Indoor Dog Gates: Creating Dog Safe Zones
If you live with a dog or dogs, you probably already know a dog gate is a useful piece of equipment; throw a toddler into the mix, or a senior dog or puppy, or a pair of contrary canines, and the dog gate emerges as nothing less than an essential tool for crowd control. An indoor dog gate is a simple way to keep the canine peace, and it’s indispensable for limiting dog detritus to one area of your home.
When to Use a Dog Gate
Resist the temptation to leave your dog unsupervised on the other side of the gate—there can still be trouble in spite of your efforts to sufficiently dog-proof an area inside your home. Separation with a dog gate should be less about isolation than it is about boundaries that ensure health and safety. But even if your dog typically has the run of the house, there are always occasions that call for confinement. Here are some common scenarios where a dog gate is helpful:
Each of these is a worthy cause in its own right, but many dog owners can tic off more than one item on the list. Dog gates vary widely in cost, size, and construction; the next order of business is deciding which gate or gates will best serve your needs.
So Many Dog Gates: How to Choose the Best One
Broadly, dog gates come in three materials: wood, metal, or plastic (or a combination of plastic and mesh). Some gates require permanent installation with tools and hardware, others are pressure-mounted, and still others are freestanding. Permanent dog gates are excellent if you’re a homeowner (or your landlord does not object) and your dog has well-established boundaries and known habits. Pressure-mounted or freestanding dog gates are a good choice for renters, and can be used right out of the box, a nice perk for the tool-challenged among us. Many freestanding gates in particular (the wood folding gate is one example) are adaptable to a non-standard door opening, and they are portable to boot.
How sturdy is it? That’s the single most important question to ask when you’re shopping for a dog gate. As you might expect, the more you’re willing to spend, the better the gate’s overall appearance, quality, and performance. Choose the gate that best suits your own scenario, keeping in mind the following:
How to Use a Dog Gate
Introducing him to confinement: Effective training must be part of any change in your dog’s routine, and he may not embrace the idea of separation from his “pack” at first. As with any undesirable dog behavior, how you react will influence the outcome. If he has his paws on the gate when you approach it, resist talking to him or petting him, even if he attempts to melt your heart with beseeching eyes and an endearing tail wag. Giving in to his plea for attention rewards him for bad behavior, and can encourage this seemingly benign habit to deteriorate into scrambling against the gate, jumping, or climbing.
And what of the habitual climber? If it’s possible, opt for a permanently installed gate. Try placing the hardware on an angle so that it leans in ever so slightly towards your dog. It does not have to be a dramatic gradient—even a small one will make climbing very difficult for most dogs. Resolving problems is never easy with complicated dogs: the gate is but one part of the separation solution, and the all-important behavior modification is the other.
Teaching the new puppy where to piddle: The dog gate can be an excellent house training tool for a new puppy, but only when you closely supervise her. If you use the gate to confine her in an area where she is free to do her business at will, you’re not really doing anything to train her not to go inside the house. With proper house training she will learn to view the outdoors as a separate, sanctioned area to eliminate, and the indoors (her confined space) as her den. Before you put her behind the dog gate, take her outside to do her doings. Then closely supervise her when you come back inside. Keep her confined area small, and place her food, water, and bedding in it—her instincts will tell her not to soil that area. And consider using a dog crate in tandem with the dog gate to effectively house train your new puppy.
Open and Shut: Parting Thoughts about Dog Gates
Your dog is smart: keep the gate locked. It may seem obvious, but keep your dog gate latched and locked. Dogs are wily: there are many reports (and even videos gone viral) of dogs who demonstrate mastery of unlatching and opening a gate with minimal effort. If your dog is one of them, choose a locking gate he can’t hope to operate without opposable thumbs.
The Problem with Baby Gates: You may be tempted to use a child or toddler gate in lieu of a dog gate to separate a dog from a small child. A toddler gate will most likely meet child-safety standards, an admirable feature. But a toddler gate can be flimsy as compared with a dog gate. Use due diligence: carefully inspect the quality of the gate before you buy.
Your dog may not love the idea of confinement, but there are so many times you’re likely to need to separate him from the rest of the house, even if only for a while. Weighing your own doggish circumstances against the kinds of gates available will make choosing an indoor dog gate or gates an open and shut case.
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