Crates vs. baby gates.
November 27, 2012 11:13 AM   Subscribe

After doing tons of breed research and visiting shelters and rescues, I have finally found the write dog for me. I purchased a miniature dachshund from a reputable breeder in my hometown. She is only three weeks old right now, so I have five weeks to prepare for her arrival in my home. I do have a few questions that I hope Mefites can help me with.

I will be bringing my miniature dachshund, Josie, home to my (large, one bedroom) apartment in about five weeks. This will be my first pet that I have ever brought home as an adult (I am 25) and I have spent a very long time thinking about whether or not I am ready for her. I think that I am. I am really excited to bring her home and plan to spend the next few weeks puppy-proofing my apartment and buying all the necessary supplies for her.

Right now, my big dilemma is about what to do with Josie when I absolutely have to leave the house. I am a grad student who works part time, about 20-30 hours per week. I am lucky in that my schedule is very flexible, so in the early weeks of Josie's time in my home, I plan to spend as much time with her as I possibly can. However, I will have to be at work for a minimum of twenty hours a week. I usually work in the mornings on Mondays and Thursdays, from 10AM-2PM and on nights on Tuesdays and Wednesday from 3PM-9PM. I have the entire weekend off, except for two Saturdays a month, when I go to class from 8AM-4PM. I have arranged for someone to come sit with Josie during the Saturdays that I have class and for a dog walker on Tuesday and Wednesday nights to come play with her and let her out, but I am unsure on what to do on Mondays and Thursdays.

I personally want to crate train her to aid in the process of house training, and so I can safely contain her when I have to be out of the house and/or someone cannot be with her. I have read during my research that most dogs love their crates if crate training is done properly. However, my family members and friends seem to advocate for me putting her in my tiled kitchen or bathroom with a baby gate up to contain her and pee pads on the floor to catch any accidents she might have. They argue that a baby gate/pee pads will be cheaper than a crate and that Josie will be uncomfortable and cramped in a crate. Josie is a small dog who will weigh < 11 lbs at the most at adulthood. I don't know what sort of dangerous capers Josie could get into if she had the run of my kitchen, but I definitely know that I do not want to leave her alone and free to roam in my small bathroom. I don't want her to be expose her to chemicals and I don't want anything to fall on her while she is exploring. I'm also concerned about her getting too acclimated to pee-pads and being difficult to house train because of it (can a dog get so used to going on pee pads that they do not want to go outside? I feel like it would be inconsistent of me to let her pee on pee pads when I'm out of the house and then expect her to magically want to go outside when I'm there). Is it safe to leave her alone in the kitchen sealed off with a baby gate for 4-6 hours? I really feel that it would be safer to crate train her, but I'm just not sure. Also, what size of crate would be best for her and do any Mefites have crate recommendations? I appreciate any responses!
posted by SkylitDrawl to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
She will be totally, 100% fine in a crate. I had a miniature dachshund growing up and she loved her crate (which was almost identical to this one, so probably a little bigger than necessary for such a small dog), to the point where we would find her in there asleep even when we were at home. My mom finally brought it into the living room and put it at the end of the couch so she could hang out in there with the family.
posted by something something at 11:18 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Are your family members and friends dog experts? If not, I would go with what you've discovered in your research - even if it goes against "common knowledge" - and train your dog the way the experts recommend.

My small dog is extremely happy in her crate when I am gone from the house. It is her den, and her place to go when she's tired or scared or just whenever she wants. I think giving a dog a safe space that is just her own is wonderful thing to do.
posted by Brody's chum at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2012

I really feel that it would be safer to crate train her, but I'm just not sure. Also, what size of crate would be best for her and do any Mefites have crate recommendations?

You are right about the crate training. It's far better than the alternatives.

When you are still housetraining, the crate should be just a bit larger than she is. This can be helpful with training because most dogs are unwilling to soil their bed. Start small, and work bigger,basically. Most wire crates come with a divider you can use for this purpose. After she is reliably trained, the crate can be as large as you think she will be comfortable with.

A good rule of thumb is don't leave her alone for more than one hour per month in age, if you can help it. If you need her to be alone longer, restrict her water for a couple of hours before hand.

The other thing you should consider doing is a puppy class/playtime/daycare type thing to help her learn to socialize with other dogs.

Plus lots of exercise. A tired dog is a good dog, and crate training will go much easier if she is too pooped out to fuss much.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:39 AM on November 27, 2012

Best answer: Speaking from experience with my own miniature dachshund, don't use the puppy pads that your friends are suggesting. Dachshunds are really stubborn, and once you've convinced her that it's ok to pee on this pad on a floor, any soft surface on your floor will be game. The people who had ours before us had trained him to use puppy pads, and it took us ages to break him of his habit of peeing on any soft thing on the floor. (Bathmat, laundry pile, throw blanket that had fallen off the sofa...)

Also, they grow to love their crates, even if they fuss at first. We have three dogs, and can't lock one of them up without locking up the rest, because if we close them out of their crate (which they share) they'll go and sit there and cry. It's also where they sleep at night, even though they're not locked in. The crate is their happy place, and the training was totally worth it.

Oh, and crate size? For a miniature dachshund, especially a puppy, start with a cat carrier! Much cheaper than dog crates, generally speaking, and very effective--when ours needs to be crated by himself instead of with his big brothers, it's into the kitty crate (with, you know, a blanket and a squeaky) he goes.
posted by MeghanC at 11:49 AM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have a border terrier puppy (7.5 months, I've had him since he was 9 weeks old) and he's litter box trained. This is awesome, because it means that he can take care of all his bathroom needs while I'm at work all day.

