A crate helps with potty training, teaching manners, keeping the puppy safe and giving the owner a break.
But what about crating an adult dog?
Is it cruel to crate an adult dog?
No, it’s not cruel.
In general, it’s completely fine if you want to leave your well-behaved adult dog in a crate when you’re not home.
But of course, it depends on the dog.
I can understand why using a crate is helpful for some adult dogs:
1. Some dogs appreciate the crate routine when they’re home alone. It’s what they’re used to. It helps them feel calm and secure. They become anxious without the crate.
2. Some dogs will always get into things on occasion such as the trash, food on the counter or whatever it might be. Crating the dog removes those opportunities.
3. Some dogs bark out the windows or scratch at the doors and windows on occasion. Crating them removes those opportunities.
4. The majority of dogs sleep the whole time their owners are gone anyway. It’s simply not a big deal to crate them.
5. If you have multiple dogs, sometimes it’s safer to crate one or both dogs while you’re away to prevent fights or other mischief.
6. Some people have enough stress in their day with work or kids or whatever. Crating the dog removes the added stress of worrying about what the dog might be doing. Totally worth it.
7. Finally, most dogs don’t really mind their crates if they’ve been crate trained. They’re dogs. They adapt to whatever we decide for them.
I prefer to leave my dogs loose … once they’ve earned it
I view the crate as a tool to help a dog earn future freedom.
I have a 10-year-old Lab mix named Ace and an 11-month old weimaraner named Remy. You can probably guess that Ace is left loose and Remy is crated when they’re home alone.
I used a kennel with Ace until he was about 18 months old. The kennel helped him learn the proper routine of relaxing when home alone vs. getting into things.
Ideally, I’ll be able to leave Remy loose at some point too, but we’re nowhere near that point yet! In the meantime, I do not feel one bit guilty about using a crate for him.
How to make the crate more enjoyable
To help make the crate more enjoyable for Remy, I often give him a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter or other treats when he’s in his crate. If I’m going to be gone awhile, I make two of these and freeze them beforehand so they last longer.
Plenty of exercise beforehand
I also make sure he gets a lot of exercise, play, interaction and training every day. If he’s going to be left alone for several hours, then I make sure to exercise him before I leave and again when I get home.
Gentle Leader vs prong collar vs Easy Walk harness
Which one is best?
In case you haven’t figured it out, no tool is perfect.
Truth is, my puppy pulls no matter what and it’s a work in progress, always.
Limiting a dog’s pulling takes time. It’s really about patience, training, consistency and finding whatever tool helps you MANGAGE your dog while keeping everyone safe.
I can only tell you which collars are best for my particular dogs.
So which collar is best for Remy?
I actually like the Gentle Leader best for the largest variety of dogs (I’m a dog walker and rescue volunteer).
That being said, the Gentle Leader is the worst of the three tools for Remy. For him, it’s a tie between the prong collar and the Easy Walk harness. I haven’t decided which is best so I rotate between them depending on what we’re doing. See below.
The Gentle Leader
I love the Gentle Leader but it does not work well for my dog Remy.
The Gentle Leader fits over the dog’s muzzle (similar to a horse halter). When the dog pulls, the collar is designed to gently pull the dog’s muzzle and head to the side.
The Gentle Leaderworks so well for a lot of dogs and it’s my top recommendation. I’ve used it on probably 100 dogs by now.
However, it’s not so good for Remy.
Remy closes his mouth (avoids panting), puts his head low and to the side and pulls HARD against it the entire walk. This causes the fabric to rub under his eyes, making the skin raw and his eyes bug out. It hurts him. And after a half-hour he’s nearly having a heat stroke from not panting.
When we pass people, he paws at his muzzle frantically and stands on his hind legs causing people to stop and other dogs to react.
It frustrates and embarrasses me, and Remy is also frustrated.
So, not a good fit.
I keep trying it hoping it will get better, but it’s usually pretty frustrating.
