Thursday, June 6, 2013

Growling is Good!

I am often contacted by people who have a dog that is fearful or aggressive towards something.  The dog will growl, bark, and/or bare teeth and the conversation reveals what methods the owner has tried to get the behavior to stop.

They’ve tried yelling at the dog, smacking the dog, hired trainers that put a choke chain, prong collar, or shock collar on the dog all to get it to stop being “aggressive”.

Choke Chain
A Prong Collar
Prong Collar

A Remote Training Collar- Also called a Shock Collar or E-Collar

Sometimes the dog eventually does stop growling, barking, and baring teeth when it’s uncomfortable and the owner thinks problem solved, their dog is no longer aggressive.  Down the road however the dog may be again presented with that uncomfortable stimuli, a young child tugging on their fur for example.  Then all of a sudden the dog just “snaps” and the child is bitten.  The family of course is horrified, the child traumatized, and the owners are wondering how a good dog turned bad.  Many cases the dog is euthanized because they've become so "unpredictable".  I hear this all the time.

But the problem isn't the dog, it’s what the dog was taught.  When aversive methods are used on dogs to stop an unwanted behavior it never really stops that behavior; it turns off the warning signal.  It teaches the dog that growling, barking, and baring teeth are bad and therefore not acceptable.  But it doesn't stop the emotion behind that growl.  So now you have a dog that won’t warn someone when they are uncomfortable.  They get more and more tense as that negative stimuli is presented until eventually the dog does the only thing it knows to get out of that situation… biting.  Would you rather have you car’s check engine light come on before a problem becomes serious or simply have the vehicle breakdown on the highway?


So in reality growling is good.  It’s the dog giving you feedback that something is making them uncomfortable.  So what do you do about it?

It’s important to get down to the root of the problem; why is the dog uncomfortable?  We’ll use the young child tugging on their fur as an example.  First, was the dog ever introduced to the child appropriately or did the parents simply give the child free reign expecting the dog to handle the abuse?  A trainer that believes in positive reinforcement will slowly introduce the dog to the child always remaining under threshold.  Threshold is the point at which the dog says, “I've had enough.  I can’t take this anymore.”  By working a dog under threshold so much more can be accomplished because the dog doesn't shut down or panic.  They are never pushed too far too fast.  In the case of the young child we would work on teaching the dog from a distance that the presence of the child equals a yummy reward slowly moving closer to that child as the dog is comfortable.  With time the dog realizes that one, children equal yummy food, and two, you, their owner, won’t put them into harms way and “got their back”.


There are ways to curb your dogs insecurities without shutting off their warning system.  This can be accomplished in a kind and respectful way.  Please don’t punish your dog the next time they growl, bark, or bare teeth but work with a true professional to get to the root of the problem; their emotions. 

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation please check out my website at or email me at: 

Let’s turn this:

Into This!

Monday, May 27, 2013

What’s a Service Dog? And What’s the Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and Therapy Animal?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Defines a Service Dog (SD) as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability."  The ADA only recognizes dogs and in certain situations miniature horses as Service Animals. 

Service Dog Cali
Service Dogs are allowed to accompany their handler anywhere that the general public is allowed to go including; restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, department stores, zoos, planes, buses, trains, cruises, taxi cabs, etc.  Service Dogs provide a huge assistance to their disabled handler and it’s important to follow etiquette when around a Service Dog Team. 

· NEVER pet, call, talk to, feed, whistle, bark, or otherwise distract a Service Dog or dog in training. It is against the law! To do so can potentially injure a disabled handler and earn the dog a correction.  
· If you feel you must pet a Service Dog or puppy in training, ASK first. And do not feel offended if the handler says no. Remember, a Service Dog is as vital to a disabled person as a wheelchair or cane.  
· Train children to NEVER pet a strange dog -- ANY dog -- without first asking permission.  
· Keep in mind that NOT ALL disabilities are visible. Just because someone looks healthy doesn't mean that they don't have a disability; and all of the challenges that come with it.  
· Service Dogs can be any breed or size. A Chihuahua can be a Medical Alert Dog and do their job just fine.  
· Remember, a Service Dog is not a pet, but it has a far better, more rewarding and more enjoyable life than any pet dog could ever wish for. It's with the person it loves all day long, it gets to go everywhere it's owner goes, and because it's a working dog it usually gets more exercise, better food, and medical care than most pet dogs do because a disabled person can't afford for their assistant to be in ill-health! Plus, Service Dogs LOVE what they do; it’s in their blood!  

