Crate Training

We all need a special place to call our own – a sanctuary of sorts.  Your pet is no different.  Part of raising a healthy dog is providing her with her own ” safe haven,” and crates are a perfect solution.  Most dogs can be easily trained to enjoy spending time in their crates.

Crate training is neither cruel nor unfair, provided your puppy had sufficient social interaction, exercise, and an opportunity to eliminate before she is placed in the crate.  In fact, allowing your dog to wander through the home unsupervised to investigate, chew, and eliminate is unwise and potentially dangerous.

You AND your dog, will love crates!  There are numerous benefits to crate training your dog:

  • security for your dog
  • safety for your dog
  • a place that is their own
  • prevention of household damage (chewing, elimination, etc.)
  • help with housetraining
  • preparation for travel, boarding, and spending time alone
  • it is safer for your dog to travel in a crate in the car than loose
  • if you choose to compete in any of the popular dog sports, it will be necessary for your dog to be crate trained
  • improved relationships (fewer problems mean less frustration and discipline)


How to choose a crate:

Three basic styles of crates exist: metal collapsible crates with tray floors, plastic crates and soft-sided collapsible crates.  Look for one that is large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in – even when she is full grown.  You will likely need 2-3 crates throughout your puppies growth into adulthood.  You don’t want a crate that is too large for a puppy that is learning to eliminate outside, not in their crate.  Metal wire crates or plastic crates are the best for young puppies and dogs new to crate training.  A soft-sided crate can be chewed, clawed and destroyed by a dog who isn’t already comfortable with a crate environment.

Provide the type of bedding on which your dog likes to nap, but keep in mind that your pup might be less likely to chew flat, tightly woven carpet samples or remnants than she is blankets, dog beds or towels.  If your dog must be left alone for more than six hours at a time, consider a pen or dog-proofed room for confinement rather than a crate.  Another option is an exercise pen that allows a little more room to move about.  Also consider a midday visit from a dog walker.

Because dogs are social, the ideal location for a crate is in a room where your family spends a lot of time, such as the kitchen, den or bedroom, rather than an isolated laundry or furnace room.  A radio, television, or CD may help calm your dog and mask noises that may trigger barking.  Finally, for the crate to remain a positive, enjoyable retreat, never use it for punishment.


Training Puppies:

Introduce your puppy to the crate as soon as possible.  Place treats, toys, chews, or food in the crate to motivate her to enter voluntarily.  You  can teach her to go into the crate on command at feeding time or when given a chew toy.  Practice frequently by tossing pieces of kibble in the crate.  Each time she runs inside, say “go to your crate/house” (or whatever word you wish to call it).  Eventually she will learn to enter when you give the command.

The first confinement session should be after a period of play, exercise, and elimination (when she is ready to take a nap or quietly play with a toy).  Place your puppy in her crate with a treat and a toy and close the door.   Leave the room but remain close enough to hear her.  You can expect some distress the first few times your puppy is separated from family members, but she should soon settle down if she is tired.  Never reward the pup by letting her out when she cries or whines.  Instead, ignore her until the crying stops and release her before it starts again.  If your puppy won’t settle in her crate, make sure that you choose a time when she has had sufficient play and exercise and that she has recently eliminated so she is ready to relax or nap.


As the crate training continues, be sure to give her a favoured chew toy or food-dispensing toy when placing her in the crate so she has something to keep her occupied.  Gradually increase the amount of time your dog spends in her crate.  However, be certain to return and realease your pet before she needs to eliminate.

If you have a regular routine for when your dog goes to her crate, she may soon begin to enter voluntarily when it’s time to rest or to chew on a toy.  Crating your dog is really not much different from placing a baby in a crib or playpen.  You can use the crate in a similar manner, allowing your dog to take a nap or play with toys in the crate when you can’t supervise her directly.

