Managing our Canine Friends with Crates and Kongs

Management is an important part of dog stewardship. It comes up a lot in puppy class, in particular, but management is an essential topic for dogs of all ages. Two excellent management tools are the crate, and the frozen Kong.

Crates, when used constructively and lovingly, are a place of peace and refuge for our dogs. The most common obstacles I encounter with clients are over-crating (a good guideline is a few hours at a time during the day, with a 4-hour maximum on occasion; more than this and dogs often resent it ) and crate shock, caused by keeping dogs in crates too long too fast, without actual crate training. Build up slowly over the course of a week. Certainly, sleeping all night in the crate is a wonderful thing; just don’t force it to happen right away.  Try taking off the top, if your crate comes apart in middle, and feeding them in just the bottom. Take off the door so the dog can go in and out as he or she chooses at first, and so the door doesn’t accidentally hit them and cause fear. Make the crate so attractive, your dog doesn’t want to leave it. When your dog enters on his or her own, and rests in it nonchalantly — only then close the door and leave them along for a short amount of time, perhaps 5-10 minutes at first. Build up slowly over the course of days or weeks.  Avoid the temptation to let them out just because they whine, but don’t let not-letting-them-out-when-they-whine be your whole crate-training strategy. Crate training should mean teaching our dogs that their crate is a place of safety and shelter, not a place to fear or something from which to escape. Build up slowly and don’t overuse it!

Frozen Kongs can be an occasional treat for dog and human (the treat for the human is the quiet, peaceful dog, though I suppose a Kong for might be fun for some people, too…) or, as more and more folks are discovering, can even be the primary source of meals. Dogs expend a great deal of physical and mental energy working their way through a frozen Kong – it can help keep them calm and busy for hours. For dogs prone to gas caused by eating too fast, Kongs can be a great help, too. Jason and Angela Lenz, of Tails-A-Wagging, don’t even use bowls for feeding their dogs at all anymore. Mealtime in the Lenz household means Kong time – which means several hours of busy, contented dogs. This means several Kongs per dog, so some can be in the freezer while others are being used by the dogs, and others still are in the dishwasher, etc. Ingredients for frozen Kongs can be as simple as kibble mized with canned food and a little peanut butter, but when time allows, it can be fun to prepare a mixture of rice, carrots, sweet potatoes, carrots and broth. Some dogs like fruit! Try being creative!

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