The prong collar
A prong collar is a chain collar with flat “prongs” around it that put gentle pressure on the dog’s neck when he pulls. The prong collar is limited in how far it can tighten. (It’s a martingale collar.)
People really tend to panic when I even mention the word prong collar, leaving my blog in a huff. (So, please don’t do that.)
So I have to ask, do people think prong collars are “spiked” or sharp on the ends?Because they’re FLAT.
I switched Remy to the prong collar when he was 5 months old, so we’ve been using it on and off for about 8 months.
It’s like night and day.
He’s so much happier with it and he no longer “bucks” or paws at his face. I have the most control over him than any other tool, and it’s important to have control over a boisterous, adolescent weimaraner. He’s only going to get larger and stronger.
But the prong collar is not perfect.
Remy still pulls while wearing it, and I don’t like that there’s almost constant pressure on his neck.
So that’s why I tried the Easy Walk harness …
Easy Walk no-pull harness
The Easy Walk harness is a nylon harness that limits the effects of a dog’s pulling because the leash clips to the chest and tightens the harness around the dog’s chest and shoulders when he pulls. It gently pulls him to the side and makes pulling uncomfortable.
I bought a large, so Remy’s was still a little loose on him in these pictures, but not for long!
The Easy Walk harness seems to work pretty well for Remy. I like that it takes all the pressure off his neck. (Although, it does rub his skin raw under his arms. Sigh.)
He still pulls while wearing it (of course), but it does make our walks more enjoyable and he seems happier too. The Easy Walk harness is more effective with Remy than I expected. There’s a reason you see so many people using them. They work!
My main problem with the harness is it still allows Remy the freedom to jump on people. He’s able to really LAUNCH HIMSELF at people while wearing it. Like, it seems to help him get AIR! Have you ever seen anything like it? Ha!
The prong collar works better for controlling him when he tries to jump.
Because of this, I tend to use the prong collar when I’m walking both my dogs together by myself because it gives me more control. On my longer strolls and hikes with Remy by himself, I tend to use the harness.
Let’s face it, the harness also give me a chance to sort of “check out” from training while still keeping my dog fairly controlled as long as no people are around. This is something we all need at times, adding to the popularity of this harness.
So what’s the verdict?
Well, I use the Gentle Leader for my Lab mix Ace. It works the best for him.
For Remy, I rotate between the prong collar and the Easy Walk harness AND the Gentle Leader. They all work … sort of.
There is no tool that works best for every dog in every situation!
I use three tools every day between my two dogs.
For quick potty breaks in our apartment, the prong collar works best for Remy because I can keep him under control around other dogs. I can stop him from jumping and wiggling around.
For longer walks around the neighborhood or hiking, the Easy Walk harness is best because if Remy’s going to be pulling it takes the pressure of his neck.
And for the walks where I take both dogs by myself, I prefer to have Remy on the prong collar.
It is challenging to wrangle two large dogs, pick up poop, carry the poop bags and maneuver around other residents.
It’s the worst when I’m obviously picking up poop and someone barges over with her dogs. “CAN WE SAY HI!”
Um … hi? No?
But still, I need to be able to control my dogs even if other people are being idiots. So, prong collar it is at times. Please don’t hate me.
No collar is perfect. No dog is perfect. I’m certainly not perfect!
What tool do you currently use the most for walking your dog?
Do you have any comments to add about any of these collars?
A slow 20-minute “stroll” once or twice a day is a good rule of thumb for most puppies. Read on for my longer answer.
There’s a lot of fear right now about walking a puppy or young dog too far and potentially damaging the pup’s developing joints. While it’s good to be cautious, this is too often taken to the extreme.
Before you read on, you should know that I have been a professional dog runner since 2008 and I train for marathons. My general approach to dog training is a tired dog is a good dog.
