About the Crate

Originally written by Cynthia Nist, Synordik Siberians, minor modifications made by Jamesa Maulden.

The "crate", or kennel, is a new and strange idea to many people. Often, to those familiar with only the traditional backyard pets and farmyard dogs, it seems to represent an unkindness. The purpose of what follows is to explain how a crate can be used as a constructive tool to make life easier, happier and safer for your dog (and you!). Why is the crate coming into common use among pet owners? Basically, it is because the role of the pet dog is changing with our society. It is no longer acceptable or humane to allow pets to roam free through our neighborhoods. Even in semi-rural and rural settings, people are generally more sensitive about the nuisance created by improperly controlled dogs. The crate is simply a very versatile way of keeping a dog where he is controlled yet comfortable. It is a short-term substitute for the freedom of the house, back yard, or kennel. Ask a breeder or handler of dogs.

Watch a dog who is accustomed to his crate and enjoys its privacy and restfulness. It has always reminded me of a "fort", like the kind children make out of card tables and blankets, where they feel that they have created their own home. The crate, properly used, becomes a place where the dog, like a child, can curl up by himself, in complete safety - in the house, in the car or wherever circumstances may dictate that he is not the center of attention at the moment.  

Needless to say, few dogs would enjoy "living in a crate" - although show dogs may enjoy their lives "on the road" so much that they will happily spend long periods with more time in the crate than out. For the pet dog, the crate should be used for a few hours at a time. Examples: when he is left alone in the house for a few minutes to a few hours, and for some reason it is preferred not to put him outside; when visitors are going in and out, perhaps leaving doors and gates ajar; or when visitors who may not enjoy the dog's attentions when they arrive but one does not wish to banish the dog from the house. He can happily watch all that is going on, and he can be close to his people. He cannot help himself to something from the kitchen; absentmindedly chew an electric cord; or, unroll all of the Charmin! His owner has the peace of mind of knowing that he is comfortable and safe. It goes without saying that a dog in a crate travels in utmost safety. Dogs have survived untouched from the most serious imaginable automobile accidents, due to the protection of their crates. Such a simple precaution!

For a Siberian, a crate of about 36 x 24 x 21 inches is more than adequate. The Kennel-Aire models 148 and 152 are excellent-- portable, collapsible, lightweight and they are long lasting. Airlines sell travel kennels of molded fiberglass, also lightweight and versatile. If you expect to travel by air with your dog, you would do well to purchase an airline style crate at the start and use it at home too. Size 400 is usually adequate for an adult Siberian. Training a puppy or dog to accept and enjoy his crate is much like leash training. It requires only common sense, patience and consistency. Some dogs accept crates readily, especially if they are given something to chew on. Even those who object at first will soon catch on, curl up, and go to sleep - even on an airplane. Just remember, don't reward a dog's objections by talking to him or opening the door to the crate - instead, just walk away, letting him know that this is nothing to be upset about. If you take the attitude that "poor little puppy" has to stay in his crate, he will know it instantly, and take full advantage! Return after a short time at first, praise him, and let him out. Use common sense, and only crate him when he is not in need of relieving himself, and preferably when he is ready for rest or sleep anyway. Increase the time spent int the crate gradually, up to a few hours. If you wish to put something soft into the crate to make it more "comfy", watch to be certain that it is not eaten and chewed - this can be very dangerous. I find the crate to be an extremely useful tool in housebreaking a new puppy. A Siberian will seldom foul his own sleeping quarters.

Remember that his noise and displeasure isn't directed at the crate as much as it is directed at being confined, being away from his littermates, being away from you and just plain confusion over the situation. Many people say that their dog hates the crate because the dog cries, but in reality, any type of confinement and/or separation would cause the same fuss from the dog...it is just that the crate is the safest place to confine him where he can't hurt himself or destroy property.

However, only leave the puppy in the crate when you can hear him when he awakes or when you can check on him every few hours. I recommend that a puppy spend his first few nights in his new home in a crate in the owner's bedroom. This creates bonding and helps overcome loneliness. Be certain to let the puppy out frequently (yes, at 3:00 am, too) as he isn't used to controlling his bladder. They will soon become accustomed to your routine and seldom require to be let out during the night. But do not use this as an excuse to move the crate out of hearing range. It is not fair to crate a puppy when he has no choice but to foul his sleeping area. If this situation is not one you wish to try, simply put the puppy in a safe area for the first few nights where he has adequate room to go to the bathroom and to sleep in a clean area.

To make the crate a special place, I frequently feed the dogs while in their crates or give them a bone or biscuit upon closing the door. That way, whenever there is a knock on the door, or I decide to run an errand, to the signal "kennel up" brings them all, pushing past each other to get into the crate first! The denning instinct says "this one's mine!". If you still have any reservations about using a crate for your pet, please take into account the fact that the only puppy from our kennel ever lost would still be at home had his owners accepted the use of a crate as part of their routine. Instead, they left him unsupervised in their fenced yard for two hours, and a small hole told the story when they returned home. They meant to be kind to him, but that wasn't the way it worked out. Kindness isn't always what it seems. Certainly when the crate is seen through the dog's eyes, as I see it, it is a most kind and convenient way to simplify life and provide the best possible care for any people-loving, comfort-loving dog like the Siberian.

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