Vizsladogs, Ltd.
Puppy Crating

by Patty Mead

Some folks have asked what the difference is between writing an article and compiling it -- basically a written article I thought of, researched, and wrote all by myself while a compiled one is where I rely heavily upon other writers taking their ideas and compiling all the sources into one article. Over time, as these articles change, based in part on feedback from you, these articles start to look less like the ones they were compiled from and more like an original piece. Does this help?

What is a dog crate?

A dog crate is an enclosure with a top, bottom, sides, and a door. It is made with a variety of of materials, usually rectangular in shape, but with a variety of sizes proportioned to fit any dog. Usually, it is constructed of metal or wire, molded fiberglass, or plastic. The crates are usually divided up by their use, namely, a home crate and a travel crate. The most practical home dog crate for the Vizsla puppy owner is a collapsible wire mesh type, available from most all supply places. Lightweight and easily handled, it allows total ventilation and permits the puppy to see everything going on. The solid metal, or fiberglass/plastic airline crates can also serve the purpose, but they restricts air and vision, are less convenient to handle or transport, and have a limited size selection -- however these types are best for travel.

What is it used for? Why should I crate a puppy?

In general, its purpose is to provide secure confinement for the Vizsla. Reasons for using any type of dog crate are: travel, security, housebreaking, safety, protection, and so on. People usually crate train their Vizsla puppy for many good reasons.

  • When you have to leave your Vizsla puppy alone you can be assured that the puppy will not destroy anything or be injured.
  • By crating you are also guaranteed that the Vizsla puppy will not use the house as a toilet.
  • The crate can provide a den at night should you decide not to have your Vizsla sleep with you (which, by the way, is their preferred arrangement.)
  • The crate can effectively confine your Vizsla at special times, such as parties when the pup may be underfoot, those times when workers such as carpenters are in your house, when kids come over who love pulling dog tails, and even when the dog is not feeling well. It can also be a den that the dog seeks out when tired.
  • Crates can allow your Vizsla to travel with you without risk. Risks can include a driver being distracted by a squirming dog, or the dog could get loose while you open a door to get out, or during an accident it can prevent injury to the Vizsla or to an occupant by a Vizsla.

How can it help with housebreaking?

The general wisdom is that you can housebreak your puppy quickly by using the close confinement of the crate to encourage control -- dogs naturally do not like to soil their den. By confining and releasing the puppy at set times you can establish a regular routine for outdoor elimination which can help prevent "accidents" when left alone.

Use the Crate, Don’t Abuse the Dog

The use of a dog crate is NOT recommended for a dog which must be frequently or regularly left alone for extended periods of time-such as all or much of the day while the owner is away at work, school, etc. If it is attempted, the dog must be well exercised both before and after crating, given lots of personal positive attention, and be allowed complete freedom at night (including sleeping near his owner.) His crate must be large enough to permit him comfortably to stretch out fully on his side and to feel that he has freedom of movement. It must also be equipped with a clip-on dish for water.

In the case of a puppy, the crate must be used strictly as a "play-pen" for general confinement, having plenty of space for a cozy box for sleeping at one end and papers for elimination at the other, with clip-on dishes for water and for dry food. Although a puppy can be raised in this manner, the limited human supervision may result in his being poorly adjusted socially and difficult to housebreak and to train in general.

Crate or no crate, any dog constantly denied the human companionship it needs and craves is going to be a lonely pet-and may still find ways to express anxiety, depression, and general stress.

What size should I get?

A crate should always be large enough to permit any dog to stretch out flat on its side without being cramped. The dog should also be able to sit up without hitting the top of the crate with its head. Get the size of crate that accommodates the adult dog -- the adult size of a Vizsla is fairly easy to predict, look at the parents for a starting place. In general, it is recommended to always use a crate slightly too large rather than one too small.

However, a crate too large for a young puppy can defeat its purpose of providing security and promoting bowel control, so the space should always be limited in the beginning. The exception to this is when the crate is being used as an over-all pen. If a small crate is unavailable for temporary use, then reduce the space of an adult size crate with a reversed carton box, or a moveable/removable partition made of materials such as wood, etc. (I wouldn’t use a pillow-a puppy could chew it up and maybe choke on pieces or wire since a puppy could get it’s mouth caught on it if the spaces between the wires are too large.)

