To crate or not to crate?

Published9/9/2008 12:07 AM

Q. I have a new puppy and he needs to be potty trained. I have heard about crate training. I am hesitant to use this method because it seems cruel?

- Annette Green, Woodridge


A. Crate training is a useful tool to help while housebreaking and when used properly is far from cruel. Many dog owners use this tool and then realize that the crate has become a safe den that your dog will go to if the kids are getting too rough, or the thunderstorm too loud. A dog's crate often becomes that little piece of comfort and sanctuary for them to enjoy as their very own.

When using a crate it is a good idea to make it as comfortable as possible by using toys and a soft blanket, maybe even a sweat shirt you don't mind sharing that smells like you. Initially a crate should only be large enough to allow your dog to stand, turn around and lay down comfortably. This is the part that may seem cruel, but it isn't. This is simply a way to communicate with your dog to hold it until you get back. They will not usually mess where they have to sleep. Rest assured that is what your bouncy pup does when you are away - sleep and wait.

Please note that with small puppies their bladders simply cannot hold it as long as older dogs, so no more than four hours in the crate at a time is recommended. If you work full-time, an option may be to enlist a neighbor or a pet-sitter to help with the midday walk. Set your pup up for success and they will be potty trained in no time!

Somewhere in the recesses of the domestic dog's mind is the instinct to be a den dweller. You will find even if you opt not to utilize a crate that your dog may find a place that is similar - like under a coffee table or under a kitchen chair.

With this in mind, remember to remind children that when the dog goes in his/her "house", that alone time is needed and not to disturb or follow in after the dog.

• Kerry Vinkler is director of DuPage County Animal Care and Control. To submit a question, e-mail; send a letter to 120 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton, IL 60187; visit; or call (630) 407-2800.

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