I lean towards exercising all dogs (including puppies and seniors) as much as I can within reason. I tend to exercise dogs in general more than the average person would be comfortable doing.
Why it’s good to be cautious when walking a puppy
The reason it’s good to be cautious when exercising a puppy is because a puppy’s growth plates don’t close until they are around 12 months old (it varies quite a bit, depending on breed), and some vets say puppies that experience heavier exercise are more likely to develop joint issues at some point.
It’s good to lean on the side of caution and not overdo it with a puppy’s exercise.
However, it’s also important to consider:
1. Puppies that get out for walks are getting socialized.
3. Sitting in a kennel/crate all day is not healthy for a pup’s developing joints either!
4. Puppies that get more exercise are generally better behaved & easier to train.
5. Many of the young dogs in shelters are there for behavioral problems related to poor socialization and too much energy.
6. Genetics and other factors like early spaying/neutering play a strong role in a dog’s likelihood of developing joint issues.
How much exercise is too much and what kind of exercise is safe?
The math equation: Multiply 5 by your pup’s age in months
I’m sure by now you’ve come across “the math equation” about multiplying your puppy’s age in months by 5 to get some magic number. So, 10 minutes of walking for an 8-week old puppy. 15 minutes for a 12-week-old puppy, etc.
There’s no way I’m following that!
I have a weimaraner puppy, and this dog would be at the humane society by now if I had to follow that equation.
How far can I walk my puppy? Each puppy is unique!
I am comfortable walking my puppy Remy for about 35 minutes at least once a day. Ideally twice. (And let’s just say he’s not at all tired after this.)
In addition to that, Remy should ideally be getting the opportunity to run and play at his own pace off leash for 20 minutes or so each day.
I’ve talked with my puppy’s vet and my puppy’s breeder and this is what works for us. It doesn’t mean it’s right for your puppy. I’ve received some unkind emails warning me I’m doing everything wrong. 🙁
My puppy is bred for endurance!
Remy’s parents and grandparents are working, competitive bird dogs.
There’s no way I could live with a working weimaraner if I could only walk him 20 minutes a day.
For me, keeping Remy’s walks to 35 minutes or so (around 1.6 miles for us) is my way of limiting his exercise.
Despite what some people think, I am actually worried about my puppy’s joints and that’s why I limit his exercise to 35-minute walks or so.
I don’t run with my puppy, and I don’t encourage him to jump on or off obstacles.
How far should you walk your puppy?
A slow, 20-minute stroll should be safe for most puppies 8 weeks or older. By that I mean you’re letting the puppy set the pace. You’re stopping and letting him sniff, etc.
Beyond that, I would discuss it with your puppy’s vet and with your puppy’s breeder (if you have a breeder pup). They are the experts and can give you the best advice. It also doesn’t hurt to talk with more than one vet as veterinarians don’t seem to have a clear consensus on this issue. No one really knows.
What it comes down to is you know your puppy better than anyone else.
I personally lean on the side of providing as much exercise as possible, within reason. But as with everything else in the dog world we all have to make our own decisions.
Other factors to consider:
1. Puppy shots. If your puppy is not fully vaccinated, he has a greater risk of catching parvo or other diseases on walks. Another post all together.
2. Breed. Some breeds are more prone to joint issues than others.
3. Genetics. Genetics are a factor for predicting whether or not a pup will develop hip dysplasia/elbow dysplasia. Other factors include weight, overall health, diet, etc.
Since we recently got a second dog, I wanted to re-visit rawhides and make up my own mind.
I decided I’m comfortable adding the right types of rawhides to the mix for both my dogs in moderation.
Rawhides are not the greatest thing in the world, and there are slight risks to feeding rawhides as there are risks to giving any other type of chew or bone.
So let’s re-visit those “warnings” I mentioned and see if there’s any truth to them.
1. Dogs can’t digest rawhides. True or false?
Millions of dogs consume and digest rawhides with no issues. They eat small pieces at a time.