Service Dog In-Training Kenzie

Service Dog In-Training Skye Alerting to a Low Blood Sugar

What’s the difference between a Service Dog, Emotional Support Animal and Therapy Animal?

  • An Emotional Support Animal is any animal which provides comfort to their disabled or elderly handler simply by their presence.  Emotional Support Animal Handlers do have some legal protections in housing and in air travel.

  • Therapy Animals can generally be any species including; dogs, cats, birds, horses, and more.  Delta Society defines a Therapy Animal as being “trained along with their handler to provide specific human populations with appropriate contact with animals. They are usually the personal pets of the handlers and accompany their handlers to the sites they visit, but therapy animals may also reside at a facility. Animals must meet specific criteria for health, grooming and behavior. While managed by their handlers, their work is not handler-focused and instead provides benefits to others.”

Federal law, which protects the rights of qualified individuals with disabilities, has no provision for people to be accompanied by therapy animals or emotional support animals in places of public accommodation such as restaurants, grocery stores, or other places that have a "no pets" policies.

Therapy Animals:

All of these animals have important jobs to do but it’s important to know the difference.  If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to check out my website or contact me: www.HighlandSpringsPetServices.c

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Heat Stroke and Dehydration in Our Furry Friends

Information from 
~With any sign of heat stroke or dehydration get your dog to a veterinarian ASAP to be evaluated.~
With the hot temperatures outside our furry friends can get overheated easily.  Remember that any animal can be prone to heat stroke and dehydration but I am going to address dogs since that is the most common cases that are seen.  Dogs do not have the same cooling systems as humans.  Because dogs do not sweat like humans do their only method of cooling themselves is through panting and minor sweating through the pads of their feet neither of which is very effective in these hot temperatures.

Common situations that can set the stage for heat stroke in dogs include:
  • Being left in a car in hot weather
  • Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather
  • Being a brachycephalic breed, especially a Bulldog, Pug, Boston Terrier, or Pekingese 

  • Suffering from a heart or lung disease that interferes with efficient breathing
  • Being muzzled while put under a hair dryer
  • Suffering from a high fever or seizures
  • Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces
  • Being confined without shade and fresh cool water in hot weather
  • Having a history of heat stroke
Heat stroke begins with heavy panting and difficulty breathing.  The tongue and mucous membranes appear bright red.  The saliva is thick and the dog often vomits.  The rectal temperature rises to 104° to 110°F.  The dog becomes progressively unsteady and passes bloody diarrhea.  As shock sets in, the lips and mucous membranes turn gray.  Collapse, seizures, coma, and death rapidly ensue.
Treatment: Emergency measures to cool the dog must begin at once.  Move the dog out of the source of heat, preferably into an air-conditioned building.  Take his rectal temperature every 10 minutes.  Mild cases may be resolved by moving the dog into a cool environment.

If the rectal temperature is above 104°F, begin rapid cooling by spraying the dog with a garden hose or immersing him in a tub of cool water (not ice water) for up to two minutes.  Alternatively, place the wet dog in front of an electric fan.  Cool packs applied to the groin area may be helpful, as well as wiping his paws off with cool water.  Monitor his rectal temperature and continue the cooling process until the rectal temperature falls below 103°F.  At this point, stop the cooling process and dry the dog.  Further cooling may induce hypothermia and shock.
Following an episode of heat stroke, take your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  Heat stroke can be associated with laryngeal edema.  This seriously worsens the breathing problem and may require an emergency tracheostomy.
Other consequences of hyperthermia include kidney failure, spontaneous bleeding, irregular heartbeat, and seizures.  These complications can occur hours or days later or it is imperative that your dogs be checked by a veterinarian.
Dehydration occurs when a dog loses body fluids faster than he can replace them.  Dehydration usually involves the loss of both water and electrolytes.  In dogs, the most common causes of dehydration are severe vomiting and diarrhea.  Dehydration can also be caused by inadequate fluid intake, often associated with fever and severe illness.  A rapid loss of fluids also occurs with heat stroke.
A prominent sign of dehydration is loss of skin elasticity.  When the skin along the back is pulled up, it should spring back into place.  In a dehydrated animal, the skin stays up in a ridge. 