Remember to wait until your dog is quiet before you release her from the crate.  If she continues, to vocalize, try the following:

  • interrupt the behaviour with a firm “no” command through an intercom placed near the crate
  • shake an aluminum can containing a few pennies
  • use a device that emits a sound or spray of air each time your dog barks

These disruptions should be strong enough to stop the barking, but do not repeat them if they are not immediately successful or cause excessive fear.  Give lots of calm, verbal praise when the barking or whining does stop.  Wait a moment, then release the dog.  Extend the time between interrupting the noise, getting quiet behaviour and releasing her from the crate.

If you are unsure if she is crying to go eliminate, take her directly to the potty spot.  Praise her for going, but do not begin play, simply return her to her crate.  If she does not go, don’t get mad, simply return her to the crate.

Training Adult Dogs:

Training adult dogs is similar to training puppies, except that the introduction period should be much longer.  Introduce your dog to the crate by setting it up in the feeding or sleeping area with the door open (or even removed).  Close the door to the room or use a baby gate to keep the pet in the room.  Place food, treats, and toys in the crate so your dog is encouraged to enter on her own.  Add comfortable bedding so she is likely to stay inside and rest.  Once she enters the crate freely, you can begin to close the door for short periods of time.  Some dogs may adapt more quickly if you have crates available in more than one area of the home where the family spends time.  Some dogs do not deal well with confinement.  There are usually pets who have not been properly crate trained, older pets that are used to more freedom, or pets with anxiety disorders.  If your pet panics each time she is placed in her crate with signs of drooling, destructive escape behaviour, biting the crate (hard enough to break teeth), anxious vocalizations, or elimination, stop using the crate and consult your veterinarian.

dogs in crate

Additional notes:

Remember to respect your dog’s privacy when she is in her special place.  Don’t just reach in and pull her out, let her come out by herself.  Don’t let children (or anyone else) bother or tease her when she is in crate.  She needs to feel that she’s safe when she is in her crate.

If giving your dog toys in her crate, be sure they are not toys that she can chew up, tear apart or eat.  Many dogs are not destructive with their toys, but many are.  Never given them anything unsupervised that is a concern they may ingest it or choke on it.

Young puppies certainly can not hold their need to eliminate as long.  Initially your puppy may only be able to be in their crate for 4 hours maximum.  As they grow this will improve and time will increase.  Eventually, provided water and food have been removed, your puppy should have no problem staying in their crate throughout the night.

You can even get customized crates that are dual function – crate/night table or end table.   Search the net and you will be amazed at what you can find.

crate end table

You will be glad you gave your puppy her own place when she goes there for her naps or happily snuggles down for the night without whimpering, crying or barking; and you’ll know that he is not getting into mischief, even when you can’t be there to watch him.

Information taken from:

Our in-clinic puppy guide developed by our veterinarians

AAHA Press “Crate Training Creating Canine Heaven”

dog in crate


Litter Box Blues

litterboxAre you having issues with your cat using their litter box?  Issues can either be medically based or behavioural.  In any event, we can help!  Read the information below, provided by AAHA Press, then give us a call 306-545-7211.

While most cats are very clean and dependable in using a litter box, they may eliminate in undesirable locations for a number of different reasons.

Two types of Elimination Problems

Marking is when urine is sprayed on vertical objects such as furniture, plants, or walls.  Cats spray in a standing posture with their tail raised and their backside facing the object.  In rare cases, cats may mark with urine or stools on horizontal surfaces.  Marking may be a territorial signal or can be brought on by stress.

Housesoiling is when voiding of stool and/or urine occurs in places other than the litter box.  The cat will assume a squatting posture and eliminate on a horizontal surface.  Cats may soil to avoid the litter, the box, or the location, or because they prefer to use a different surface or location.

Rule Out Medical Causes First

These might include diseases that increase the frequency of urination (such as kidney disease or diabetes) and diseases that make urination painful (such as bladder disease or arthritis), or those that increase the frequency of bowel movements (such as diarrhea) or cause discomfort (such as constipation or anal sac problems).  Hormonal conditions (such as thyroid disease) and diseases that affect the nervous system (such as tumors or senility) can also lead to housesoiling.  Therefore, solving any housesoiling problem should begin with a veterinary visit.

