Q: I'm getting a new puppy in a few weeks. What should I look for in a crate, and how should I introduce her to it?
A: There are lots of different types of crates with different features. Here are some things to look for as you make your decision.
Wire, plastic and soft carriers each have pros and cons. Wire crates offer good ventilation and views and are easy to cover if necessary. They fold up when not in use, but they can't be used for air travel. (For safety, remove your dog's collar before putting her in a wire crate.)
Some plastic crates have wheels, making them easier to move. Look for one with a top that comes off easily. Top-loading kennels are helpful for Fear Free veterinary visits. Your pup can be examined while he's still in the carrier if the top comes off, or he can be removed without being forced out. An alternative for small dogs up to 20 pounds is a crate with a bottom that slides out, such as the Van Ness Calm Carrier.
Soft carriers are lightweight. They're not the best choice for a puppy, but once your dog is grown and trained, they can be a comfy choice for relaxing or suitable for stays in hotel rooms.
Whatever crate you choose, make it attractive to your puppy. Before you pick her up from the breeder or shelter, spray or wipe down the crate with a calming canine pheromone. At home, place the crate in an area where there's lots of family activity. Put treats and toys in it for her to find, and feed her in it. Give a treat or leave her with a favorite toy every time you put her in her crate at naptime or bedtime.
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