The potential problems occur when a dog swallows large chunks, “knots” or soft, unraveled strips of rawhide. In rare cases, dogs are unable to digest or pass these large chunks.
Safety tip: Choose rawhides that are large for your dog and take them away when they become soft or small enough to swallow.
2. Rawhides are made with chemicals. True or false?
True, some more than others.
There are a lot of articles out there on how rawhides are made. It’s not pretty.
Rawhides are a by-product of the leather industry, so you can only imagine the kinds of chemicals used for preserving and cleaning the hides as they are made and shipped in various areas of the world. Here’s a pretty fair article from the Whole Dog Journal on how rawhides are made.
You can also find rawhides that are made right here in the United States from start to finish and with fewer chemicals.
Safety tip: Don’t buy just any brand. Don’t trust labels that say “all natural” or “made in USA.” Instead, do a lot of research on how the exact product is made start to finish. Ask questions if you can’t find the information. Brands that care will be happy to answer your questions in details.
3. Rawhides are a choking hazard. True or false?
True, although rare.
Any type of chew or bone for dogs can be a choking hazard.
Rawhides have a bad rap because:
A. They get really “gummy” as they soften so it’s easy for a dog to swallow a long strip of rawhide.
B. Some dogs gulp or swallow the knotted ends or large chunks of rawhide. Ace does this!
C. Some people give their dogs rawhides that are too small to begin with.
Safety tips: Choose large rawhides. Avoid rawhides with knotted ends. Take the rawhide away once it gets soft and “gummy.” Take the rawhide away once it is small enough for your dog to swallow. Supervise.
4. Rawhides could cause an intestinal blockage. True or false?
True, although rare.
You will hear stories about dogs that needed surgery to remove a rawhide, but how many millions of dogs chew rawhides with no issues? For me, it’s about knowing your dog, supervising and taking the rawhide away before your dog has a chance to gulp large chunks.
Other types of bones and chews such as antlers or raw beef bones can also cause an intestinal blockage.
Additional concerns with rawhides:
1. A lot of dogs seem to have beef allergies and most rawhides are made with beef. If that’s the case, I recommend rawhide made from buffalo hide.
2. Some owners report rawhides give their dogs upset stomachs due to contamination. This is why it’s so important to research exactly where the rawhide is coming from.
No dog bone, toy or chew is 100 percent safe.
Every type of chew out there has likely caused a dog – sometime, somewhere – to choke, get sick or have an intestinal blockage or need emergency surgery.
If you have a favorite “go to” chew for your dog, it’s probably considered “dangerous” by some other dog owner somewhere.
Antlers are very strong and some dogs could break their teeth over time.
Cooked bones you can buy for dogs at pet stores or grocery stores can splinter and cause internal damage.
But dogs should chew SOMETHING!
chewing keeps their jaws, teeth and gums healthy
it’s something fun for them to do & a stress reliever
if we don’t provide them chews, they’ll find something
If you decide to feed rawhides, here are my tips:
1. Know your dog.
All dogs are different, and you know your dog’s chewing style best.
2. Choose the brand wisely.
Research and ask questions! Know exactly how the rawhide was made from start to finish. Find out where the cattle were raised, what tanneries the hides were sent to and in what country. Avoid products that were shipped to or from tanneries in China. Avoid the bleached white rawhides. Ask what chemicals were used for cleaning the hides. Finally, read the ingredients. If you can’t find these details, don’t buy the product.
3. Choose a larger size & supervise!
Throw the rawhide away once it’s small enough or soft enough to swallow.
So those are my thoughts. Let me know yours in the comments!
I plan to give my puppy and my adult dog an occasional rawhide in the future. I’m nervous about all types of chews, but rawhides are one of the options I’m more comfortable with. Like I said, not all rawhides are the same. It’s about finding the best option for your unique pup.
If you’ve fed your dogs rawhides for the last 30 years with no issues, there’s probably no reason to change. If rawhides make you nervous, there are plenty of other options available.