If the problem is not medical, the next step is an in-depth evaluation to determine the behavioural cause and design a treatment plan that will best suit  your cat and your household.

Here are some general things that may cause elimination problems:

  • Environmental or social changes that occurred just prior to the onset of the problem
  • Changes in litter, box location, box type, and/or frequency of cleaning
  • Availability of more desirable locations and surfaces to eliminate
  • Problems in the relationship between the pet and other pets or people in the home

Causes of Marking

Marking may occur as a response to the introduction of new pets, objects (like new plants or furniture), or odors into the home (like fireplace logs or a visitor’s purse or boots), people moving into or out of the home, or moving to a new home.  Cats that spray near doors and windows may be marking in response to other cats coming onto the property.  Any changes in the environment that lead to an increase in anxiety or conflict can also cause marking (like remodeling, redecorating, or getting a new roommate).

pawing carpetCauses of Housesoiling

Cats may avoid the litter box, or prefer locations or surfaces other than the litter box, for these or  other reasons:

  •   Medical problems
  •   Unclean litter box
  •   Not enough litter boxes
  •   Being confronted in the litter box by a family dog, cat, or human (some owners try to give a cat  medication or trim his/her nails while eliminating)
  •   Undesirable litter (type, depth, or scent) or an undesirable litter box (height, cover, self-cleaning  mechanism, or litter liner)
  •   Undesirable litter box location (insufficient privacy or near a noisy appliance or furnace)
  •   Preferred feel or comfort of a surface or location other than the litter box

What to Do: Basic Tips

Scoop all litter boxes daily and replace the litter weekly.  Provide at least one litter box per cat plus one extra.  Clean soiled areas with an effective odor remover.  To determine which litter type your cat prefers, offer two or three different options side by side to see which one he uses most (clay, clumping, recycled paper, scented, unscented, different brands, sand or soil, different depths).  Then place the preferred litter into different boxes to determine which type he prefers (different heights, different openings, with or without a litter liner, covered or uncovered, self-cleaning).  Also try the preferred litter and box in a different location that your cat might prefer.

Marking Solutions

Cats that have not been castrated or spayed are most likely to spray, so neutering is the first step in the treatment for marking.  If the problem is due to an unhealthy relationship with other cats or people in the home, seek additional guidance from a behavioural specialist.  If your cat is spraying when other cats come onto your property, move anything that might attract stray cats (garbage cans, feeding stations, or bird feeders).  Try cat repellents, motion-activated alarms, or motion-activated sprinklers to keep strays out of the yard.  Keep your cat away from doors and windows, put up blinds or shutters on the windows, or place booby traps in the area where your cat hears or sees the other cats.  Safe, effective booby traps include upside-down carpet runners with nubs up, double-sided tape, unpleasant odours (potpourri, citrus, menthol), a stack of empty soda cans, and motion detectors that set off an alarm or a spray of air.  Synthetic feline pheromones can be effective at reducing anxiety and marking.  No drugs are licensed for the treatment of feline urine marking; however, a number of human and dog medications might be effective.  Your veterinarian can explain their benefits and risks.

covered litter box

Housesoiling Solutions

Most cats can be prevented from soiling when supervised.  When the owners are unable to watch the cat, it may help to confine him with his litter box in a small are of the home where he does not soil.  Understanding your cat’s daily elimination routine can help you determine when he will need to be confined or supervised.

Preventing access to the soiling area may be the easiest solution: close doors, put up barricades such as child gates, move furniture over the spot or use booby traps.  Try placing the pet’s food bowl, toys, or bed in the soiled areas.  If you see your cat soiling, interrupt him with a water sprayer or noise devise, but do not physically punish him, rub his nose in the mess, or yell at him.