For a fully grown adult dog measure the distance from tip of nose to base (not tip) of tail and use a crate close to, but not less than, this length. The height and width of most crates are properly proportioned to the length, including the convenient "slant-front" models designed to fit station wagons and hatchbacks.

The Crate’s placement

Using a crate is meant to confine a dog, but not to use it to make him feel isolated or banished. Accordingly, it should be placed in, or as close as possible to, the family area (kitchen, family room etc). To provide an even greater sense of den security and privacy, it should be put in a corner and/or have the sides and back loosely draped with a sheet, large towel, or light blanket which can easily be adjusted for desired visibility or air.

How to Crate train a puppy

A young puppy (8-16 weeks) should have no problem accepting a crate as its "own place." Any complaining it might do at first is caused not by the crate, but by it learning to accept the controls of an unfamiliar and new environment.

Place the crate in the "people" area in a spot free from drafts and not too near a direct heat source. For bedding, use an old towel or piece of blanket which can be washed (should he have an accident) and some freshly worn unlaundered article of your clothing such as a tee shirt, old shirt, sweater etc. Avoid putting newspaper in or under the crate, since its odor may encourage elimination; corrugated cardboard is better if there is no floor pan with the crate. A puppy need not be fed in the crate and for shorter periods of time water does not need to be left. If there is a water dish in the crate, expect it to be dumped.

Make it very clear to children that the crate is NOT a playhouse for them, but a "special room'. for the puppy, whose rights should be recognized and respected. However, you should accustom the puppy from the start to letting you reach into the crate at any time, lest he become overprotective of it.

Establish a "crate routine" by closing the puppy in it at regular 1 to 2 hour intervals during the day (his own chosen nap times will guide you) and whenever he must be left alone for up to 3-4 hours. Give him a chew toy (I wouldn’t put rawhide-a Kong toy would be better especially if peanut butter is put in the center) for distraction and be sure to remove the puppy’s collar and tags which could become caught in an opening. At night, in the beginning, you may prefer to place the crate, with the door left open and newspapers nearby, in a small enclosed area such as a bathroom, laundry room, your bedroom or hall. If you do decide to crate the puppy at night you must expect crying and highly vocal complaining at all hours. (With the crate it is a little easier to endure and ignore the sounds if you know that the Vizsla puppy is not uncomfortable.)

Even if things do not go too smoothly at first DON'T WEAKEN and DON'T WORRY; be consistent, be firm, and be aware that you are doing your pet a favor by preventing him from getting into trouble while left alone.

Increase the space Inside the crate as the puppy grows so that he remains comfortable. If you do not choose, or are not able, to use a crate permanently, plan to use it for at least 5 or 6 months or until the dog is well past the teething phase-then start leaving the crate door open at night, when someone is at home during the day, or when he is briefly left alone. If all goes well for a week or two, and the dog seems reliable when left alone, remove the crate itself and leave the bedding in the same spot; although he will probably miss the crate enclosure, that spot will have become "his own place" and his habit of good behavior should continue. Should any problem behavior occur at a future time, however, the decision whether or not to use a crate longer or perhaps permanently, will have been made for you!

Even after a long period without a crate, a dog which has been raised in one will readily accept it again should the need arise for travel, illness, behavior etc. and may really welcome its return.

The Crate isn’t the ultimate answer

Although a crate can indeed be used successfully by most pet owners, there are always those animals which simply can or will not tolerate this or any form of confinement. This reaction Is not nearly as common with a young puppy (but it does happen!) as with an adult dog, especially an "adoptee" of unknown background, a dog which may somehow have suffered a traumatic frightening experience while crated, or an unadaptable "senior citizen.' Some Vizslas have a special aversion to crates or show no desire to keep one clean. In some cases, a dog will use a crate readily as long as the door remains open, but will object violently the moment it is closed and/or when left alone. If, despite every effort, the Vizsla puppy is obviously frantic and totally miserable when confined to a crate, forcing him to use one is inhumane and can result in real physical injury. So the key is to know your dog and find what you and your puppy can live with. (It should be stressed here, however, that the potential negative reactions represent the exception rather than the rule, and that most Vizslas can be successfully trained to use a crate.)

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