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Recently I was asked I think about crates. Since we crate our dogs, I feel comfortable recommending others to use crates at night or for short periods during the day. Please note, I am not a dog trainer or an expert on dogs. I am a woman who loves her dogs and always tries to do right by them.
My first on-my-own-dog was a Brittany Spaniel mix puppy that I adopted from the county shelter while in college. I didn’t know what a crate was, and neither did Daisy. She spent her “alone time” redecorating my apartment, my parent’s laundry room, and chewing up half of several pairs of shoes. One heart-stopping afternoon I came home to all four burners blazing on my old gas stove. Luckily Daisy was fine, and nothing was on fire. However, it was a terrifying experience. I started taking the knobs off my stove before leaving the apartment, but I always worried a little about leaving her alone until she was around four years old.
Years later, when it was time to get another dog, we had heard about the benefits of using a crate. Since I was home almost every day, I was unsure if we needed a crate. I flashed back on Daisy and realized we owed it to our dog to try crate training. Besides the obvious reasons for keeping the home and possessions safe, it also keeps the dog safe. Dog-proofing should be done regardless if you are home most of the time or not. When you aren’t home, you don’t know what your dog is getting into. Some things, like Daisy turning on a stove, aren’t foreseeable. Other things like a puppy chewing on everything he can reach or a garbage-loving dog tipping the trash can are a little more predictable. Unfortunately, something as seemingly benign as a chip bag can have terrible consequences.
We got Nelly as a puppy and started her off in a crate to minimize accidents while we were away. When we leave the house, our dogs stay in their crates.
Using crates sets my dogs up for success. The dogs don’t cause damage or have the chance to counter surf and get into the garbage. The benefits of crate training are numerous, including:
- Traveling keeps pets safe in the car and possibly prevents pets from running loose in case of an accident or stopping to get gas. Also helpful for making a new place feel familiar.
- Injured pets may need to be on restricted activity; crates make it easier to confine/supervise.
- A crate can prevent a dog from getting out when people are coming and going (movers, repair people, deliveries, etc.)
- A place where the dog will be undisturbed.
We taught our kids to leave the dog alone if she is hanging out in the crate. We often find our dogs sleeping in the crates at various times of the day. Ironically, Nelly’s is the smallest and most popular.
Last summer, when we took Theo home with us from the shelter, we stopped at the store to get him his crate. After spending a month in a shelter, Theo planted his feet and refused to get in the kennel. Believing in positive reinforcement, I took a different tactic. Knowing that Theo is food motivated made it easy to change his opinion of the crate.
To start, we put a towel in the bottom of the crate and tossed a treat on it. Leaving the door open, Theo gingerly put his head in the crate and gobbled the treat. We continued doing this, placing the treat further into the crate, so eventually, he had to put his whole body in the crate.
We didn’t shut the door, so he was free to grab the treat and leave. After a while, we closed the door for a short time, as his anxiety decreased. He received treats when in the crate and positive reinforcement for staying in it. After a few days, he would go into the crate happily; once a treat was in there. At bedtime, we left him with a peanut butter-filled Kong, which was enough to keep him calm. These days all the dogs get in their crates on command, even if we have someone at the door.
On Thursday, we had an unwanted need for the crates. I fell off a ladder and broke my left arm. Before the emergency personnel arrived, my kids put all the dogs in their crates. While the police and EMTs were here, the dogs were relatively quiet in their crates. There was no worrying about the dogs being too protective of me, getting in the way, or escaping as people came and went. The crates gave me peace of mind at a time when I didn’t have the energy to deal with the dogs.
Alice‘s dog, Darla, also loves her crate. Alice keeps the crate door open unless Darla is on exercise restriction.
When Alice and her girls go on vacation, Darla likes the familiarity of her crate. Similarly, we take the crates for our dogs on overnights. I think it helps them settle down, and I don’t worry what they might get into if we have to leave them for a short time.
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About Alice G Patterson Photography: Based in Syracuse, NY, Alice specializes in dog photography, high school senior portraits, and business profile portraits.