Evaluate the litter box location, litter type, cleaning schedule, and any other factors that might deter litter use.  If the pet is soiling in one or two specific area, it might be preferable to move the litter box to that area or a similar area.  If the cat is using a particular surface, such as a tile floor or carpet, you might make his litter box similar by giving him an empty litter box or placing a carpet remnant in the box.  Gradually add small amounts of litter to the box until your cat feels comfortable using a box with litter.

If these steps do not solve the problem, consult your veterinarian for further guidance.

Additional notes provided by ANVC:

It is important to clean the soiled areas with an appropriate cleaner.  A general cleaner, carpet cleaner, etc. does not get all the way down to all the layers that the urine may have gone and although we may no longer  be able to smell the urine, your pet can, if there is any hint of it still there.  At the clinic we carry a product called Urine Erase, it is designed to change the molecules of urine to water that then evaporate.  The product is mixed up and poured on the area that has been soiled, it will travel the same path (through the layers of carpet or into the furniture) like the urine did.  It then creates a chemical change in the urine, thus releasing it from the fibers.  This is the only way to ensure there is no longer any urine odor that your pet may be detecting or they may continue to pee in the area simply because of smell.

kitten litter box

Marco’s Mass

by: Dr. Jo-Ann Liebe

Marco is a 12-year-old Beagle who had a common lump known as a lipoma (fatty lump), diagnosed in 2010.  Like most lipomas it stayed a relatively stable size over several years until between September and December 2013 when it almost tripled in size.  At the size it had grown to, it put Marco’s balance off and caused him a lot of discomfort,  the lump had to be removed.


The lump removal went quickly due to the fact that it was not invading any surrounding tissue nor near any large nerves or blood vessels.  Definitely a good thing!  Most of Marco’s surgery time was dedicated to repairing the large defect created by the mass removal.  Skin reconstruction, drains, and bandaging are all needed to get the wound healed quickly on the first try.  Large mass removal surgeries are prone to dehiscence or suture breakdown, which can require additional surgery or much longer healing time.  In Marco’s case there fortunately was lots of skin for good closure.

The mass removed was 7.5″ by 5″ by approximately 3″ high and weighed 1.38 kg (3 lbs).  This mass was 10% of Marco’s body weight!  (see our post on Facebook for images of the mass after removal).

After surgery Marco immediately felt better and is recovering well.

Update on Marco (as of January 23, 2014)

Marco was in last week for his drain removal and in today to have his staples removed.  He looks AWESOME!  His owner said he is doing fantastic at home; they noticed an increase in activity almost immediately after his surgery.

We are so pleased he is doing well and wish him a continued speedy recovery!



National Train your Dog Month

by: Jennifer Oldfield


January is National Train your Dog Month – so what does that mean?  As someone who has been in the “training” world for over 20 years now, I think this concept varies from person to person.  On a general basis, I think everyone can agree that a “trained” dog is one that doesn’t knock people over, comes when they are called and listens to and understands other basic commands like sit.  What each person and family wants for the training of their dog is very personal.

When I have taught obedience/foundation training classes, I always want to know what the owner hopes to get out of the class.  Do they hope to compete in obedience or Rally-O trials, or do they just want to be able to live with their dog happily and be able to go for a walk without having their arm pulled from it’s socket?  In the first case it means we are going to work harder on getting the dog to understand where the “heel” position is, and we are going to get them to automatically sit when we stop, in the latter it means we want the dog to walk on a loose leash, not cut in front of us, or get under our feet and understand to either sit when asked, or to stand patiently and not pull when stopped.  Whatever it is you want from your dog, it is all training.

treat on nose


A great way to think of training is to think of it in terms of teaching your dog “tricks”.  Your dog doesn’t understand that the word “sit” means to put one’s bum down while your front stays upright, they only know that it is what you have taught them the word “sit” means.  You could really use any word you want… say “green” for example and as long as in the beginning, every time you have your dog sit, you say “green” and reward them, they are going to understand “green” to mean: put my bum down while my front stays upright.  Think about what you would like from your dog: do you want him to get out from under your feet while you carry in the groceries?  do you want him to not run out the door when you open it?  do you want him to lay nicely on his dog bed while you watch your favourite show?  or would you like him to retrieve a kleenex for you when you sneeze? pick up his toys and put them away?  or roll over and play dead?

