In Defense of Crate Training

I don’t want to argue with you.
Crate train your dog.
I don’t care if he/she is already housebroken.
I don’t care if he/she isn’t destructive while you’re gone.
I don’t care if he/she hates, loathes, and despises the crate.
Do it anyway.

It’s a discussion we often have here in the shop and we hope we’ve given some people reason to reconsider their decisions to discard their dogs’ crates.

Everybody has “stuff” – jobs, school, appointments, social commitments, etc. Much as we’d like to, we can’t be with our dogs all day every day. Which means our dogs have the opportunity to get in all kinds of trouble. Which they don’t, because they’re crated.

For the sake of argument, we’ll say that your dog is a perfect angel when you’re not there. He/she never eliminates in the house, never chews anything he/she shouldn’t, doesn’t bark all day, and never, ever puts a foot wrong.

You still need to train your dog to be comfortable in a crate.

Why, you ask? Because there will probably be a time when your dog, for whatever reason, needs to be crated – in the animal hospital, in a boarding facility, at the groomers. And if you ever want to join our community of dog-performance people, your dog will most likely be crated at obedience, rally, and agility trials. If your dog is relaxed, and calm, familiar with a crate, it will make his/her life much easier. And yours.

Crate training can even help with separation anxiety. If you teach your dog to love his/her crate, then it’s a familiar, comfortable place when you’re away.

We’re not saying that crates have to be empty, stark, dark, places. It can be the Taj Mahal of crates, with cushy bedding and comfy, soft towels to lie on. It’s your dog’s “room” and should be a happy place, not a punishment. And it should be the best place (aside from at your side) ever, ever, ever!

The first step is to dig out that crate from storage. Clean it up and put in a nice, soft bed (or whatever cushion your dog likes). Keep it in the active part of the house – not the laundry room, mud room, or basement. It should be where you are. And start “adding value” to the crate. Leave the door open at first, all the time.

Feed your dog in the crate. Every meal. All the time. Especially if your dog loves to eat.
Play with your dog using the crate. Throw in a toy and tell your dog to “get it.”
Stand by the crate, with the door open, armed with a bunch of tasty treats. If your dog goes in the crate, give him/her a treat. And keep giving treats, as long as he/she stays in. As soon as your pup comes out, stop giving treats. Dogs learn quickly. Yours will soon discover that crate can be a wonderful place to be.

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We really do know the trouble you’ve seen

I (Hope) just got off the phone with a new customer from Rhode Island.
This very nice couple needed a harness for their Miniature Pinscher and were having trouble finding anything that fit. Apparently they’ve tried bunches of harnesses in the two years they’ve had their pup – with little or no success. They’re currently “making do” with one that’s a bit big, and doesn’t really fit too well, but was okay over sweaters or jackets. But it’s Spring now, and the sweaters and jackets have to come off. They needed a harness that fits.
Oh, my. I could hear their frustration. It shouldn’t be difficult to find a secure harness that fits properly. But it can be – and that’s exactly why our family started Golly Gear.
Golly was Fran’s Brussels Griffon and the smallest dog we’d ever had in the family. She wasn’t tiny, about 10 or 11 lbs., depending on how strong we were in resisting that adorable, imploring little face. But it was practically impossible to find anything that fit her properly. We had to resort to cat collars, baby onesies, infant bowls, and other, silly makeshift answers. It was quite a few years ago and fortunately, things have changed.
We’d been in retail for a while and had some resources many people don’t. We started doing our research and finding small dog stuff. And just had to share it with other small dog people.
We know that no dog really needs all 30+ styles of harnesses we carry. But the right harness for a Shih Tzu will probably be a different harness than the perfect on for a Miniature Pinscher. And the size difference between a five-pound dog and a 10-pound dog is huge compared to 65- and 70-pound dogs.
Our goal is to eliminate frustration for small dog people. We want to be the resource people can rely on when they have questions about their dogs. Part of the community of dog people.
I was able to help the Rhode Island Miniature Pinscher people. It took a couple of phone calls and a bout with a measuring tape, but we figured out the answer to their problem and were able to help. It’s been a good day.

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Have we got a Spring allergy tip for you

Anything that makes life easier/smoother/less stressful is a good thing. A tiny thing that’s making a difference is a simple package of baby wipes near the back door.
Our house is weirdly and awkwardly arranged to the first thing you see when you walk in is the stove. (Unless the basement door is open – then it’s the stairs, or stars, if you take a tumble!) Which has made the stove a staging area for all the things you need as you come in or go out. Keys, poop bags, treats, etc.
Not the most convenient arrangement when you want to cook, but in a small space, you learn to make do.
Anyway, there’s been one recent addition to the flotsam that’s actually making a difference in a good way.
Baby wipes. Specifically hypo-allergenic baby wipes.

