Introduction to the recovery crate: Method 2
It is always best to introduce your dog to the recovery crate gradually. There are various ways of doing this. If your dog is not safe to walk back and forth in and out of the crate or pen, then it is best to use method 2 as outlined here. For example, this method is suitable for:
- very lame dogs
- those who have recently had a spinal disc injury
- or immediately after an orthopaedic or spinal operation.
For general advice on introduction to the recovery crate, click here.
Step-by-step guide to method 2
- Assemble the crate.
- Check that the crate floor provides even footing (remove the base of the crate if this is going to wobble when stepped on). Cover the floor of the crate with non-slip matting, and then with plenty of bedding. Put your dog’s favourite toys inside the crate.
- Optional: Plug in a DAP (Adaptil®)diffuser as close as possible to the crate. Spray the bedding with DAP spray.
- Prop the crate door wide open.
- Pick a time when you expect your dog to be hungry, and get some food ready for your dog to enjoy inside the crate. Keep the total amount of food quite small, but present the food in several different ways at once. The trick is to offer food that your dog can really enjoy, without causing them an upset stomach. Put at least two of the following inside the crate:
- A small bowl of your dog’s food (not as much as a full meal)
- A few bits of your dog’s kibble scattered onto the floor of the crate. If your dog cannot walk at all, then put the kibble into a little heap on the floor.
- A few tiny dog treats on the floor of the crate.
- A filled Kong®
- Put your dog on a harness to give you some control. The top of the harness acts as a handy “grab handle” just in case your dog is wriggly or tries to rush off.
- Lift your dog into the crate. Sit, crouch or stand just outside the crate entrance with the crate door propped open. Let your dog explore the inside of the crate while you watch. If you are lucky, your dog will eat without any prompting. You may need to hand-feed the first bits of treat to your dog, and you may need to pick the Kong® up and show it to your dog until they get the idea. Tip: If your dog tries to rush straight out of the crate into your arms, then get hold of their harness to steady them. Use your free hand to point into the crate, and say “Go find the food” or “Go and explore”. If your dog is still not happy to enter the crate, then take a break and try again several hours later. Don’t offer any food in the meantime. For persistent crate problems, ask your vet for advice and consider referral to a canine behavioural specialist.
- Once your dog has chosen to stop eating, lift them out of the crate. Do not make too much of a fuss of your dog at this point.
- Take a break! Keep your dog out of the crate for a while. This is probably also an ideal time for your dog’s toilet-break, Repeat steps 3-8 at your dog’s next meal time.
- Repeat steps 3-8 again. Once your dog is confident to eat inside the crate, try closing the crate door while they are eating. Stay nearby in the same room. Open the door again before your dog has finished eating.
- Repeat steps 3-8 again. Close the crate door as above. This time, walk out of the room for up to one minute while your dog is eating. Return to open the crate door again before your dog has finished eating.
- Repeat steps 3-8 again. Close the crate door as above. Stay in the room and occupy yourself with something else while your dog eats (e.g. read a book or do some housework). This time, do not open the crate door straight away. Keep yourself busy for 5-10 minutes, then open the crate door and lift your dog out. Tip: If your dog starts crying when in the crate, then do not rush immediately to comfort them. Keep an eye on the situation, wait for a lull in the crying if possible, then open the crate door. Avoid making a fuss of your dog at this point. Check that the crate is comfortable and that your dog has enough to do in there, e.g. provide extra chew toys if needed. You may need to repeat a few steps of the crate introduction process until your dog is more confident, e.g. go back to step 10 or even earlier.
- Over several days, gradually increase the length of time that your dog spends inside the closed crate. Leave the room for increasing periods of time with your dog in the crate.