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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Dare

Confinement Strategies: options for peace of mind and safety

Updated: May 18, 2020

There are times when it may be necessary to confine your dog, whether it's for his own safety, to help keep him quiet after an injury or surgery, to protect your house from chewing mischief when you can't supervise, or to give your dog a private sanctuary when there's too much chaos in the house. (Holidays and big family gatherings can be overwhelming!)

I like to teach all my dogs to be able to relax comfortably in a crate. Even when they're past puppyhood mischief, I may remind them about the fun of being in the crate every now and then, to maintain that good feeling. Feeding meals in a crate, or providing tasty food puzzles inside the crate can really help.

Here, a draped x-pen adds a visual buffer and an extra layer of safety for a crated dog, like when you need to keep inquisitive fingers from visiting kids away from the crate.

But crates are not your only confinement options. Whether you need confinement for more than a few hours (after which I'd look at something besides a crate to use), or your dog doesn't tolerate crating, here are some other ideas.

An exercise pen: most models provide 16 sqft of space for the dog, which is roomier than a crate. When not in use, they're easily folded flat for storage. The heights are variable, with some as tall as 4'. If your dog is a jumper or climber, a wire panel can be added as a roof. Here's a link to one of the many x-pen options you have.

Baby gates or x-pens can be used to cordon off a specific room, like a mudroom, or laundry room, or kitchen. (Hard-surfaced floors typically found in these rooms will make any potential accident easier to clean up.) Many dogs will appreciate the added space, but be aware not all dogs can handle all this free space without getting into mischief that could be harmful to them, or expensive for you. For instance, a dog gated in a kitchen may decide chewing on the cabinets is yummy. He may be tall enough to counter-surf and steal goodies up there. (I once had a miniature pinscher who learned how to push a rolling chair over to the counter so he could get up there!) A dog may be clever enough to open cabinets to raid food inside, or topple a garbage bin for a buffet of goodies. Years ago, I boarded a pup who chewed at the center of the linoleum floor while gated in my laundry room, creating a big hole. Until then, I didn't even know it was possible for a pup to do that!

If your dog isn't accustomed to being separated from you and/or confined like mentioned above, TEACH them to enjoy this BEFORE it's actually needed! Introduce short periods of confinement with you nearby at first. Provide special treats and food puzzles. Gradually increase your distance from the dog, eventually going out of sight. Build confinement time gradually so your dog learns to be comfortable and relaxed.

Virginia Dare is a certified dog trainer & behavior counselor with decades of experience. Her business offers live video consultations anywhere in the US for training and behavior help, puppy matchmaking services, and pre- and post-arrival counseling for new puppies. She also provides in-home, private lessons and behavior consultations in northern Fairfield and Westchester counties, western New Haven county, Putnam and southern Dutchess counties.

Please visit to learn more, or contact me at 804.784.0120


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