Frequently, the value of crate or kennel training for dogs and cats has been discussed in this column.
Dogs are den animals and most are very happy to spend time in a kennel. If available, dogs will seek out the kennel as a cozy place for a nap or a little quiet time.
There are times when crate training comes in particularly handy. One of these is during house training.
A puppy does not willingly soil his own space. Using the crate wisely and paying close attention when the pup is free in the house greatly reduces the stress of house training.
The value of crate training is especially obvious during an emergency. Medical emergencies, evacuation or an unplanned trip all could lead to having the pet displaced.
If your pet is comfortable in his kennel, the time spent away from home will be far less traumatic. The crate goes where he goes.
Several types of kennels are on the market today. The hard plastic kennels are very den-like. For a small dog or a cat, they are probably the most comfortable and they are easy to carry around. However, in the larger sizes, they are cumbersome.
If you plan to travel with your large dog, a folding wire kennel might be the best bet. The new soft-sided kennels are great for travel because they are light and fold up flat. They may not be a good choice for a cat, an active puppy or an overly energetic adult because they are made out of fabric.
A kennel should be large enough that the adult dog or cat has room to stand up and turn around. If you buy a crate or kennel for a puppy, make sure it will be large enough for him as an adult, but put a box or partition in it so that it provides a cozy space for the puppy.
Ideally, a puppy should have two kennels. A wire one in the family living area makes him feel like part of the family while he has to be confined. But at bed time, the kennel should be in the bedroom with a family member so that he does not feel alone.
Don't put the poor fellow in the dark laundry room by himself. Imagine how frightening that would be?
When introducing a dog or cat to the kennel, proceed slowly. Fix up the crate with nice comfortable bedding, some chew toys and a soft cuddly stuffed animal.
If it is a wire crate, cover two thirds with a sheet or light blanket to provide a secure feeling. Leave the door open and allow the pet to enter at will. If he does not willingly go in, feed him his meals in there.
At first only close the door for a few minutes. Sit beside him and talk to him. Do not let him out if he is whining or barking as this teaches him that if he wants out, he should make noise.
The best way to accustom a cat to a kennel is to convince him that it is all his idea. Keep the crate in the corner and put wonderfully soft blankets in there. Leave the door open. Chances are he will seek out this place by himself.
If he does not, throw in irresistible treats occasionally. As a last resort, put him in and close the door for fifteen minutes. Then let him out and give him lots of attention. Here again, do not let him out unless he is quiet. Repeat this daily until he is comfortable and quiet in the crate.
A trip to the vet will be less traumatic if a cat is comfortable in the crate. Cats traveling in the car should always be in a crate. Many cats have escaped from car windows, never to be seen again.
With puppies or adult dogs that are not house trained, the kennel is a great tool. But remember that although a dog does not want to soil his own space, he needs to be taken out often enough to relive himself.
A young puppy needs to get out every hour or so until he is trained. Once trained, the hours in the crate should be limited. A rule of thumb is your puppy's age plus one month. A 4-month-old puppy should not be expected to spend more than five hours at a time in the kennel.
A kennel should never be used for punishment.
If you must be gone for a full day, fix up a larger space in the bathroom or kitchen. Put the kennel in that space with the door open. Training pads, a litter box or newspapers work in case of emergency. Make sure there are plenty of toys and chew bones available as well as his soft cuddly stuffed animal.
If your dog will have to be alone for long hours, consider getting a companion for him. Music in the background might provide some company during a long day.
Kennel training is a must for dogs and cats, but never should a kennel be a way of life. Pets are companions. They want to be part of the family.
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.