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By Gina Spadafori
Pet Columnist

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Crate-training the Preferred Way Prevents Accidents as your Puppy Grows

If you have a new puppy, it's time to learn about crate-training. Every year more people turn to this method, with good reason: It's easier on pups and people alike.
"I find the crate to be very effective when used in house-training for a couple of reasons," says my friend Liz Palika, who has spent more than three decades teaching dog obedience in the San Diego area. She's also the author of thousands of pet care articles and more than 50 books, including a recent one aimed at helping grade-school children train the family dog, "Dog Obedience: Getting Your Pooch Off the Couch and Other Dog Training Tips" (Capstone, $21).
"First, when the dog is confined, he can't sneak off to another room or behind the sofa to relieve himself. Second, when in the crate, he learns and develops bowel and bladder control, because few dogs are willing to soil their bed," she notes.
Palika and I have been friends for many years, and we each recently added puppies to our families. Mine is Ned, a Shetland sheepdog, and hers is Bones, an English shepherd. She and Bones, along with her two other dogs, Bashir and Sisko, recently spent a couple of days visiting with me and my animal family -- which now includes two goats, neither house-trained, by the way.
Of course, we talked dog training. We both like crate-training, and have used it for all our dogs for many years. Crate-training limits a puppy's options to three: 1) He's either empty and playing in the house; 2) he's in the crate and "holding it" because he doesn't want to sit in his own waste; or 3) he's at the place you've chosen for him to relieve himself.
Puppies need to relieve themselves after they wake up, after they eat or drink, and after a period of play. Set up a schedule to accommodate his needs as you work to mold behavior, and remember that young puppies, especially small breeds or mixes, can't go very long without eating, drinking, sleeping or relieving themselves. A good rule of thumb: Puppies can hold it as long as their age in months. A 2-month-old pup can "hold it" in a crate for about two hours, for example.
Let the puppy sleep next to your bed in the crate -- sleeping near you speeds the bonding process -- and lead him to the chosen outside spot as soon as he's awake in the morning. When he goes, praise him thoroughly. Then take him inside for breakfast. Feed him and offer him water, and then take him out for another chance to go. If he goes, more praise and back inside for play. If you're not sure he's completely empty, put him in the crate.
Ignore the whines and whimpers. If left alone, the puppy will soon be fast asleep and will stay that way until it's time for the next round of out, eat/drink, out, play, crate. Remember, too, the goal is for your puppy to roam free in your house, not to stay in a crate for life.
"A crate is not a storage container for a dog," says Palika.
Eventually, your pet will be spending more of his time loose in the house under your supervision, and he will start asking to visit his outdoor spot. Don't forget to confirm his early attempts at proper behavior by rewarding him with praise and treats.
If you spot an in-house accident, a stern "no" will suffice, followed by an immediate trip to the yard, and praise when he finishes up where he's supposed to. Clean up the inside mess thoroughly, and treat the area with an enzymatic solution to neutralize the smell.
With proper crate-training, the number of such incidents will be relatively few, and you'll end up with a dog who is not only reliable in the house, but also confident in his own ability to stay alone when you are gone. - By Gina Spadafori
Supplements can ease arthritis
Q: What do you think about giving glucosamine to dogs? I see it recommended everywhere, and it's even in dog foods now. Does it work? Our dog is having a harder time getting up from the floor, especially on these colder days. -- via email
A: Yes, glucosamine is as helpful for joint pain in dogs as it has been shown to be in people, and that's why it's a popular over-the-counter treatment for arthritis in both species. As always, though, I recommend that you work with your dog's veterinarian on the ideal approach or combination of approaches, especially in regard to what are called "nutraceuticals," a word that's a combination of "nutrition" and "pharmaceutical," and refers to products, supplements and dietary ingredients known or believed to have some kind of specific medical benefit.
While not as well-tested or strictly regulated as drugs, nutraceuticals such as omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, antioxidants and many other supplements and herbs have found their way into the world of veterinary medicine. Conditions that can be helped by these kinds of supplements in addition to arthritis include age-related cognitive dysfunction, side effects from prescribed medications, and many kinds of skin and digestive problems.
But again, check in with your veterinarian. Your older dog will likely benefit from an approach that includes (in addition to supplements) losing weight (most dogs are overweight, which increases pressure on joints), making time for daily non-jarring exercise such as a good walk and having warm, soft bedding to sleep on. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Top 10 beaches for the dogs

  • If a White Christmas isn't your style, you might consider heading with your dog to the beach. Veterinary Economics magazine recently rated the most dog-friendly (and dog-welcome) beaches. The best? Del Mar Beach, a dog-friendly stretch north of San Diego. On the opposite coast, Fort De Soto Park in St. Petersburg led the list of Florida beaches. Bring your leashes (not all dog beaches are leash-free zones) and your pick-up bags, plus fresh water for everyone, and have a great time. 

  • Tired of pumpkin pie yet? Don't throw out those cans of pumpkin: Save them for your cat. Increasing the fiber in your cat's diet by adding a little canned pumpkin (pure pumpkin, not pie filler) daily to wet food is a proven remedy for reducing hairballs. 

  • The emotional and legal view of pets continues to change. Once almost universally regarded as little more than property, the courts and legislative bodies are giving animals more regard. Jumping into the fray, the American Animal Hospital Association recently moved to recognize animals as "feeling, sensing beings capable of sentiency" in a statement that may seem obvious to pet lovers but that is considered controversial even within the veterinary profession, according to the VIN News Service.  In Florida, veterinarian Dr. Kenneth Newman also has been pushing for his "Gracie's Law" to allow courts to grant damages for the loss of an animal above its value as property. The law is named in honor of Newman's Labrador, who was killed in an auto accident caused by a negligent driver. --Gina Spadafori

Date Published: 12/26/2012 1:17:00 PM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 12/26/2012


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Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of Dogs for Dummies, Cats for Dummies and Birds for Dummies. She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her at

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