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Craters, now's your chance to convince me

3982 Views 23 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  Abbylynn
Full disclosure, I've never been comfortable with crating. I don't believe for a moment that any living creature likes being in a cage. I also feel that it's too easily abused; I've seen people crating because they have multiple dogs and it's convenient to keep them crated when they don't feel like dealing with them, or they are at work for many hours including commute time and they crate the whole time. I've had two dogs as an adult and numerous under my parents' roof, and crating was never necessary as long as you kept their living area fairly clean/dog-proofed.

However. I have adopted a wonderful 16-week-old puppy with many delightful qualities, but she has clearly only been kenneled in her short life and has not the first clue about house living. Adding to that, this time around I'm not just a dog mama, I'm a mama to a human as well, so I'm less tolerant of 1:00am poo cleanup than I once was. I'm going to give her fair time to prove herself...maybe she'll housetrain quickly, and maybe leaving her for short periods of time will not translate to a destroyed home (I don't anticipate leaving her alone for more than a couple hours at a time). But, given that even in the most puppy-proofed room she will chew a wall corner right in front of me, I can only imagine what she will do when she's entirely alone. So...is it time to put a big ugly cage in my living room and crate her at night and when we're gone? Will it actually prevent her from defecating or will I wake up in the morning to a puppy who needs a bath? She's a sensitive, intelligent breed and I need to know that the benefits outweigh the negatives, which to my mind include losing access to me at night (not being able to come tell me she needs to go out) and losing her ability to patrol the house as she gets older. Can I phase out crate training once she's full grown and can be trusted regarding chewing/peeing?

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All of my dogs are used to a crate to some degree or another. Some were crate trained as pups, the sled dogs get transported to and from races/training trails in crates secured in the back of my van, I sometimes use a crate for certain dogs in the tent while camping or in a motel/relative's house while visiting. I usually have a crate or two in the house and sometimes my dogs will go and lay in them of their own free will to have some peace and quiet.
They see the crate as a good thing because something good always comes of being in the crate. If I have to leave a dog inside for whatever reason while I'm gone, they will go in a crate and when I get back, it's pay time! The sled dogs know that when they get in a crate, it's time to RUN and if I so much as open the back of the van with a crate near by, they go nuts.

I taught my dogs that basically going in a crate was nap/rest time. Before I would put them in a crate I would tire them out a bit (playing fetch, going for a walk, whatever). Then they would go in their crate and crash on the blankets. When I got back, it would be play time again to burn off some of the "OMG, YOU'RE HOME!" energy.
Sometimes, after we got back from a long hike, I would put whatever dogs I took with me in crates so they could sleep while I took a shower and unpacked our backpacks. That way, they didn't think every time they got in a crate, I was leaving them.

I rarely use crates inside anymore as my dogs prefer to laze around in the sun outside in their pen while I'm gone (unless it's frigid cold and the weather is nasty). I mainly used them for new dogs before I could trust them to be unattended in the house or outside while I was gone.

You also want to introduce the crate in a very positive manner. Maybe feed her in the crate. You can teach her a command to go in the crate, and training her to go in makes the crate a very positive place as she gets lots of treats so associates the crate with good things. The crate is NEVER punishment. Every time she goes into the crate, give the command (I say "go crate"). To start, you can have a trail of treats leading into the back of the crate. When she is in the crate praise her. Let her go in and out several times without shutting the door or blocking her in. You can also play fetch, tossing a toy into the crate to have her chase it. You don't want her to learn right away that going in the crate means she's stuck in there. That's not positive. Once she happily goes in and out, only then should you close the door. Lure her in with a treat, then shut the door. Immediately open it and give her a treat and then let her back out. Do this several times. Then start increasing the amount of time the crate door is closed. Increase by only a second or two at a time, repeating several times before extending the duration. Also, you should not do this all in one sitting. Work on it for 5 minutes then go do something else or play. You can do several sessions in a day, but don't do it for more than 5-10 minutes at a time. Once she is ok with the crate door being closed for about 30 seconds, lure her in, close the door and stand up and take a step away. Step right back to the crate and open it and give her a treat and let her out. Work on gradually increasing the distance you go from her, so eventually you walk out of the room or around a corner where she can't see you. What she'll learn is that even when you go out of sight, you're still coming back eventually to give her a treat.

I also have a peace of kind knowing that if my dogs have to be crated for whatever reason (emergency vet visit etc) they'll be used to it. :)
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