Dogs learn things best on a reward based system.  If they get something positive when they do something, they will do it again. (It’s the reason most dogs who successfully steal something off the counter become counter surfers for life, even if you make certain they never get anything again).  Training your dog can be a lot of fun and what you teach them is really only limited by your imagination.

With the outrageously cold weather we are having, I am certain there are many dogs going “stir crazy” because of the lack of physical activity – mine included!  Teaching some tricks is a great way to tire your dog mentally, which has the same affect as tiring them physically.  Plus an added bonus is no matter how small your living room is, there is plenty of room to train a few tricks.  Make it your mission in the month of January to teach your dog something new.

shake a paw

Here is a list of a few ideas to get you thinking of what you can teach your dog to do, plus I will include some tips on training a couple of these.

  • Shake a paw, shake the other paw
  • Roll over (in both directions)
  • Put your feet on an item
  • Relax (lay with your head down on the floor)
  • Spin and turn
  • Move back (a great one for when your hands are full of groceries and you are trying to get through the door or make your way to the kitchen)
  • Touch (with their nose)
  • Play dead
  • High five
  • Bow
  • Crawl
  • Weave between your legs
  • Hokey Pokey

weave bw legs

Teaching Back Up:

To teach your dog to move backwards, straight away from you, utilize your couch and coffee table.  Call your dog to you and move yourself backwards so that you are now both between the two pieces of furniture. With a treat in your hand at your dog’s head level when they are standing (not raised up so they invariably sit because there head comes up), take a gentle step into your dog.  If they even take only 1 step backwards praise and reward.  Do this a few times until they understand you do want them moving backwards, then take a couple steps into them before rewarding.

No coffee table to use, instead you can stand with your legs slightly wide apart (wide enough your dog can go between them).  Toss a treat between your legs (not far back just enough that they only need there head to go between to get it).  After they get the treat they will naturally back up to come out from between your legs, praise and reward them for that.  Do this a couple times with a lot of praise and treats given for the behaviour of backing up.

Once your dog is doing the behaviour consistently you can name it – call it whatever works for you but be sure that what you call this doesn’t already mean to do something else.

Teaching Touch:

Teaching your dog to touch your hand with their nose is very easy.  Simply take a treat, place it between your fingers with your palm flat, place your hand in front of your dog and when they move to take the treat, let them.  Do this a few times, each time with your hand a little further away, so that they have to move their body to get the treat and touch your hand.  Name this command while there is still a treat in your hand for them to get.  Once they are performing this behaviour, place the treat in the other hand – with the same initial hand place your palm flat and ask them to “touch”.  They will automatically go for your hand believing there is still a treat there, once they have touched your hand with their nose quickly praise them and give them the treat from the other hand.  This is a good time to take a break.  In a while you can try this again, the first time have a treat between your fingers, then after that have no treat in the immediate hand that they will be touching.

This trick can also be expanded to get them to “touch” other objects, the wall, the couch, your leg.  Just start by having them target your hand on the desired item then slowly less the amount your hand is there and reward them for moving to the new object.

Is there something that your dog does that you would love to have them do on command?  A well timed reward and tons of praise can get them to do it on a regular basis, so you can start to name it and get it on command.  Many tricks that my dog, Finny, does, were trained this way: she Eskimo kisses, hides between my legs and jumps into my arms.  All by accident in their training and all well rewarded when they happened.

Finny Kiss

Most importantly have fun with your training – if something isn’t going well, move to something they do great and end your training session there.  It only takes a few minutes a few times a day to get your dog to perform the behaviours you would like.  Besides what else are you going to do in -35 degree weather?!?

Also see our website’s page:  Training Tricks for additional ideas along with the information on how to train them.

For information on local training facilities see the Links tab on our website