Sookie Blog: Crates

Archive: Meet Sookie

Sookie The Lucky Brown Dog has been home for a few days now and it's hard to decide what to talk about first, teeth or crate training. Both are high on the awareness list in our household. I think I'll start with crate training.

Sookie went into a crate her very first night home. As much as I wanted to let her sleep with me, I even crate her at night. She doesn't like it — at all.

The thing is, a puppy can wear you down with the whining. She sounds like she is just suffering in there. We've tried everything to make her settle down — covering the crate with a blanket (helped for about five minutes), rocking the crate along its four bottom corners (helped for about 3 minutes), and ignoring her. It's hard to say whether ignoring her is working. She doesn't seem to be getting any more comfortable in there.

The one thing she responds to is if I sit down outside the crate and talk to her until she settles down. But how long can I do that? I can't see this one-sided conversation continuing for very long. I'm running out of things to say.

One piece of advice I received is to put something with my scent on it into the crate. So (I can't believe I'm admitting this publicly) I took an old washcloth and put it under my armpit while we went for a walk. She really liked that when I put it in the kennel and was quiet for a bit. I also threw in a sweatshirt. I'm not counting on ever wearing said shirt again.

You see, Sookie will soil her crate occasionally. I can't believe I'm talking so nonchalantly about that fact because it causes a lot of stress and freak-outs when it happens. I'm scared to death I'm going to raise a "dirty dog" — one that doesn't mind hanging out in the proximity of urine. I would be the total antithesis of a good pet owner if that happens.

Besides, how am I going to train this creature to be a wonder dog if I can't even train her to not soil her crate?

I learned very quickly that her crate(s) were too big. She has two, one of the plastic Vari-Kennel type and one wire crate. I already had the plastic crate and it is a medium size; I don't expect her to fit in it as an adult dog but it's good for puppyhood. The wire kennel was purchased in my excitement over bringing her home and it is large. Like way large.

Both kennels had to be partitioned because she felt comfortable just sashaying to the back of the space and relieving herself. The wire kennel came with a panel that is adjustable so that you can make the kennel space grow with your dog. The challenge was that at this tiny puppy stage, the width of the space was still too much for her, even with the panel adjusted to about 10 inches. So I took some cardboard and strapping tape and made a cube that filled up the excess space. I taped the cube to the walls of the kennel so she wouldn't knock it over. Now she has just enough room to lay down, stand up and turn around.

With the plastic kennel there was no adjustable panel and no way to attach any partition. After pondering this, I took a small plastic trash can and inserted it as well as a big shoe box (that boots came in) and covered them with a towel. On top of both of these implements, I stuffed a dog pillow. Now she is snug as a bug in a rug in there.

I don't let Sookie stay in the wire crate with her collar on. I read some stories about pups getting their collars hung in the wire and choking to death, so that was enough for me to take the extra precaution each time I kennel her.

I usually toss in a few treats before I put her in the kennel. She doesn't mind stepping in when there are treats hidden here and there. I have left in a chew toy as well, but she never seems interested in it while she's kenneled.

From what I have read, a pup should only be confined for short periods of time. The rule of thumb is their age in months plus one. So at two months old, she shouldn't stay in for longer than three hours. This takes some coordination with others in the household to adjust schedules for letting her out to air. At night, her metabolism slows down so she can go for longer periods but she still gets me up around 2:00 a.m. and then again at 5:30. I would be lying if I said I enjoyed tromping outside in the wee hours of the morning to let her out, especially when it's cold outside. But the alternative is one more paw step towards dirty dog. So we're both up and at 'em in the wee hours.

I need some sleep.