Some dog owners are as strongly opposed to crates and kennels as others are in favor of them.
Many people see them as cruel torture chambers. Dogs generally see them as their own special place, a safe haven, a den, where they can go for a little quiet time.
A dog not liking a kennel would have spent way too many hours locked inside of one.
For the purposes of this column, we are speaking of an individual kennel or crate made of molded plastic or wire as opposed to a large kennel in the yard or the place we take our dogs when we go on vacation.
Most breeders and dog trainers recommend kennels. They provide an excellent way to house-train a new puppy. They also keep a pup safe and out of trouble while alone.
One of the biggest assets of a kennel is that it is a space that the dog is familiar with that can go with him wherever he goes. If he has to stay in a boarding kennel for a while, or with friends or family away from his home, his own space can go with him. It provides familiarity and comfort. In case of a family emergency when there is already an excess of stress, one's own space is most welcome and comforting.
All dogs should be trained to be confined in a kennel or crate even if it might never be used after house-training.
The fires last summer necessitated that many dogs be confined in a strange place. It was obvious that many of them were not accustomed to being confined and the situation was extremely stressful for them. If the family had been able to bring the dog's own crate with his own bedding, it would have been so much easier for the dog.
Some dogs stay in a kennel during the night. Some stay in the kennel when their people are away.
When confinement is not necessary, the door can be left open. You will be surprised at how often the dog chooses to go into the kennel for a nap.
We think dogs hate kennels. Dogs do not hate kennels if they have been introduced to them slowly and positively.
Dogs in the wild live in caves. They like that feeling of security, that closeness.
If there are small children in the house, it is of great value to have a kennel available for the dog. Young children can be a little overwhelming, especially to a young dog. Or if the dog gets a little irritable or rambunctious with the children, he can have a time out in the crate.
The crate should never be used for punishment. The dog will not understand what he did wrong and will only remember that you stick him in there when you get annoyed with him. If he needs discipline, deal with the crime, administer the punishment and then let it go. However, it is acceptable to put the dog into the crate if he is over-excited and needs time and space to settle down. We want him to see the crate as his little home, not as a chamber of horrors.
When choosing a crate, get one that is large enough for the dog when he is full grown to stand up, turn around and lie down comfortably. Also keep in mind your lifestyle. The molded plastic ones provide more of a den feeling while most of the wire ones fold easily for storage and transport. The wire ones can be covered to create that den feeling. A warm cover can be used in the winter and a light sheet in the summer. If you should buy a used crate, be sure to clean it with a strong disinfectant. You never know what kind of illnesses may have lived inside.
Crate training should be part of basic obedience training for all dogs. A crate provides a comfortable, secure home for your dog wherever he may have to be. After all, it is his home.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.