French Bulldog Torque and baby wipes

Just a quick swipe with a wipe when Torque comes inside minimizes contact allergy exposure.

Since about the middle of January, Torque’s been having some issues with allergies. At first it was just a bit of paw-licking. Then his paws were a bit raw and swollen, then he started losing some hair under his eyes, along with some redness. In other words, the little man was a mess.
At first we thought it had to be a food allergy that was just coming to the fore, since Hope took him away on vacation in early February and his whole environment changed.
So we put him on an elimination diet. And it made no difference whatsoever. The allergen had to be something environmental. With an extraordinarily warm, wet winter, some sort of mold is probably the culprit.
Torque is a two-year-old French Bulldog. And a very happy, athletic, active two year old. If he’s awake, he’s on the move and we don’t have a lot of time to “fuss” with him. Especially with Booker The Boston bouncing around, egging him on to play.
As soon as Torque steps in the house, we hit the baby wipes package and swipe his face and paws. It helps if we have a treat in our hands (There’s a treat jar on the stove, too, of course.) and ask him to “sit!” as soon as he hits the indoors. We don’t have time, or inclination, to mess with more than that.
The new system seems to be helping. He’s not gnawing at his paws so much and his face looks less irritated.
We have noticed one immediate improvement – the floors are lacking a few paw prints! Especially coming in from the wet weather, we’ve started swiping all the dogs’ paws with baby wipes. It only takes a moment and it’s already making a difference.


If your dog is miserable with contact allergies you may want to consider stronger measures – which may include using Pawz dog boots whenever your dog goes outside. They’re particularly effective for dogs with grass allergies.

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Dog tip – Bring a bit of home when you travel

When we go on vacation, we like to take our dogs along whenever we can.

It can be challenging to find hotels/motels that allow dogs – and even then, most will require a “pet deposit.”

When we do find a place we like, we want to be good guests so we’re welcome back. One thing we do is bring our own blanket. The first thing we do when we get in the hotel room is to remove the existing cover/duvet/blanket, put it up on a shelf, and put on our own.

First: we don’t have to worry about anything “untoward” happening on the blanket. It’s ours, and we can easily wash it. Second: we don’t have to worry about when the existing blanket was last cleaned – or who used it last. Third: the dogs are more comfortable with something they recognize as their own. It may be a small thing, but it helps everybody relax and get comfortable in a new place.

Another good idea when you get to your room – check under everything for anything the previous tenant and housekeeping staff may have forgotten. We learned this lesson when one of our dogs found the fast-food container hidden under the bed. He felt very deprived when we wouldn’t let him eat the unknown-origin-and-age french fries, but he got over it and, fortunately, didn’t get sick.

If your dog has a sensitive stomach, you may also want to consider bringing a container of water from home. Just like people, dogs can be sensitive to different tap water in different places. It’s better to be safe than very, very sorry!

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Dog tip – Get all corny with your dog

Dogs are absolutely wonderful – but they’re not convenient.

Don’t misunderstand – we think they’re worth every bit of the fuss.

If you leave your dog home, the amount of time you can spend away is limited.

If you take them along, it requires a bit of planning. We like to have a “go bag” – all the “stuff” we’re likely to need for an outing.

Aside from the obvious; collar: leash, poop bags, water bowl, water, treats; there are a few things we’ve found really handy to have around. A first aid kit for dogs stays in the car all the time. It has bandages, vet wrap, saline, Benadryl, tweezers, antibiotic wash, etc. It’s also a good idea to have a towel or two, and, especially if you have fuzzy dogs, some corn starch.

I (Hope) have been on vacation with Teddy and Torque for the last week. Right before I left, Torque’s paw was a bit red and swollen between his toes. It really wasn’t that big a deal, and there was no time to get to the veterinarian before we left, so I headed out.

After four days, the swelling and reddening was worse and included his other front paw. Even more distressing, it also seemed to be affecting the wrinkles under his eyes. Anyone with flat-faced dogs has dealt with “fold dermatitis” at some time. Since I’m careful about keeping my Frenchies clean, it was a bit of a surprise, but not awful.

I was at a loss. When his foot was first showing redness, I tried soaking it with Epsom salts. And it helped with the itching, but not for long, and it certainly didn’t help it go away. I knew that the opposite treatment was called for – trying to keep him dry, instead of soaking.

Apparently I had a brain freeze. I’ve known the usefulness of corn starch for dogs for years; ever since our friend Emily with her extremely-fuzzy Keeshonden explained how she kept a shaker of it in her car, along with a good brush, to take care of her Kees when things got a bit messy doing their business. It happens, and an easy solution is great to have.

Since my dogs aren’t fuzzy, that particular use is interesting, but not part of our kit. Until I went asking the pharmacist at the local drug store what he recommended for drying.