Do you give your dog rawhides? What else do you give your dog for chewing?
There are likely dozens of “rescue” dogs out there that could have been a good fit for us at this time. Our puppy will also be a good fit, and in our case it’s the right choice.
It’s simply about finding the right dog. That is it.
Yet, of course, it’s complicated.
We spent years researching all options, meeting different rescued Lab and shepherd mixes, discussing buying a malinois from an old friend & client, emailing breeders.
Nothing felt right. I could not commit to any of these other dogs. I’m not sure why.
I kept coming back to these weims.
Some decisions just feel right, and this is one of them.
“I was hoping you would rescue,” one woman wrote on my blog.
She meant it from the heart, out of her great love for dogs. She meant no harm.
I’ll be honest, these kinds of comments bother me.
That someone would turn such an important, personal decision into a black-and-white moral issue. That her decision should also be my decision.
It’s right up there with:
“When are you having kids?” (Who said I was?)
And, “Why didn’t you take your husband’s name?” (Why didn’t he take mine?)
But I can either whine about the rescue question or I can show people about choosing and raising a dog responsibly.
Here’s a post on why I personally appreciate our breeder: CLICK HERE.
I love my three hand-me-down pets. I don’t call them rescues, but they are all adopted. I’m so thankful and lucky their three lives crossed with mine at the correct times. Beamer, Scout and Ace are so perfect for me in their own ways. They are loved.
Our little puppy will be “perfect” and loved very much as well.
This is why I don’t ask a dog lover why she didn’t rescue.
Two months after we adopted our dog Baxter, I took him on a walk across our farm with no leash.
As we reached the corner of the field, he turned left when I turned right, and within minutes he disappeared into the woods.
I couldn’t see him or hear him and no amount of calling enticed him to return.
My very stubborn husband spent an afternoon tromping across the countryside. He eventually returned home with Baxter—on leash.
After that, we made sure to keep him on leash, but that wasn’t the life I envisioned for my dog on our 129-acre farm.
I’ll share my personal experience with Baxter, but first, here are my tips for training your dog to be off leash:
My 5 tips for how to train a dog to be off-leash:
1.Strengthen the bond with your dog through obedience. You must have a strong foundation of respect and trust before you start off leash sessions.
2.Start small in a controlled area.
3.Drag the leash. Tie a long training line to your leash to help define your dog’s comfort zone.
4.Join an off-leash group. The pack factor makes a huge difference when your dog is off leash. Plus the human pack can encourage you. And if you all share the same philosophy about dogs and training, they won’t blink when they trip over the leash your dog is dragging behind him.
5.Be patient and persist. Leash dragging may last longer than you think. You may have bad days. You may have to go back to basic on-leash lessons to reconnect with your dog. The effort it takes to achieve good behavior off leash is worth it when you see the joy it gives your dog.
Being able to be off-leash was my top goal when we started training classes.
Thanks to a lot of work and our great trainer, Baxter and I now go off-leash hiking every week. He’s not perfect, and I still get anxious sometimes, but it’s a tremendous improvement over where we started, so Lindsay encouraged me to share my experience.
First, I have to give credit to our trainer. I attended lots of obedience classes (without Baxter) trying to find the right fit for him and for us. The class I attended with this trainer was her final session—and it was an off-leash hike.
Every dog in the group was off leash!
I was astounded. It was exactly what I wanted for Baxter.
Our trainer uses a method that I didn’t find with other classes. All of her sessions took place out in the world—busy downtowns, conservation areas, city parks. She absolutely does not treat train. And the lessons aren’t so much about basic obedience as they are about bonding with your dog.
We went through the basics—loose leash walking, sit, stay, down, come, patience, agility—but they all happened in a unique way.
Loose leash walking was taught by jogging in and out of a line of trees and helping our dogs learn that they needed to pay attention to avoid getting tangled.