Another sign of dehydration is dryness of the mouth.  The gums, which should be wet and glistening, become dry and tacky.  The saliva is thick and tenacious.  In an advanced case, the eyes are sunken and the dog exhibits signs of shock, including collapse.
Treatment: A dog who is visibly dehydrated should receive immediate veterinary attention, including intravenous fluids, to replace fluids and prevent further loss.
For mild dehydration, if the dog is not vomiting you can give him an electrolyte solution by bottle or syringe into the cheek pouch.  Balanced electrolyte solutions for treating dehydration in children, such as Ringer’s lactate with 5 percent dextrose in water or Pedialyte solution, are available at drugstores and are also suitable for dogs.  Gatorade is another short-term substitute to help replace fluids.  Administer the solution at a rate of 2 to 4 ml per pound (1 to 2 ml per kilo) of body weight per hour, depending on the severity of the dehydration (or as directed by your veterinarian).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

So You Want to Breed Your Dog?

By Rebekah Wright
The decision to breed your dog is not one to take lightly as there are many considerations. Your dog will need to get the proper health checks depending on their breed. Dogs usually require; CERF certification (Canine Eye Registration Foundation), OFA testing, Brucellosis (See Below) testing. Your dog needs to be in excellent health, fed a high quality diet (something that you cannot buy in a human grocery type store), and at least 2 years of age. People who breed before 2 years of age are doing a real disservice to their dog that has not stopped growing.
Once the mating is over with the costs continue to rise. Your Dam must be vet checked a few days before the puppies are born which will include radiographs (x-rays) or ultrasound to get an idea of the number of puppies. Supplies for the whelping (puppies being born) including; whelping box, thermometer, hemostats, clean towels and washcloths, puppy pads, ounce scale, something to be able to ID the puppies with (we use nail polish on one toe), and a heating pad. You will go through a lot of puppy pads while the puppies are being born and on a daily basis until they leave your home. Puppies are very messy.

Once the puppies are born the costs will rise once again. Your Dam’s eating habits which have probably already doubled since getting pregnant will now double to triple again. She is now nursing puppies which take a tremendous amount of energy from the Dam. Puppies will need to see the vet in 3 days to be checked out and have their dew claws removed. If something were to happen to mom, guess what? You are now responsible for buying expensive formula, mixing it, and feeding puppies every two hours 24 hours a day. I’ve done this and it is hard work never getting no more than 2 hours of sleep. But you brought them into this world; you have to keep them alive and well. Once puppies are weaned you now have to buy food for them also and once again make it up and feed them throughout the day. At 7-8 weeks of age puppies and mom have to go back to the vet for a vet check, deworming, and first set of vaccines. If any of the puppies are flying to their new destination you also have to get a health certificate.So now your puppies are leaving your home to go to their forever homes. It is your responsibility to interview a potential home. I NEVER want to see a puppy I bring into this world end up in a shelter or rescue. So it is important to make sure people know what they are getting themselves into, the time and expense involved.  It's not easy raising a dog and very expensive.  Once these puppies go to their new home you now are connected to them for life. Any reputable breeder will take back their puppies if the home doesn’t work out. My contract states that owners are never allowed to rehome the puppy but that it must always come back to me. Once again, I am responsible for their life and if they end up in an inappropriate home????
The decision to breed your dog is not one to take lightly. As you can see there are a lot of considerations. You won’t make money breeding, if you do it the right and ethical way.  


