Before we are too far into the fear of fire season, it's a good time to discuss the use of crates for both dogs and cats. Some view crates or indoor kennels as prisons. Those who have raised dogs with kennels know how much the dog loves escaping into his kennel for a rest or some quiet.
Wild dogs, coyotes and wolves live in caves.
A kennel is a dog's very own cave. It has his smell and is comfortable. It contains his blanket or rug, a few bones or chew toys and his favorite stuffed animal. In an emergency, be it fire or sickness which takes the family and pet away from home and into unfamiliar surroundings, a kennel to which he is accustomed is very comforting.
Kennels and crates are only bad when we leave the pet confined for extended periods of time because we have not taken the time to train him and he is misbehaving or destructive in the house. A kennel should never be used for punishment.
Dogs and cats can get used to being in a crate at any age, but for the older pet, it takes a little extra effort. Begin by leaving the door open and feeding him inside. Place wonderful tasty treats and toys in there as lures. When he is comfortable, close the door for five minutes. Increase this time gradually. Once he is comfortable with the door closed for an hour, he will be fine.
When buying a crate, size is important. The dog must be able to stand up, lie down comfortably and turn around when fully grown. If you buy this larger size when the dog is a small puppy, put some sort of divider or box inside where he gets the benefit of coziness and security. Be sure that the kennel will fit into or on top of your vehicle.
Kennels come in a variety of styles and colors and now, many are designed to make a fashion statement. The high impact molded plastic variety has wire vent grills and door. If you plan to fly with your dog, be sure to buy one that is airline approved, which is stated on the label. These kennels give the dog a wonderful sense of being in his cave. Also, the door is normally removable so he can come and go as he wishes. By removing the top half, the pet has a cozy bed. These crates are great for cats and easy to carry around in the smaller sizes. However, the larger sizes are bulky to transport and store.
Wire crates are open and allow the dog to see what is going on around him. A cover can be put over it when the dog needs peace and quiet or at night. You can cover the back half to meet the cave instinct, providing quiet and semidarkness and leave the front open. Normally, the door is not removable.
There are many styles of wire crates. Those that fold up like a suitcase are a little more expensive but well worth the extra price as they are easy to store away, load in the car and carry around. For very large dogs, there are kennels where all the panels come apart for transport and storage. Some kennels fold flat but end up being long and unwieldy. If you have one of these, you will know of what I speak. Wire crates are heavy.
The new trend is the soft sided kennel. These are light weight and great for traveling pets. Weighing less than 10 pounds even for the largest size, they set up in seconds. There is even one designed for camping trips, Fido's very own tent. Both dogs and cats find these comfortable.
Most are open on all sides with a nylon coated mesh. If you find yourself lugging a kennel around quite frequently, these are the greatest.
Cats are not fond of change or being introduced to new places. Being accustomed to his own space which is transportable can come in very handy and provide great comfort for the cat.
A crate is invaluable when it comes to housebreaking a new puppy, or even an untrained adult dog that comes into your household. The trick is to take the dog outside at regular intervals immediately after a stay in the kennel. Unfortunately, we tend to leave a puppy in the crate for too many hours. Three to four hours is maximum for any dog other than during the night.
If you need to be away from home and have your dog stay with someone else for a few days, having his own home with him is very comforting. And if fire forces evacuation, wherever the dog will be, his kennel can be with him. During the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, dogs brought to the dog park who were not accustomed to being kenneled had a very hard time.
Getting your pets accustomed to being kenneled is a big plus for them and for you.
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.