Online Veterinary Education Library
Our team of veterinarians and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with their health. Please use our educational library to learn more about health problems and treatments available for your pet. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
- Small Animals
Different people have different expectations about how freely they want their dogs to roam in their homes day and night. Whether you choose to allow you dog on the furniture, sleep in bed with a family member or have access to all areas of your home, it is still important that you keep a crate and teach your dog to use it. At different times in your life together, you may need to transport your dog in a crate, such as when it is ill or traveling by plane or car. Weather emergencies may require your dog to be crated for transporting and management. In households with multiple pets, crates offer a safe environment when you're out of the house. Crates also serve an important role in training dogs by creating a safe environment in which your dog can learn to be calm.
Crates come in a number of materials, including wire, mesh and plastic. The important thing is to be sure that the crate you choose is big enough to accommodate your dog as an adult so that when it stands up there is room enough to turn around. Also make sure the access door is easily manageable for entering and exiting. The breed and personality of your dog may suggest choosing one crate material over another. For example, some dogs calm more easily with less visual exposure to the room, while others need things to look at. This may incline you more or less toward a crate with solid walls versus mesh or wire surroundings.
You'll want to place the crate in your bedroom or a quiet room. From the first day you bring your dog home, start getting your dog familiar with its crate. Let your puppy sniff the crate and wander in and out. Give it words of encouragement. Place a few toys in the crate to attract the dog's attention. Once your dog is familiar with the crate, begin training it to go in, turn around, lie down and come out of the crate on cue using positive reinforcement and repetition over time. This allows you to use your crate as a training device as you teach your new dog all the behaviors it has to learn. A crate also becomes a safe place for your dog when it is home alone before it is fully housebroken. Throughout its life, you can use the crate to help your dog calm down when it gets overexcited or aggressive. Be careful not to establish the crate as a form of punishment, but as a comfortable environment for quiet times.
It is important to pay attention to how long you keep your dog in a crate. Dogs need exercise and shouldn't be left in a crate for an extended period of time. Puppies between two and four months old shouldn't be left in the crate longer than two hours. The length of time can be increased as your dog gains the ability to hold its elimination needs longer. Adult dogs can be kept in a crate up to eight hours, but that's pushing it. It's better to establish at least short periods of time to let the dog out. Also, remember to take your dog for a walk before putting it in the crate, both for exercise and to do its doggie duty!
Leashes and Collars. Most localities in the U.S. require dogs to be licensed and leashed when outside of your home. These regulations actually help protect your pet from dangers, such as a moving vehicle or getting lost. Leashes also keep your dog in check when people are passing by. After all, not everybody likes dogs or wants to engage with them. You are responsible for your dog's behavior in public; a leash gives you a means of keeping control over your dog to assure its safety and good behavior.
When choosing a leash, select one that is four to six feet long. Retractable leashes can be very convenient, but are not a good option if you will be walking your dog on crowded sidewalks. The line can be overlooked and cause accidents with pedestrians, joggers bikers, and other sport enthusiasts.
Choosing a collar is contingent more on your pet's size and behavior. You want a collar that gives you the level of control you need over your dog outdoors. Be sure the collar won't choke your dog when you pull on the leash. A fixed-circumference collar is both adjustable and size-appropriate. The most common form of these collars is the buckle collar - a good solution for most any dog. However, if you have a large, powerful or aggressive dog, you may need a correction collar (also known as a choke collar) or harness, at least while you are training your dog, to make sure you can keep it in check. One note of warning: if your dog has kennel cough or has been identified with a tracheal problem, use a harness instead of a collar. Collars come in a variety of materials, from plastics or fabrics to leather. You may want to experiment to find the best solution for your dog.
Most dogs adjust quickly to collars and leashes. You will need to train your dog not to pull on the leash and to walk in unison with you, close to your body, when you reign it in. Some dogs are initially frightened of leashes and freeze when it is put on. If this happens, give your dog some time to adjust. Stand in front of your dog and don't move until it does. Then give it praise and encouragement until you can get the dog used to the leash.
Doggy Beds. Doggy beds come in different sizes and are designed to provide the comfort your dog needs for a restful sleep. You can find them in pet stores and catalogs along with the bedding they need. Many people find it is useful to place the dog's bed in their bedroom to encourage the dog to sleep during the same hours its owner does. Even if, in the long run, you plan to allow your dog to sleep with a human, you'll likely need a doggy bed until your dog is fully housetrained.
Fencing and Outdoor Equipment. When you bring your new dog home, you can use baby fencing to close off areas of your house you don't want your dog to access. If you have a yard, you should set up a fenced-in area for your dog to play in safely. Make sure the space gives your dog room to run, dig and play with balls and chew toys. Try to incorporate some shade area so your dog isn't constantly exposed to the hot sun in summer. Also, be sure to place a water bowl in the outdoor space so your dog can drink when it is thirsty.