He was very nice, but explained that there’s really not a people equivalent. Talcum powder would be about the only choice. And then he mentioned corn starch! And the light bulb went on! Of course it was the perfect answer to keep Torque dry and comfortable until we can see his regular vet back home.

One stop at the grocery store, and Torque is clean, dry and happy instead of itchy, crusty, and unable to get comfortable.

Of course I will still be taking him to the vet when we get home. We need to find the cause of the problem and treat it. But as a temporary fix, simple, corn starch does the trick.

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Dog Tip – A brush a week keeps the vet bills away

I let my dogs gnaw on my fingers once a week. And you should, too!
It’s not really fun for any of us, but it’s saved our dogs teeth – and a ton of money for us.
Yes, we brush our dogs’ teeth once a week.
Fanatics say it should be every day, but we can’t commit to that.
Others say they never do it – either because their dogs won’t let them, they don’t have time,
or they just don’t bother.
Still others say they never have to, because their dogs chew on raw bones and don’t need
it. (Ours enjoy bones, too. And yes, they still need their teeth brushed.)
We started small with each of the dogs as soon as we brought them home, rubbing a damp
washcloth over their teeth a couple of times a week. Not very long, and not all of the teeth
at once. We built up slowly, over time, to get them used to the idea. And to allow time for
all those needle-sharp puppy teeth to fall out before we stuck our hands in their mouths!
Everyone should give their dogs’ teeth a brush (or a wipe) at least once in a while to get
familiar with how your dog’s mouth looks under normal circumstances.
Teddy has had a few incidents with his mouth over the years, all found because of regular
tooth-brushing. And all dealt with before the issues became major. One time Hope found a
swelling in Teddy’s gums during his brush. It turned out to be a growth that needed surgical
removal. Fortunately, it was benign.
Another time Teddy had fractured one of his teeth and a chunk of it was hanging by a
thread. Again, discovered during brushing, and removed before it could cause any major
Brushing your dog’s teeth will also help with bad breath. A normal, healthy dog’s mouth
really shouldn’t smell. If your dog does have stinky breath, it could be an indication of a
problem in his mouth, or with his digestion. Rotting teeth can poison a dog’s entire system
and lead to all kinds of problems.
And brushing your dog’s teeth should appeal to everyone’s frugal side. Before we started
we used to have each dog’s teeth professionally cleaned once a year. With the anesthesia
(always a cause of concern), surgery, professional fees, etc., the cost really added up.
None of our current dogs (Tango is oldest at 7), has ever needed professional dentistry! At
their annual exams, their vet is almost as delighted as we are when she says – “no dental
needed this year!”

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Dog Tip Tuesday – Meal planning made easy

It’s always you, isn’t it? You’re the one who has to make sure the dog(s) get fed. The rest of the family loves the dogs, may even walk the dogs, and someone else may, occasionally, pick up a poop. But the dogs know who matters most – the hand that feeds them.
And your significant other kind of hates that.

“Why does Phydeaux mind you better than me?”

“Because I feed him.”

“I could feed him.”

“Okay. Go ahead, it’s supper time.”

“I have no idea what he eats.”

Solving the problem is easier than you think.

Gather 14 containers per dog – reclosable plastic baggies for kibble feeders, reusable plastic containers for those who feed canned or raw food.

Use a permanent marker to label each container: dog’s name; day (M, T, W, TH, F, SA, SU), and breakfast or dinner.

Fill the containers with the dog’s regular meal portion. If the dog eats kibble, use a plastic shoe box to store an entire week’s worth of meals, in order. If the dog eats wet food, freeze the containers. Leave the next day’s food in the fridge and try to remember to take one container out of the freezer for each one used. If it’s forgotten, food can be thawed in the microwave on the defrost setting.

The system only takes a few minutes to organize and prepare, and everyone will know whether the dog’s eaten and exactly how much to feed.

The system also works well if you’re planning a vacation. If you’re planning to board your dog while you’re away, having a feeding system ready to go makes it simple. The staff at the boarding kennel will appreciate the effort to make their lives easy, and you’ll know your dog is getting the right food, in the right amount, each day. If your dog is travelling with you, you’ll have everything ready to pack up and hit the road.

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Dog Tip Tuesday – Turn up the noise! Desensitize your dog to any sound

The world can be a scary, noisy place. Especially if you don’t understand what’s going on.

New puppy owners tend to “Shhhh! The puppy’s sleeping!”

Don’t give in to the temptation! Keep household noises at maximum! Let the puppy get used to everyday noises. Puppies
will look at other family members (both human and canine) to decide how to react. If they see that nobody’s bothered by
the vacuum, or the leaf blower outside, or the dishwasher, or even the Dremel tool – they’ll learn to relax, too.