 Now, after considering all of this, if you are still interested in breeding your dog I’m there for you. I offer Sire or Dam Finding Assistance, Breeding Assistance, Whelping Assistance, and Document Writing Assistance.  To find out more about my services please visit: Highland Springs Pet Services Breeding Assistance page and scroll about half way down.  Give me a call and we can discuss the details. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
* Disclaimers: I am not a vet nor do I claim to be but I do have experience in this area. I will not give medical diagnosis or prognosis and will always recommend a visit to your vet.  For document assistance I am not a lawyer. I have written documents for my own business and I have spoken with and gotten advice from fellow pet business owners and breeders. 
What is Brucellosis?
Brucellosis is a disease caused by Brucella canis, which is a bacteria that can infect bitches and their fetuses. It seems that over the years much has been written on brucellosis in breeding dogs, but despite it all, infection rates may run as high as 8-10%. That is right, it is suspected that one in ten dogs in this country may carry Brucella canis.
Medical advancements in controlling this disease have been few and far between. Contrary to some opinions, it is a very difficult disorder to treat, and in most cases, treatment is unsuccessful. A prevalent attitude among many people is that "if my dogs get it, then I will treat it." This is a serious mistake because you probably will not cure it, and if you do, the individual will probably be sterile or be a poor breeding specimen.
Transmission of Brucella canis
B. canis is sexually transmitted by the mating of infected males and females. Brucella canis in the female dog will live in the vaginal and uterine tissue and secretions for years, and except in rare cases, for life. The infected female usually appears healthy with no signs of disease or indication that she is a 'carrier' or harborer of the organisms. She can spread the bacteria to other animals through her urine, aborted fetuses, or most commonly through the act of breeding. Once pregnant, the bacteria will also infect the developing fetuses causing illness.
In males, the Brucella bacteria live in the testicles and seminal fluids. An infected male is just as dangerous as the female as he can spread the Brucella bacteria via his urine or semen. Oftentimes, there are no signs except in advanced cases when the testicles may be uneven in size.
Litters are commonly aborted, usually in the last two weeks of gestation, or the puppies may die shortly after birth. If a pregnant dog aborts after 45 days of gestation, you should be highly suspicious of brucellosis. Usually, the fetuses are partially decayed and accompanied by a gray to green vaginal discharge. This discharge can have very high numbers of Brucella canis. If embryos die early, they may be reabsorbed and the female may never appear to be pregnant at all.
Click on the link above for more information including:
  • What are the risks?
  • Testing
  • Prevention
  • Treatment
  • Human health hazards

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Sad Truth About PETA

The following link goes into detail the number of animals brought into their "rescue" and the number that actually leave there alive.  PETA Kills Animals

The following story is from This is True dated 17 July 2005. It is Copyright 2005 Randy Cassingham, all rights reserved, and reprinted here with permission:

"Ethical" Defined
After more than 100 dead dogs were dumped in a trash dumpster over four weeks, police in Ahoskie, N.C., kept an eye on the trash receptacle behind a supermarket. Sure enough, a van drove up and officers watched the occupants throw in heavy plastic bags. They detained the two people in the van and found 18 dead dogs in plastic bags in the dumpster, including puppies; 13 more dead dogs were still in the van. Police say the van is registered to the headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the two occupants, Andrew B. Cook, 24, and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, identified themselves as PETA employees. An autopsy performed on one of the dogs found it was healthy before it was killed. Police say PETA has been picking up the animals -- alive -- from North Carolina animal shelters, promising to find them good homes. Cook and Hinkle have been charged with 62 felony counts of animal cruelty. In response to the arrests PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said it's against the group's policy for employees to dump animals in the trash, but "that for some animals in North Carolina, there is no kinder option than euthanasia." (Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald) ...Oops, my mistake: that's "Playing God" Defined.
In his author's notes section, Cassingham had more to say about this story:
The more I learn about PETA, the less I think of them. The story of them killing animals isn't even unusual. According to PETA's own filings, in 2004 PETA killed 86.3 percent of the animals entrusted to its care -- a number that's rising, not falling. Meanwhile, the SPCA in PETA's home town (Norfolk, Va.) was able to find loving homes for 73 percent of the animals put in its care. A shortage of funds? Nope: last year PETA took in $29 million in tax-exempt donations. It simply has other priorities for the funds, like funding terrorism (yes, really). But don't take my word for it: I got my figures from -- and they have copies of PETA's state and federal filings to back it up. The bottom line: if you donate money to PETA because you think they care for and about animals, you need to think some more. PETA literally yells and screams about how others "kill animals" but this is how they operate? Pathetic.