A note on that first...he's alone a lot. I have an x-pen set up for him in my living room, with water, food, his litter box, his crate with a bed, and plenty of toys. He is an extremely well-adjusted dog who gets on well with people and other dogs despite all the downtime he gets. Maybe my dog is just special, but I wouldn't be overly concerned that leaving him by himself every once in a while is going to damage him forever or something.

Back to the litter box training. While his ability to pee in a box is extremely convenient, it also unfortunately means that he's extremely stubborn when it comes to going to the bathroom outside. He'll pee outside--if he absolutely has to--but he's only pooped outside (for me) twice. (For whatever reason, whenever my dad (who he just met for the first time last week during Thanksgiving so it's obviously not a comfort thing) walks him, he poops just fine. He otherwise pretty much never poops outside. My dad is just the poop whisperer.)

At 11lbs, your dog is in a prime demographic size-wise for litter box training. MeMail me for more info if it's something you might consider!
posted by phunniemee at 12:02 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and to my dog, "puppy pad" is just the trade name for "magical confetti toy," so proceed with caution.
posted by phunniemee at 12:04 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Crate training is one of the best things you can do for both you and your dog. Period. Earlier and gradual is also better, both of which you seem to have covered. 'Congrats.

Side note, we got one of the gerbil (but in doggy size) water bottles for our dog and it's worked out great for when we're away for more than a few hours. Completely satisfied with that purchase.

Normal collars aren't great to leave on your dog in the crate but we've never had a problem with our two pitt rescues, however any sort of choke collars must absolutely be removed before crating any dog for any period of unsupervised time to prevent strangulation.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:04 PM on November 27, 2012

I'm also concerned about her getting too acclimated to pee-pads and being difficult to house train because of it

I've never used pee pads for this very reason. It's like training your dog to use the restroom in the house. Yes, yes, I'm aware that you're supposed to slowly move them towards exterior doors and then finally put the pads outside to ease training, and blah blah blah.

My experience has been that normal common sense care and justice combined with cage/kennel training (because they do NOT want to mess in their kennel/happy place) will prevail enough such that you won't have a problem beyond a few initial accidents. If you're a renter and the fault tolerance for accidents is absolutely zero because of your lease then the pads might be a forgone necessity and good luck to you.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:12 PM on November 27, 2012

Crate training is awesome, but a note of caution: leaving a 2 month old puppy alone in a crate for 6h (your thursday evenings) will result in an unhappy puppy and a crate full of piss and potentially shit. Everyone says "oh, dogs don't want to go where they sleep," and it's true, they don't WANT to. But 6h for a 2 month puppy is a long, long time.
posted by elizardbits at 2:18 PM on November 27, 2012

(Also, not sure about everyone else in this thread but when I say "crate" I mean "wire cage with pad on bottom", not one of those solid plastic travel crates.)
posted by elizardbits at 2:19 PM on November 27, 2012

Response by poster: Just for clarification: I have hired someone to sit with Josie during my six hour shifts on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, so she won't need to be crated during that time. I an specifically wondering about my four hour morning shifts on Mondays and Tuesdays.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 2:42 PM on November 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thursdays* sorry. And I will post some pictures of her ASAP. Thanks for the answers so far.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 2:43 PM on November 27, 2012

Two essential (and free) books to read: Before you Get Your Puppy and After You Get Your Puppy, by Ian Dunbar. They are free because of Ian Dunbar/Sirius Training's commitment to help prevent dogs being surrendered to shelters because of behavior problems.
posted by apennington at 4:06 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am pretty sure that whoever had my yorkie mix before used pee pads because it soils inside the house any time there's a small, soft rectangular thing on the floor like a bathmat or throw rug. This has been very hard to break our dog of so we ended up having to keep the bathmats on a towel bar in the bathroom.

Crate training was good for our dogs but I think that if you are training a very young puppy, you'll need to recruit helpers to help take the puppy out every hour for a one month old, every two hours for a two month old, etc. I would get a crate that is for the size your dog would be when it is grown because most of them come with a divider that you can use while your puppy is growing. You can go to a local pet store (not a big box store but a smaller one with employees that can take time to help you) and they will tell you what crate would be the right size for your dog.

According to the humane society:
Generally speaking, a puppy can control his bladder one hour for every month of age. So if you're puppy is two months old, he can hold it for about two hours. Don't go longer than this between bathroom breaks or he's guaranteed to have an accident. If you work outside the home, this means you'll have to hire a dog walker to give your puppy his breaks.

One thing that is obvious to me now but that I didn't get right away is that eating/drinking means the dog will need to go potty soon after. Food in means poop/pee needs to come out. A couple of times I got distracted after mealtimes and there were accidents in the house.

You're supposed to take them outside constantly, even in the middle of the night. That means waking up to take them outside. I recommend choosing one spot that is their potty spot, taking them on a leash to that spot and praising/treating right after they go (don't wait until you go back inside).
posted by dottiechang at 6:54 PM on November 27, 2012

Response by poster: Just wanted to post an update and say that Josie is home and doing great. Here is a picture of her (don't worry, those lights are battery-operated so they won't hurt pets)! Thank you for all of the help!
posted by SkylitDrawl at 2:30 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Today has been pretty lame. I needed that. Thank you.

posted by phunniemee at 2:37 PM on January 4, 2013

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