If you have a dog that’s already hesitant or fearful of certain noises, the next part of the equation is to associate the sound with something pleasant. One of the most common fears we hear about is the sound of Velcro. Many dog coats and harnesses use hook-and-loop (trade name Velcro) fastenings, and dogs may be afraid of the sound.

Treats or toys can really help. Have some treats on hand and anything with a Velcro fastener. Pull on the Velcro and give the dog a treat. If your pup is hesitant, give it some distance. If another person is with you, have that person step back a bit and make the Velcro sound again. Give the dog a treat. If you don’t have anyone else around, you step back and toss the tidbit to your dog as you make the sound. If your dog prefers toys to treats – toss a ball, or play tug while you’re making noise with the Velcro material.

Don’t attempt to put anything on the dog, or “make” him go near the thing that frightens him. Give the dog the distance he needs to be comfortable. Forcing a dog into proximity with something that scares him/her won’t help, it magnifies the issue.

Also resist the temptation to coddle the dog or sympathize with his fear. It’s time for your pup to “put on his big boy pants,” even if it’s just a little bit at a time.

After about five repetitions with the Velcro noise, or any other noise sensitivity that needs to be overcome, put it away and try again another time.

Push your dog’s tolerance each session, a little bit at a time. Come a bit closer. Make the sound a few extra times. Eventually you should be able to make the sound right next to the dog, or even hide that toy inside a Velcro pouch. That’s what happened with one dog I know – a complete turnaround. Instead of being afraid of Velcro, he thinks it’s the greatest sound in the world, because it means he gets his favorite toy!

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Dog Tip Tuesday – It’s better from behind!

Dogs are adaptable, amazing animals who love us and want to please us. Unfortunately, they don’t speak the same language we do, and communication is sometimes a bit dicey.

We see this often when people bring their dogs into the shop for a fitting – for harnesses, sweaters/coats, carriers, or even boots. We know we’re not going to harm the dog, the people know we’re not going to harm their dog, but all the dog knows is that a stranger with weird things hanging (usually a tape measure) is approaching and it’s scary.

We try to introduce ourselves first, talk to the dog, offer a hand from underneath, offer a treat if the owner says it’s okay. And we try never to hover over the dog from the front, or even approach from the front if possible.

Instead, we’ll approach from the side. If the dog cooperates, we’ll move on to a measurement and gather some options to try.

And when we’re trying any item on a dog, or even “dressing” our own dogs for the weather, we always do it from behind. If you and your dog are both facing the same direction, there’s no hesitation about which is left or right, no doubt about front and back.

The easiest way to put on any harness is to be behind the dog, grasp the harness the way it’s supposed to go on, then (for step-in harnesses) lift each front paw into position and clasp in the back.

Same thing for standard harnesses. Figure out the harness first, pop it over the dog’s head, clasp the tummy strap, and it’s done.

My Roc (Brussels Griffon) was unable to keep up on walks as he aged, so he came along in a Pooch Pack, a carrier that allows you to carry the dog in front. Again, from behind, I’d get the carrier ready to go, zip Roc in, then place him on my lap, his back to my front, while I fastened the shoulder straps on me.

Same idea for Pawz boots. The dog sits in my lap, his/her back to my front, while I put on each bootie.

Also coats. From behind is the way to go.

The longer it takes to “dress” your dog, the less you’ll both enjoy the process. Speed things up by going at it from the rear!

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Dog Tip Tuesday – Prevent acne with the right bowls

Unless you’ve been there/done that, even the most savvy dog owner may not know that dogs can get acne. Canine acne looks like red bumps on the dog’s chin. It indicates a little infection of the skin, and just like for people, may be painful.

Some kinds of dogs are more likely to suffer from canine acne – especially those with wrinkles or folds of skin around their mouths. All of our dogs have some – especially Teddy and Torque, the French Bulldogs.

One step in prevention is the same as for people – keep it clean. Torque is an especially messy eater, so his face always gets at least a quick rinse when he’s done. (A damp washcloth usually does the trick.) Once a week the boys get a thorough face washing as part of their regular “ablutions” – nails, teeth, ears, etc.

dog bowl selection at Golly Gear

We have a wide selection of bowls, including the recommended ceramic and stainless choices.

Another part, which is just as crucial – is to only use ceramic or stainless steel bowls for food and water for your dogs. Plastic bowls are a cause of canine acne, in addition to leaching chemicals into the food or water. Stainless steel or glazed bowls will prevent “muzzle folliculitis” or dog acne and have the added advantage of being dishwasher-safe.

Plastic bowls are fine for short-term use – there’s nothing more convenient than a collapsible bowl for a trip to the park or to tuck in a training bag for class. But for always-available water and meals, stick to stainless or ceramic and save your pup from uncomfortable and unsightly canine acne.


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