Dancer’s crate sits in the corner of the family room, door open, his own room within a room. The wire crate is draped with a length of fabric for privacy; its top is littered with magazines about dogs and catalogs of pet accessories and supplies. Dancer’s toy box, brimming with sterilized bones, squeak toys, a Kong or two, and a tug toy, is next to the crate. Sandy Mayhew changes the fabric crate cover with the season, making sure it coordinates with the room’s casual furniture.
On the floor outside the crate, the Mayhews placed a small no-skid rug so Dancer had a place to rest where he could watch family activity. And just in case the shepherd mix forgot his manners when the family was not home, Sandy tucked furniture throws into the room’s sofa and two chairs.
Dan Johnson brought Sassy home when the pup was nine weeks old. He knew that the tiny bundle of energy would become an 80-pound bundle of energy in short order, so he and Emily decided early that the pup would be given her own space and would be taught not to climb on the furniture or steal the kids shoes or toys.
Sassy has her own space in the kitchen, too. Her food and water bowls sit on a doggy-design placemat next to the sink. There’s no privacy here, however; the pup learned immediately that people would be coming and going while she ate and drank.
At night, Sassy sleeps in a dog bed near 12-year-old Tommy’s bed. Her bed is plush and comfortable, so the big black Labrador Retriever never tries to get in bed with her young master.
The Mayhews figured out early on that living with Dancer would require some adjustments in order to minimize the frustration of living with a puppy and that rules set down early would lessen the potential for destructive behavior later on. So, along with giving Dancer his own space and teaching him to stay off the furniture, the Mayhews
The Johnsons were also prepared for each stage of Sassy’s development to minimize annoyance and maximize their pleasure in their pet. Any dog owner can do the same by taking advantage of the many training aids and other equipment on the market today.
The legend of the dog crate credits this remarkable piece of canine furniture with saving the owner’s sanity as well as providing the dog with a private place to call his own. If you think that’s an exaggeration, think again. Properly used, the crate can aid in housetraining by keeping the puppy from soiling the house; protect furniture by confining a pet that likes to chew and climb; and provide “time out” periods for over-excited or over-tired puppies. Puppies that sleep in crates are almost always housetrained more easily because they do not want to soil their dens.
Crates come in several sizes to accommodate all dogs, from the petite Chihuahua and Miniature Pinscher to the massive Great Dane and Irish Wolfhound. They come in open air wire, solid plastic, and in-between mesh. The wire crate is versatile; it takes up less space for the dimensions, comes in coated-wire styles, and can be made more private with a blanket, sheet, piece of dog-print fabric, or a furniture throw. A piece of plywood on the top of the crate turns it into a grooming table, a shelf for dog supplies (a workshop caddy makes a great container for nail clippers, brushes, combs, etc.) or books, or a table for dog magazines (and your copies of Dog Owner’s Guide)1
The mesh crate2 comes in several colors and has the advantage of providing air circulation and privacy. The mesh crate is not sturdy enough to become a grooming surface or a shelf; its major advantages are its light weight and collapsible form – it can be easily carried when you take your pet on vacation or to visit friends.
Many dogs prefer the bare metal bottom of the wire crate in warm weather and enjoy a softer surface in cool or cold months. Arthritic dogs should have a soft surface all year and may do well on one of the pads designed specifically for extra comfort for dogs with joint problems. Washable crate liners are available in a variety of fabrics (from sunflowers and other florals to Indian designs and Scottish plaids) and fillings (cedar, polyester, foam, etc.), but a non-skid area rug or a carpet remnant serves just as well and is less expensive to replace when worn or permeated with doggy odor.
[More on crates]
A dog bed can be purchased from a store or catalog or made out of a box and some type of bedding. It should be large enough to allow Dancer to stretch out as well as curl up to sleep. Any purchased dog bed should be washable – or at least have a removable cover that can be washed. A bed pillow with a cover works well for dogs under 15 pounds; a king-sized pillow will do for dogs up to 30 pounds. Cover colors can coordinate with bedroom or family room décor, and pillows can be thrown in the washing machine every few months.
Dogs really need only one collar to wear and another for training, and one leash for walks and training sessions both. However, many dog owners want more, and companies have been obliging. Nylon collars and leashes come in matching sets, both solid color and print, to coordinate or contrast with Sassy’s coat. Designs include holiday prints; camouflage, geometric, and bandanna patterns, paw-prints, plaids, and breed-specific prints – some with bandannas that match.
For traditionalists, there are the leather collars and leashes, sturdy, long-lasting, and suitable for any purpose.
Leashes and collars should be kept in a handy spot, preferably near the door. They can be hung on a handsome wood or cast iron leash holder or in one of Traci Bradley’s “Dog-o-Nizers” 3, a fabric organizer for grooming tools, medicine, toys, vitamins, collars, leashes, and other equipment built on a clothes hangar. Some leash holders include a picture frame for Sassy’s photo; others can be imprinted with her name.
Even well-prepared dog owners cannot prevent every problem or protect their furniture from every onslaught. Puppies and adult dogs have accidents and vomit occasionally. Intact female dogs leak blood during their heat season, and most dogs have a bleeding injury sometime during their lives. Older spayed females sometimes become incontinent and leak urine while they sleep. Intact male dogs may (horrors) lift a leg on the furniture to mark their territory. Savvy owners keep their cool by cleaning up with one of the new enzyme products found on the shelves in pet supply stores and in catalogs. Some of these products come in powdered form to dilute; others are liquids to use full-strength. The enzymes may cause a foul odor while they work, but when that odor disappears, it takes the stain and accident smell along with it.
A black light can be used to find invisible urine stains on carpets and furniture so that the enzyme odor-remover can be applied. The black light can be rented at some pet supply stores and veterinary offices.
Spay and neuter surgery is a practical preventive for bloodstains and for territorial urine marking, but there is no way to anticipate or avert all stains from canine body fluids.
1. Wholesale and retail supply houses sell a variety of dog merchandise at discount prices.
2. Mesh crates and other items can be ordered from Timbercreek Acres, (513) 648-0055.
3. Dog-o-Nizers and other unique doggy items can be ordered from Traci Bradley, bradley(at)erinet.com
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