Crate training a dog is an important part of housebreaking a dog. But a crate can become unhealthy if it is not cleaned out regularly and disinfected occasionally.
You will start by laundering the bedding regularly — how often depends on how clean your dog stays, whether he eats in his crate, and if he leaks urine when he gets excited. If he wets his bedding, wash it right away. If he’s a messy eater, every few days. If he’s a tidy boy and you just need to get the funky smell out, every 10 days to two weeks works well.
Be sure to launder plush toys too. Hard toys can be washed in a sink of soapy water, add just a dash of bleach for better disinfecting. Rinse thoroughly.
When it comes to the crate itself, here are some general purpose cleaners you can make up at home.
Clean Before Disinfecting
Disinfectants kill bacteria but they don’t remove dirt, food, or waste. Before you come in with a disinfectant, a good cleansing is required. Remove all bedding, toys and bowls: to be washed and disinfected separately. Use a dustpan to remove any solid waste, dirt clumps, or food. It is best to take the crate outside and rinse it out with a hose and jet nozzle. Then, use a scrub brush and mild detergent to scrub all surfaces to remove debris, urine, and solid waste. Rinse thoroughly to remove soap and dry it out with a towel. Now you are ready to disinfect.
Bleach and Water
Household bleach is a common disinfectant that the Humane Society and the ASPCA, say is safe for dog kennels as long as you are sure to properly dilute the solution, thoroughly rinse and let air dry. Contrary to what some people think, using straight bleach or even a strong dilution is not the most effective means of disinfecting a crate. Different solutions are best for different situations. In this case, mix one ounce of bleach in 32 ounces of water. Cover all surfaces with the bleach solution and let sit for 10 minutes before rinsing. Be aware that bleach can corrode metal and ruin clothing. In addition, bleach can irritate your dog’s sinuses and airways. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and dry the crate before allowing your dog back into it
Vinegar and Water
Vinegar is 5 percent acetic acid that works as a natural disinfectant to kill bacteria. To make a mild disinfecting solution, mix equal amounts of vinegar and water. Apply to all areas of the kennel and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing with clear water. White distilled vinegar has a milder smell and is available at low cost in gallon jugs.
This solution is also excellent for cleaning up and deodorizing areas where a puppy has urinated. It helps take out the smell that is offensive to you and leaves a smell that is offensive to the dog, helping to prevent re-marking that spot.
As I mentioned above, you need to clean everything once in a while. Launder the bedding and soft toys in the washing machine with regular detergent and half a cup of baking soda to help eliminate odors. During the rinse cycle, add a cup of white vinegar to disinfect. Wash the hard toys occasionally by soaking in vinegar water for 10 minutes (scrub out any dirt with a brush) then rinse thoroughly and let them dry. I take up the dog food dishes and wash them along with our dishes after the meals. Water bowls and dispenser get de-scaled with vinegar and washed with soap and water weekly.
It takes only a few moments to do the occasional cleaning that will help insure your dog remains healthy by killing off bacteria that can cause disease. This is easier, and far cheaper, than a trip to the vet with a sick dog.
Note that these disinfectants do NOT kill viruses: not much does. So if you encounter a virus such as parvo, bordatella or distemper, consult your veterinarian for the best product to disinfect everything before reintroducing your dog or other dogs to the environment.
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