And you know what I wonder? PETA's official count of animals they kill is 86.3 percent. But if they're going around picking up animals, killing them while they drive around and not even giving them a chance to be adopted, and then destroying the evidence by dumping the bodies in the trash, are those deaths being reported? My guess: no. While 86.3 percent is awful, the actual number is probably much, much higher. How dare they lecture anyone about the "ethical" treatment of animals!
(This is True is a weekly column featuring weird-but-true news stories from around the world, and has been published since 1994. Click the link for info about free subscriptions.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is your dog really trying to take over?

Dominance is such a pop word, used by many owners, vets and trainers alike. It feels so right, yet it's very wrong. It is so believable, yet it’s so deceptive. I would like to give you the ability to hear this word and laugh at the mere concept that our beloved pets are trying to take over! I am also hoping to prevent you from labeling any dog as dominant, and then performing a potentially damaging rank reduction program on him, as a solution to this "problem".

Even though the dogs we keep as pets did evolved from wolves, there was an important intermediate step that many people are unaware of. Wolves 'gave way' to village dogs that gave way to our companion dogs. So when the behavior of wolves was researched the results obtained where automatically applied to dog behavior simply because they shared certain genetic material. The reliability of this method would be the same as saying that by studying chimpanzees you can learn all about human behavior. Even if your were going to study wolves you wouldn’t study them in artificially created environment which would affect their behavior and this is what happened when some of the research was conducted and observations made.

The notion of strict hierarchy has ruled the dog training world. Prominent researchers working with wolves in the wild have found that our concept of a pack is slightly incorrect. Like humans families, a wolf 'pack' or family consist of parents, children and also children from a previous litter, that haven’t left to start their own family. It has also been proven that in the wild it is the wolf cubs who will eat first as they carry the 'genes for the future'. Then the parents and lastly the lazy teenagers or older children who have not left home yet.
So what does all this actually mean in terms of our pet dogs?

It means that if we still use this old outdated idea, we are likely to misinterpret normal doggy behavior like jumping up as an attempt for Rover to gain power! (“As if our dogs haven’t already got enough on their plates; If they have not got enough hours in the day to roll around in fox poo, get extra excited every time they sees us, spend time playing fetch and great games like tug of war, when do you think they have time to worry about taking over our house?)”

When training manuals or behavior books use training as a means to sorting out hierarchies this often leads to the use of server physical punishment and negative psychological effects can occur for our dogs. An example of this is where incorrect comments such; the alpha male would roll a subordinate wolf onto his back, often lead to owner or trainer believing that they need to perform behaviors such as ‘alpha rolls’ on their pets.

This would involve turning the dog onto his back and holding him there to show him that you the owner/trainer are more ‘dominant’. However, this presents a few issues as most handlers that perform such behaviors on larger dogs often get bitten not to mention the deterioration they cause to the dogs psychological state. It has been shown in research that an ‘alpha roll’ preformed by a wolf in the wild is in no way forced, but offered voluntarily for many different reasons. Just imagine what it must be like when your happy pet greets you and in return you perform the roll on him?

Dominance has also become a way for trainers, vets and owners to explain much of the normal doggie behavior such as chewing, barking and jumping. People using the dominance theory will probably explain pulling on leash by implying that the dog is being dominant and trying to control the owner however, is it not possible that the dogs is just excited by all the novel smells outside, after all ‘Dogs can sense odors at concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can’.
Lastly, I leave you with the question; Is a dog that pulls on leash, jumps up and barks, a dog that is dominant or a stunning creature that is in need of some basic reward based training?
(Hint, if you haven't figured it out yet, you are meant to answer the above question using the 2nd option!!!)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Loosing a Beloved Pet

Loosing someone we love is one of the hardest things we will ever have to deal with as human beings. It could be a friend, parent, aunt, child, grandparents, or even a pet. It is never easy and I am still struggling through reality myself. On Thursday April 29, 2010 at 5:00pm my Beagle Abbigail breathed her last breath.

