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Craters, now's your chance to convince me

3990 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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I am a fan of crating because it keeps the dog safe, as well as keeping your house from being destroyed. I agree that many people abuse it. They treat the crate as punishment or keep the dog in there far too long every day, day after day. That's not what crates are for. I see crates as a safe little den, and a playpen. It prevents my dogs from chewing walls, doors, ripping up carpet or rugs, getting into the trash, eating inedible objects, peeing or pooping on the floor, chewing electrical cords, getting into toxic chemicals, chewing on pens or markers or whatever else, etc etc. Crating prevents many behavior problems from developing like getting into trash, chewing inappropriate things, counter surfing, barking out the window constantly, and stereotyped or neurotic/obsessive behaviors. If I can't be paying attention to my dogs, they are crated. Even if I'm in the shower for 20 minutes, they are crated. You can absolutely fade this out though! For most dogs you won't always have to crate, but I strongly believe it is safest for puppies to be crated when nobody can be watching them. With my puppy, I stopped crating her at night at about 7-8 months old. With my rescue dog, we've had her 7 months and I don't trust her out of the crate yet because she eats socks and I just don't trust her unsupervised yet for extended periods of time. I'm at the point where I trust her for those 20 minute showers because she stays on the bed and I can see her from the shower. I'm paranoid like that, because with her sock eating habit she could die if one causes an obstruction in her gut. With both of them, they are crated when nobody is in the house. I don't want them forming bad habits or getting hurt.

I keep the crate in my bedroom, right next to the bed. For puppies, the idea is to give them a crate big enough that they can comfortably stand up, lay down, and turn around, but not so big that they have a corner to potty in without then having to lay in it. Dogs don't like to lay in their own filth. The vast majority of puppies will whine when they need to be let out to potty because they don't want to potty where they sleep. A 4 month old puppy should be able to hold her bladder for 5 hours. You may want to pick up the water bowl a couple hours before she goes to bed. *Always* take her outside to potty right before crating her, and *immediately* after letting her out of the crate, take her outside again. Even if it was only 15 minutes in the crate. It creates a good routine. If the crate will be somewhere you can't hear her whining to go out, set an alarm if needed so you can take her outside regularly. The basic guideline is that puppies can hold their bladder for however many months old they are, plus one, with an absolute maximum of 7-8 hours for most dogs (maybe longer at night).

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.
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