing a blanket, towel, toys, and/or treats inside.  The dog will become naturally curious about the crate and want to check it out.
  2. 2.       Feed near the crate- A dog will begin to develop a positive association between the crate and meal times, if fed nearby the crate.
  3. 3.       Start with short intervals- Owners should first crate their pets for short periods of time while still home, to get them used to the idea.
  4. 4.       Crate when leaving home- Once the dog has shown that he/she can be crated for longer and longer intervals without anxiety, then they are ready to be crated while the owner leaves home.  Owners can use a command and/or treat routinely to prompt their dogs to enter the crate.
  5. 5.       Crating through the night- At first, owners should place the crate near their bedrooms, so their pets can feel secure that they are close to their owners while still crated.  Puppies and older pets should be let out to potty even during the night, as their bladders are not capable of holding through the entire night.  The owner can then incrementally move the crate further and further away from the bedroom, once the pet has become accustomed to sleeping in the crate overnight.

Potential Side-Effects

Although crate training does offer many benefits to both owners and pets, owners should be aware of some side-effects along the way.  While crate training, puppies especially, may whine or cry.  Although it is important to make sure that you are not reinforcing the whining behavior by letting the dog out of the crate prematurely, it is also important to give the pet plenty of opportunities to potty.  One way to do so would be to have potty breaks at specific times so the pet has a routine, and knows to expect a potty break at a certain time rather than whenever he/she whines.  Another possible side-effect is separation anxiety, which may be managed through consulting with a professional animal-behavior specialist.  If a pet is displaying signs of hurting himself/herself while attempting to escape the crate or of being especially destructive, please seek help for your pet in order to overcome their separation anxiety.

Information obtained from Human Society 8/17/11.  For more information on this topic and many others, please visit their website at: www.humanesociety.org


Age Appropriate Pets for Your Child

When choosing a family pet, it is wise to take into consideration your child’s abilities and level of understanding in caring of your family pet.  The ASPCA offers some advice on choosing an age appropriate pet for your child as well as pointers on creating a positive relationship between your pet and your child.

Infants- If you already have a pet or if you acquire one while your child is an infant, be sure to closely monitor the time spent between your pet and baby.  They need time to spend short amounts of time together in order to get adjusted to each other.  The amount of time they are together can be increased over time, as they become more comfortable with each other.  Before bringing a new baby home to your pet, some suggest leaving one of the baby’s blankets with the pet, so they can become familiar with the new smell.

Toddlers, Age 1-3- Most toddlers will grab and pull on the ears, fur, legs and tail of your pet.  When adopting a new pet, keep this in mind and select a pet that has a high tolerance for this kind of interaction.  If adopting an older pet, be sure to choose one with a history of living with children.  Also, remember that your toddler will naturally be curious about the food dishes, water bowls, litter boxes, and fish tank equipment.  Keeping these things out of reach will allow for a safer environment for your pet and child.

Young Children, Age 3-5– Your young child may be interested in helping to care for your pet and is learning to develop empathy.  If you already have a pet, allowing your young child to assist you with feeding, brushing, and cleaning the pet will further develop these skills as well as strengthen the bond between your child and pet.  When considering a pet for your young child, ASPCA suggests you consider a guinea pig for your family pet.  They generally don’t bite, they love to be held, and they typically squeal or whistle when they are happy, which can be quite amusing for a young child.

Children Age 5-10– Children at this age are very interested in caring for their pets, with a parent’s supervision.  As they assist in feeding, cleaning, and grooming chores, parents are encouraged to reinforce good hygiene for both the pets and themselves.  When choosing a pet for a child at this age, the ASPCA recommends small pets such as gerbils or fish, as children this age tend to have “inconsistent attention spans.”

Pre-Teen Age 10-13– Preteen youths are often times very engaged in caring for their pets and are fully capable of doing so.  At this age, a pre-teen is usually ready to care for a pet which requires a significant amount of care and attention such as: a dog, cat, rabbit, etc.  Parental supervision is encouraged to ensure pets are not neglected. When choosing a pet for your child at this age, consider your child’s lifestyle and interests.  Active pre-teens should be paired with active pets, such as a playful puppy.  Children who are looking for a pet to love, groom, pet, etc. would be better paired with an older dog or cat that is friendly with children.

Teens Age 13-17– Your teen may love pets and be responsible enough to care for a pet on their own.  At this age, one thing to keep in mind is that your teen may have a very busy lifestyle, with little time to care for a pet.  Also, when selecting a teen’s pet, consider the expected life-span of that pet, and plans for that pet’s care when your teen leaves the home for college.  Some pets such as: lizards and fish may be the perfect pet for your teen and their busy, on-the-go lifestyle.

By understanding how to create a positive relationship between your children and pets, you will allow for a happier, safer home for your entire family.

For more information on this topic and many others, please visit the ASPCA website at: www.aspca.org