Lady Abbigail Cassiopeia was born in June of 2001. She was gorgeous! I first saw Abby when she was just 5 weeks old. She was so small and sweet. She came home at 8 weeks old. Abby and I were the best of friends. She would cuddle up to me all the time and sleep, being so content. She was not your typical Beagle. Abby did bark some but she rarely bayed. In 2003 I left for college for two years. At the end of every quarter I would fly home. The biggest thing I looked forward to was greeting Abby. You know on Peanuts how Snoopy would do the Beagle dance? Well, that is what Abbigail did. She would bay and howl at the top of her lungs and jump around on her hind legs. Honestly, it sounded like someone was killing her. Neighbors would come out of their houses to see if everything was alright. But I loved it!

In September of 2009 Abby started to go downhill. She develops small lumps over her body. We took her to the vet who did blood work and took aspirations of the lumps. She didn't find any cancer which was a great thing and her blood work all came back normal. But something still wasn't right. Those small lumps started to get bigger and bigger and eventually covered her whole body. She started to put on weight from the retained fluid. Abby has always weighed about 30lbs but not anymore. Abby started to show some real signs that she was in pain.

We spent months debating about what to do. In April of 2010 Abby said enough and started giving up on life. She didn't eat with the same enthusiasm, would sleep all day on our couch and wouldn't even move her head when we told her to go outside at night. It was time. So the horrible day came. We took Abbigail to the vet and placed her on a blanket. My parents and I sat on the floor by her and we held her and talked to her and cried. Abby now weights 44lbs. The vet gave her a sedative to keep her calm. I fed her treats galore. Abby laid down next to us and she placed her head on my foot. Our vet came back into the room and administered the euthanasia drug and Abby very peacefully left this earth. It was the worst moment of my life. She was gone and I would NEVER see her again. We cried and pet Abby for a long while. Leaving her was so difficult and I just wanted to keep touching her and not let go.

Abby is gone and I am really struggling with how to grieve. There are times I just cry and cry and then other times that I couldn't cry if I wanted to. Sometimes I forget she is gone and when I see our other Beagle Roxy I think it's her. And then there are times that my mind plays tricks on me and I don't even remember she existed. Before Abby died we made a memorial stone in her honor. That stone is going to sit outside in the spot where Abby always laid in the sun. We will never forget Abby. She was my first dog and best friend.

People grieve in very different ways and there is no right or wrong. It's important to let yourself grieve. Don't try and hide it. There are some who say, "It's just a dog". But they are missing out because my animals are my family and I would do anything for my family. I probably grieve for her more than I do my extended family sorry to say. But I know them inside and out and they know everything about me. So be true to your pet and grieve and let it go. Remember the good times. Make a memorial for them; plant a tree, do a paw print, have your pets ashes returned. Whatever it may be it should be special to you.

Below is a poem called the Rainbow Bridge and it gives me such comfort and sadness at the same time.

This posting is to honor Lady Abbigiail Cassiopeia and all that she gave us in her years on this earth. Goodbye my dear friend.

Rainbow Bridge
Author Unknown
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crate Training

Being comfortable in a crate is important for every dog. Imagine that your dog is 5 years old and tears a ligament in their knee. Your vet will tell you that they have to be confined 24/7 except potty break for the next 4-8 weeks. Now this would be difficult for any dog but if a dog is familiar to his crate then at least they aren’t fearful of it. Take a dog who has never be confined in a crate and now they are terrified, crying at the top of their lungs and becoming destructive while trying to escape. I recently had to go through this with my Beagle Roxy. Now Roxy has been crate trained since I first got her at 8 weeks of age. January of this year, Roxy slipped a disc in her back. She was in agony. Her vet said that if the disc continues to move she would become paralyzed so she was ordered to strict bed rest. Roxy spent the next four weeks confined and we even had to carry her out to her potty spot. The vet didn’t want her walking at all. This was devastating for me. She is my active dog that loves to run and play and jog by my side as I ride my bike. This is the dog that got her CGC when most people said it wasn’t possible. The dog that was training to be a service dog and doing a great job at it. Now she was this dog that screamed if she moved, was receiving pain injection as well as 3 oral pain pills. By God’s grace Roxy has made an almost full recovery. She will never be a same dog anymore and has to take it easy but she’s not in pain and she’s alive. I can’t imagine what I would have done if she wasn’t crate trained. It could have made her paralyzed because of too much movement. So enough with my story.