Sitting happened in an empty parking lot, asking the dog to sit on each line as we walked through the parking spaces.
The lessons focused on building respect, trust and a bond between us and our dogs.
Letting go of that leash!
It wasn’t until the tenth class that we let go of the leash.
We were in a quiet laneway with a pond on one side and a fence on the other—a controlled environment with few escape routes.
All of the people and dogs in the class walked down the lane as a group. Nonchalantly, when Baxter seemed to be in tune with us, we dropped the leash.
We walked for a few more steps and then turned around to head back to the start. Baxter didn’t notice—or didn’t care—that we turned around. We called his name, and he followed us back to the start where he got lots of scratches and “good boys.”
Next we walked along the path as a group. Again we dropped the leash, but we didn’t turn around. If Baxter got too far ahead, we stepped on the leash, just to get his attention.
Baxter is a confident, independent dog, which I love. But a drawback is that he has a very large comfort zone.
For one exercise, our trainer had my husband and I walk down the lane with Baxter. When we dropped the leash, Baxter stopped walking. He’d figured out that we were going to come back along the same route, and he didn’t see why he needed to walk out only to retrace his steps (he’s also very lazy).
It was a bit of a battle of wills.
We needed Baxter to respect that we were setting the route, not him, and he needed to follow us.
We kept walking, not looking back, until we were around the curve out of his sight. Then he started to follow. We kept walking until the end of the lane. When Baxter came around the curve, we squatted down and opened our arms encouraging him to come to us. He took a really, really long time (slow, meandering, sniffing) but he eventually came.
Obviously, we had more work to do in the bonding department.
Always a work in progress
In my opinion, obedience is just part of training. Things work much better when your dog wants to do things with you. So we focused on respect and trust and bonding.
When we were introducing off-leash exercises, we started class first with the basics on leash: loose leash walking while changing direction and going over obstacles, sits at any moment, stays in busy areas. Exercises that were interesting helped him pay attention to us and reminded him he had to do what we wanted.
Once he was off-leash, if Baxter wandered off to do his own sniffs, we’d call him back. If he didn’t come, we went and got him and put him on leash. We kept him on leash to show there are consequences for not paying attention.
As Baxter was learning, so were we.
One lesson for me was that my definition of off-leash changed to be leash dragging.
We dropped the leash rather than unclipping it. Eventually, we got a 10-foot training line that Baxter dragged behind him. Feeling it behind him seemed to remind him to pay attention to us. Stepping on the leash every so often helped to reinforce the boundaries of our comfort zone. Plus, in worst case scenarios—and they did happen—it gave us something to grab.
At every hike for a year, Baxter dragged his long training line behind him. Most of the time it was more about my comfort than his obedience, although every so often his confident, independent, sniffy sides came out. As my confidence grew, I eventually let him go completely leash free.
Our training was tested a few months ago when my worst-case scenario happened. A deer bounded across the path while we were hiking. Three dogs took off, Baxter among them.
Baron the German shepherd came back in less than a minute. Kaylie the border collie was back in 5.
Baxter was gone for 15 minutes. A very looooong 15 minutes.
But, he came back!
On a trail he wasn’t super familiar with, he found his way back to where he’d left me. For me, that showed the strength of the bond that we’ve built … and that we need to continue to work on obedience and recall.
We’ve become regulars in the hike group, and Baxter loves hiking with his friends. He bounds to the car, stares fixedly out the front window as we roll along and whines as if to say, “Are we there yet?”
His joy is incentive enough for me to keep working at our off-leash training.
OK, how about the rest of you?
What have been your challenges with off-leash training?
Lindsay Stordahl Lindsay Stordahl (with her mutt Ace) is the blogger behind That Mutt.
Julia Thomson Julia Thomson (with her mutt Baxter) writes regularly for That Mutt.
Barbara Rivers Barbara Rivers writes for That Mutt about raw dog food.
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