A Kinder, More Humane Alternative to "Crating" Your Dog
by Arlene Scarbrough
Scarbrough Fair Great Danes
Harlequins, Blacks, Mantles and Merles Since 1970
I have been breeding danes since 1970; have owned over 100; have bred over 100 litters; and have found loving homes for well over one thousand puppies over the years. I was a practicing canine behavior specialist for many years. In all of these years, the most abused "training aid" I have ever seen is "the crate".
Apparently, common sense and logic are now critically endangered traits for humans. Many people have apparently totally lost their ability to empathize with others, including our "best friends".
Think about this: you wake in the morning; use the restroom; eat something; and then you are told that you have to go to the bathroom again for the last time for the next 8, 10 or 12 hours. Think you’d pass this test? I doubt it!!! How can anyone possibly expect our best friends to be able to do this day after day?
Animals are not too much different from us, except they actually are a lot kinder than humans. When you crate a dane, you cannot provide a nice comfortable bed; a water supply unlikely to be spilled; a guilt free place to potty; and an area large enough to fully stretch, both upward and outward. If the dane does happen to soil his/her crate, it’s difficult to clean, especially if he/she has walked through it or laid in it…..and the result is guaranteed not to put you in a good mood when you encounter the situation!
A Better Alternative Than Crating
The manner of containment that I am about to recommend is much healthier physically and emotionally for your dog; it’s easier to clean; doesn’t really cost much more, if any; can accommodate two dogs, if necessary; is 100% effective in protecting you house and its floor from damage; and has a good resale value.
Find a room in your house where you can basically clear an 8’ x 8’ area….a den, spare bedroom, family room. Don’t panic, as it won’t be forever! Home Depot carries everything you will need. Buy 2 4’x 8’ sheets of tile board (can be smooth white, look like ceramic tile, or look like brick, etc.) and lay them side by side on your floor in the containment area. The tile board is much thinner than plywood but is tough and costs under $20 a sheet. Tape the seam with gray duct tape. Now, you have an eight foot by eight foot area with the floor protected from water, scratches, etc.
Next you need to purchase 3 blank (no gate) 6’ x 6’ chain link kennel panels (generally under $50 each) and one gated chain link kennel panel, 6’ x 6’ (generally under $70). I call these portable chain link panels, but Home Depot calls them kennel panels. Make sure the chain link is securely attached to the round rails (you can use cable ties to super secure the attachment). These panels are wonderful, and securing 8 clamps (they come with the panels) with eight screws and nuts will give you a 6’ x 6’ x6’ kennel enclosure. You should erect the kennel on top of your tile board and place the kennel so that you see one foot of tile board outside of the kennel on all sides.
Now for kennel set up, folks, use your head to minimize potential mess. Make the dane’s sleeping area along the gated panel but behind the gate if you were to open it inward. If you have room to open it outward, you can make the entire gated side of the kennel the sleeping area. You can put a dog bed, dog mattress, folded comforters, folded blankets, or whatever you want to use for bedding….we use blankets and comforters.
Put down several layers of newspaper along the back side of the kennel as the bathroom area (this is the area directly across from the panel with the gate in it). You don’t want newspaper in front of the gate because you don’t want your dog to have to walk through dirty paper when exiting the kennel.
In order to keep the excited dane from stepping in the water bowl or hitting the bucket when he/she exits the kennel, put the water area in the corner diagonally across from the gate on top of the several layers of newspaper you’ve put down as the bathroom.
Depending on the size of the dog, you can either use a tip proof stainless steel bowl or a 3 to five gallon bucket with a handle (clean, empty buckets are also sold at Home Depot). If you use a bucket, the dog has to be tall enough to reach over the side of the bucket and down to the water level to drink from a bucket without choking itself on the rim. If your dog is an 8 week old pup, use a tip proof stainless steel bowl until the pup is large enough to drink safely from a bucket. Don’t use a bucket that had something in it….you don’t know what residue you might miss…or if bucket’s former contents might be dangerous for an animal.
If using a bucket for water, purchase what I call a double G clip at Home Depot. It looks like the clasp on the end of your leash except that there is a workable clip on both ends of it. Clip one end to the handle of the bucket; raise the handle as high as you can while the bucket still sits solidly on the floor and clip the handle to the chain link. Don’t fill the bucket up to the brim….leave a few inches, so that water is not easily spilled either by you during transport to the kennel or by the dog accidentally knocking into it once its clipped to the chain link.
Buy a single G clip at Home Depot and always clip the kennel gate when it is closed with the dog inside. Do not be fooled by dog-proof latches….most older dogs can open them. You can just clip it to the chain link when not closing the gate, so you always have it handy when the dog is being left inside a closed kennel.
The only other thing to add to this "bedroom" is your pet and his/her toys; bones; etc. If you want to be thoughtful and know if your dog likes music, you can leave a radio in the room, but outside the kennel, on a pleasant station…not loud, fast paced music. Instead, if you have an extra television, you can leave it on but outside of the kennel in a position where your pet can see the screen for your pet’s entertainment.
Bottom Line: If you are gone for longer than you expected…if you have car problems…if you have to work an extra hour, your dane can now sleep in a fully extended position; stretch out or up; drink, at will, from a secured, clean water supply; and, even if your pet is what you would consider 100% housebroken, have a guilt free bathroom zone should he/she need it.
Bonuses: This confinement solution also relieves you of some of the pressure and potential guilt you might feel should you have an unanticipated delay in returning to your pet. Should your pet have to go while you are gone, clean-up is fast and simple. The kennel can be cleaned with a broom and mop from a standing position….no half crawling into a messy wire crate. Chances are, your dog will not need a bath.
Once you no longer need to confine your pet, the kennel breaks down easily, and requires only a small area outside for storage; can be enlarged and set up outside; or can be sold quickly via your local newspaper, Craigslist.com, or Ebay.