Many people tell me that it’s cruel to put a dog in a crate, that dogs are meant to be free and not confined so they don’t crate train their dog. As a puppy your dog will go through different life stages. From about 6 months to 18+ months your dog will be in a rebellious stage. They will challenge everything you say or do, they tend to become very destructive, and run away from home if given the chance. They are teenagers! A dog that has been fine out of a crate up to this point will become your worst nightmare. A crate trained dog will still be in the crate when unsupervised and will not have the opportunity to destroy the house. Dogs in the wild are naturally den animals, they love feeling secure and safe. A crate mimics this for our domesticated dogs. So I don’t find it cruel but a must have for a dog. In my home, if a dog is in their crate other dogs cannot bother them, children are not allowed to touch them or get in their face. It is their sanctuary to get away from the commotion. Ever see your dog sleeping under the table or beds or in closets or corners? They do this because they don’t have a safe place where they are left along.

Alright, so how do you teach a dog to LOVE their crate? State off by first buying the correct size. A crate should be large enough for your dog to stand up, sit, lie down, and turn comfortably. If your dog is fully potty trained go ahead and get them the next size larger. If however they are not potty trained it should not be any bigger because then they create one side for sleeping and the other for potting. Take your dog the PetSmart with you so you can try out different crates. There are two types, wire and plastic. Wire crates at easily folded down when not in use or for transportation and often include a divider so the crate can become bigger as a puppy grows. These crates are drafty which can be solved by a lightweight sheet or blanket on the back half of it. They also are not airline approved because they do collapse down. Plastic crate are much more sturdy and airline approved. But in a hot summer day there are not a whole lot of places for hot air to escape and circulate. They also are not as portable. But they do naturally create that den environment that your dog desires. I personally have used both and love both so it is all a matter of your preference and needs.

To get your dog comfortable with the crate and not terrify them you need to go slowly. Start off with some yummy treats and show them to your dog as you toss them into the crate. As your dog goes in put it to a command such as kennel, crate, or bed and praise your dog gently. Let your dog come out when they want to. Continue to place treats in the crate to get your dog to go in there. After many repetitions see if you can get your dog to stay in there for a little bit by giving them treats while they are inside. Now after a while of that wait for your dog to enter and then close the door quietly for 2 seconds and open it right back up. Do this over and over and very gradually increase the amount of time the door is closed. DO NOT go too fast for your dog. I never want a dog to freak out and be terrified. This should be a pleasant and fun experience.

Now find some yummy chew toys such as a nylabone (the edible or non-edible)
or a Kong with some peanut butter or liverwurst paste and give it to your dog while they are in the crate. Praise them the entire time. After a while you can get up and move away from the crate. Your dog will probably follow you with their new toy. When they do take the toy and place it back in the crate. Do this over and over again. As many times as it takes for your dog tot realize that they only get this toy when they are in their crate. Be in the habit of giving them the nylabone or Kong each time you place them in there.

I have a 5 month old Australian Shepherd, Cali, who loves to hear the word; “Crate” because it means yummy treats. Every time I place her in there without fail she gets a puppy size milkbone and then her Kong. She’ll come racing from anywhere to get into that crate. I even catch her occasionally lying in there when she sleeps during the day with the door open. This is her sanctuary.

Your dog should be in there crate whenever you cannot keep an eye on them, nighttime, when you’re not home, and when you are distracted; helping the kids with homework, washing dishes, intensely reading a book. One this give your dog more opportunity to become comfortable in their crate and two they can’t destroy your house if they are in there.

So remember, choose the right sized crate, go slowly and make it fun!

Feel free to post any comments, opinions, or questions you may have. My blog is here for discussion and I want to hear from you!