There are no-brainer items you should never leave in your dog’s kennel while unattended, but also some items you may have not expected
Few things are as exciting as the day a new puppy arrives in your home.
John had waited almost two years for his puppy; after multiple waitlists and some disappointment over failed breedings, the day had finally arrived for a pup to be flown halfway across the country to join his family. He drove to the airport, waited anxiously for the cargo to be unloaded, and smiled as the wide-eyed puppy bounded out of the travel crate and into his arms.
A few hours later, though, the pup started showing signs of distress. He wasn’t keeping food down and he was restless. Desperate to figure out what was going on with his new pup, John looked inside the travel crate and noticed that the thin, plastic water container had some pieces missing. Evidently, the puppy had started chewing on the thin plastic during transit, whether from boredom or anxiety. A trip to the emergency vet confirmed what John had feared—the plastic pieces were causing an intestinal obstruction inside the young pup.
The puppy eventually recovered from the ordeal, but for John, it was a good lesson in being careful about what is left inside of a dog kennel.
What you choose to leave inside of a kennel with your dog depends on the level of supervision you can provide, the age of your dog, and what your dog is likely to do (including potentially unexpected behaviors due to stress or anxiety). When considering whether something is safe or not, be honest in assessing the level of risk you’re willing to accept.
The inside of a dog kennel is rather austere and most dog owners opt to add some kind of bedding or pad for the dog’s comfort. Whether that bedding or pad is safe to leave with your dog unattended depends on the type of bedding and your dog’s typical behaviors.
Blankets and towels can pose a risk, especially if they are woven and the dog is able to shred them into long threads. Swallowed threads can wreak havoc on a dog’s digestive system if they get tangled up. If you do use a blanket, opt for a fleece or similar type that can’t be unraveled into threads.
Specially designed kennel pads come in a variety of types, ranging from foam to filling-stuffed pillows. The quality and construction of these vary considerably. Be sure to choose a pad that is well-constructed and can’t be easily destroyed.
It’s easy to understand the desire to include a toy or two inside of the kennel with your dog. We worry that dogs will become bored and want something to play with while unattended and confined. A toy may keep their attention so that they don’t try chewing on the kennel pad.
Plush toys are not a good idea unless your dog will be under direct supervision. Dogs vary in their destructiveness, but the fact remains that plush toys are too easily dismantled into choking or bowel-obstruction hazards.
Similarly, avoid rawhides or other chew toys that can break down quickly. Even edible chew toys can become choking hazards if the dog is aggressively chewing while unattended.
Instead, consider a durable chew toy such as a Kong or a Nylabone. No toy is truly indestructible (and both of these manufacturers warn against leaving their toys with dogs while unattended), but if you really want to leave a toy in the kennel, these are among the safest options. Be sure to inspect the toy ahead of time and discard if there are any signs of damage that could result in pieces coming apart. Save the well-worn chew toys for supervised playtime and use only newer, fresher toys for inside of the kennel.
Like John learned, all kennel water dishes are not created equal. His pup was sent with a flimsy plastic dish that wasn’t intended for use with animals, let alone unattended in a stressful environment.
Don’t cheap out on something that could potentially injure your dog. Instead, choose a metal dish or at least a more durable plastic that cannot be chewed into pieces.
The rule with young puppies is that if it can fit in their mouth—or if it can be dismantled into pieces that can fit in their mouth—it will eventually end up there. Even older dogs who aren’t usually chewers may destroy something inside of their kennel if they are feeling anxious about being left alone.
Remember to properly condition your dog to the crate to help them learn how to relax and enjoy the downtime. If you’re at all in doubt about whether something is safe to leave inside of the kennel, it’s best to trust your instinct and avoid the risk altogether.