To Crate …

… or not to crate, that is the question!  And one frequently discussed when it comes to housetraining issues or adding a new dog to a household.  Many folks view them as “cruel” but — when used properly — they can be your best friend’s best friend.  Seriously. 

Dogs are hardwired with an instinct to “den.”  In the wild, a den (often dug underground) is a safe place … one used for sleeping, raising their young, and protection.  That instinct can be shaped to an owner’s benefit and, at the same time, provide the dog with an area they can call their own.

The canine is an innately clean creature and will generally avoid soiling in the place where it sleeps.  A crate, used in conjunction with a consistent housetraining program, teaches the young dog — or an adult — what is and what isn’t appropriate toileting.  Use of a crate also allows the owner to monitor the dog’s progress more closely and make adjustments accordingly. 

Another aspect of crate training that is often overlooked is the safe haven it provides for the dog.  They view it as their own personal den — a safe place — where they can go to nap or remove themselves from situations which make them uncomfortable such as a very active house, holiday gatherings, small children, thunderstorms, etc.  A crate-trained dog also undergoes less stress at the vet’s office or the groomer.  What’s the first thing the vet or groomer does when you leave your dog there … put them in a crate!  A dog comfortable with a crate will usually settle down quickly.  One that’s not familiar with a crate undergoes a much higher level of stress and anxiety in an already stressful situation. 

Nap time!

A crate-trained dog is easier to travel with as well as being safer in a vehicle.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard stories recounted of a person traveling with dogs loose in the vehicle.  An accident occurs and the dogs are: (1) killed outright from being thrown around the vehicle or ejected from the vehicle; (2) they get loose and run off, never to be seen again, or (3) shot by the highway patrol because they’ve become a danger to other traffic on the roadway when they can’t be caught.  My dogs settle down and sleep in their crates when traveling, making me a better driver as I’m not distracted by them.  Once you arrive at your destination, a crate can be used to keep them comfortable in the hotel room … their home away from home, if you will.

I didn’t use to believe in crates.  Indeed, my first Apso never saw the inside of one and slept with me nightly.  It wasn’t until she was gone that I realized how disrupted my sleep was — I no longer woke up many times during the night to see where she was before turning over or moving in bed.  Ali arrived as a crate-trained adult with the instructions to give crating a try.  Okay, easy enough to set up a crate (or three) in our bedroom.  We’ve never looked back and all dogs, whether mine or a foster, are crate trained.  Indeed, my dogs will put themselves to bed (crate) at night on their own and I often find them napping in them during the day.  Nor is it unusual to find the resident feline curled up in a crate, sleeping.  Ali has a “nite-nite” routine … she’ll run around the house looking for just the “right” toy.  Once found, she comes to the doorway of the front room and stands there, looking at us with the toy in her mouth.  We’ll wave and say “nite-nite” and off to crate she goes, putting herself to bed.

The other night, after staying up late and watching a movie, I was closing crate doors and neglected to shut Franker’s door.  The only reason I know that is because finally, at around 6:00 a.m., he jumped up on the foot of the bed and snuggled in.  His choice was to sleep in his crate rather than our bed the majority of the night.  Ali flat refuses to sleep on our bed despite coaxing on our part.  The lights go out and she’s off the bed, headed for her crate.  That’s her bed … no bones about it!   If the boys get too rambunctious in their play, she goes to her crate removing herself from the chaos.

I also crate my dogs when I’m not at home for longer than an hour or two.  I don’t have to worry if Ali is eating something inappropriate … the boys haven’t injured themselves or broke something with their boisterous wrestling … and the foster dog hasn’t toileted inappropriately.

Kennel up!

Snakes ‘n Snails …

Frankers gardening ...
Frankers out for a morning stroll ...

… and puppy dog tails!  Or, more to the point, why one should consider adding a male dog instead of insisting on a female.

Growing up in a pet-friendly family in the late ’50s, the mindset was you always wanted a female because the males “marked.”  I’m sure they did as neutering, training and responsible pet-ownership (including not allowing the dogs to run the neighborhood at large) were not the norm.  Vaccinations were not widespread and distemper claimed many a pet.  What a difference 50+ years has made in companion animal care!

“Marking” is the act of releasing small amounts of urine to claim an area as their own.  Both males and females will engage in this territorial behavior; however, it’s with intact males that it generally becomes more noticeable … and especially when they bring this behavior into the home.  Basically, they’re saying “this is mine and I’m willing to fight for it.”  And when one considers the focus of an intact male dog — food, fighting and, ummm, well, fornicating — they generally don’t make good pets for the average owner.  Take away the last two parts to that equation … fighting and fornicating … by neutering and you have a dog that’s focused on you.  One that’s not climbing over the fence at the first whiff of a female in heat.  One that’s totally content being your velcro dog, following you from room to room.  Some females will do that as well, but the males are just … sweeter.  And, let’s face it.  They don’t call ’em “bitches” for nothing.  Their job, if you will, is to raise the pups and at all costs. 

Many of the male dogs arriving in rescue are intact and with little or no housetraining.  First order is business is an immediate neuter.  During the recovery period, they’re enrolled in Housetraining 101.  We also utilize a tether (a 4-6 foot leash) and belly bands if the dog arriving was previously neutered.  Why belly bands?  For several reasons — (1) you know exactly if they are “getting” the concept of housetraining (the incontinence pad in the band is either dry or wet), (2) it protects your furnishings during the training period, and (3) many dogs do not like the wet feel and that’s a deterent in and of itself.  The tether is used as a means of supervision (he’s right there with you) and as a means of issuing a correction (short, sharp jerk of the tether and a verbal command “no mark!”).  With consistency, patience and clear guidance on what is and isn’t appropriate behavior, most males quickly adapt to toileting outside. 

Another “tool” for training is the crate.  Dogs are innately clean creatures who will not usually soil their eating and sleeping areas.  That hardwired behavior can be used to your benefit when housetraining by confining them to a crate when unable to supervise and giving them ample opportunity to toilet in a designated area (with lots of immediate praise/treats for appropriate behavior).

Regarding the belly bands at the link provided above … I find the adjustable bands are much more comfortable for the boys.  Just the shape alone is more form fitting and allows for greater freedom of movement.  One of the straps is adjustable so it can be used on dogs close to the same size in diameter (for multiple male househoulds).  I also find the buckle easier/quicker to use on dogs with longer hair.  Velcro and longer hair do not mix.  The only “issue” with using belly bands:  one must remember to remove them prior to sending the dog outside to potty!

So, if you’re seriously thinking about adding an Apso to your household, don’t rule out a male based on gender alone.  They truly are delightful little creatures who easily adapt with consistent training and the right tools … and will become your best buddy in the process.