When my oldest pup turned three we brought a new puppy into the house. How fun a new puppy! Everything was going great until the pup was almost a year old. Then out of nowhere their playful fighting turned into the real deal. For a while it was just annoying. Then our older pup started getting little cuts. But again I didn’t think it was serious, until one of her ears started swelling up.
Turns out she had a hematoma from the trauma of fighting. Now it’s a problem. After talking to a few dog trainers, we were given two options. Put up with the fighting or re-home the pup. Neither of which I was prepared to do. So after some more research I learned about the Crate and Rotate protocol. In the simplest terms, Crate and Rotate is where one dog is in their crate while the other roams, then they are rotated.
“But, isn’t it cruel to have the dogs locked away all the time?”
Is it an ideal situation? No. But is it cruel? No. For us it is the best way to keep our dogs healthy, happy and conflict free. Is it better to have one locked away for a few hours at a time and not getting injured? Or is it best to have them roaming the house or yard freely and treating wounds as the occur? Every situation is different, what is right for my family may not be right for another. It’s best to talk with your vet and trusted trainers before setting your crate and rotate schedule, and to make sure your pups are getting enough exercise.
Here are a few tips and tricks I have learned along the way. Experiment a bit and find out what works best for your family and schedule..
1) Have one crate per pup. This helps when rotating your dogs and helps to avoid a scuffle. This is also best for the dogs comfort. Dogs see crates as their own personal den, and when other dogs are allowed into their den it can upset them and make them feel insecure. Dogs often feel more at home when they have their own personal space. So having
a crate for each dog can make your routine a lot easier and their time in the crate more enjoyable.
2) provide ample water every time they are in the crate and feed them inside the crate at meal times. While it’s obvious that dogs need water available all day long, what might be surprising, is feeding your dog in his crate makes his crate time a more positive experience by associating something he enjoys – eating – with his time in the crate. Feeding my pups in their crates has improved meal times for me because there is no fighting over the food, and I know each dog is getting enough food.
3)Dogs get bored just like humans do, so make sure they have toys and treats to enjoy when they are in their crate. These should be high value toys and treats that can keep your dogs occupied for long periods of time in between naps. Consider filled toys you can stuff with cheese, kibble or other yummy snacks for your pup.
4) Make sure your crates are large enough and provide beds or blankets to make them comfortable. If you have the space you might even consider providing a room for your dog to be secluded with a crate inside so they can roam the room and look out the window.
5) Consider the placement of the crates. In my experience it is best to keep the crates behind a closed door so whoever is inside the crate doesn’t see everyone els
e walking around and playing. This is especially helpful if your dogs continue to argue through the crate door.
6) Don’t forget about exercise. The same way people need more exercise after sitting in a cubicle all day, dogs also need exercise after being in their crates. Play in the yard, go for a walk, even investing in a doggie treadmill or dog sized hamster wheel can give them the activity they need each day to keep them healthy.
7)Keep up with basic behavioral training. Crate and rotate is not a solution for untrained dogs. Be sure to continue with your training routine and keep up the hard work.
Here is our routine to give you an idea of what it can look like
8am wake up, outside for an hour or so depending on weather.
9am breakfast time
10am Pup #1 in crate Pup #2 out
Noon Pup #2 in crate Pup #1 out
2pm Pup #1 in crate Pup #2 out
4pm Pup #2 in crate Pup #1 out
6pm Pup #1 in crate Pup #2 out (pup one gets dinner)
8pm Pup #2 in crate Pup #1 out (pup two gets dinner)
9pm outside time for an hour or so depending on weather.
10pm both dogs in crate for the night.
This schedule works for our family right now because I am at home all the time, however if circumstances change we’ll have to tweak it again to get it right.
Coming up with the best Crate and Rotate routine for your dogs could take some time so be patient. Keep in mind that you are doing what is best for your dogs in order to keep them safe and healthy. And be patient with yourself, one slip up or change in routine isn’t the end of the world.