Friday, July 27, 2012

Crate solution

Early in my journey with Pager, you may remember my commitment to help her feel better about staying in her crate.

Who knows what circumstances led her to feel that way, but it was clear that being so confined awakened in our pup a feeling of fear and desperation that was so intense she could barely contain herself. 

After the last time we left her crated for a few hours in the evening, the destruction--where she pulled things outside the crate in with her so that she could shred them--was so extreme that I decided it couldn't possibly be worse if I just left her at large. I also just couldn't bear to leave her in a situation that caused her that much distress. 

Could she have become comfortable in the crate, if I had spent the right amount of time acquainting her with it in the right way? Probably.

But given that the day after that night of destruction was a day when Florian and I both had to work, I just didn't have time. The excellent crate training protocol outlined at should, I believe, be implemented over a period of several days to several weeks.

And while I agree that crates can be a wonderful training tool, I also think they can be overused and abused. I love my bed too, but I can leave anytime. I might love it less if I were handcuffed to it and had to stay there 8-10 hours a day. 

In any case, for the last couple weeks we had Pager, we left her out and about with no disastrous effects! She shredded the edge of an already dogeared dog bed, a map, and a metronome. Not too bad, considering what she might have done. In her case, it seemed the shredding was mostly just a response to distress.

I know, some dogs do love their crates and even go in there unbidden, just for the fun of it. 

Just focus on the dogs, and never mind what my living room looks like

But since Pager didn't have much time with us to learn from older, wiser canines, it was great that she could be trusted--more or less--out of the crate and at large with the big kids.


  1. Crates can be a great training tool and our fosters do great with their crates, but now that we've allowed our own dogs to "graduate" I feel so much better leaving them for the day. It just hit me one day--they are 3 years old and well behaved, why are we still crating them? So we stopped. But for a year it seemed to be the right choice.

  2. Hi Kirsten, the dogs all look fine and happy. Nice shredding in photo #1. Our living room looks similar but we have light colored carpeting. All the better for capturing black dog fur from multiple dogs and the odd accident or two.

  3. Oh that first photo made me chuckle a little bit! have a good weekend!

  4. No such thing as one size fits all, huh? It's good that you realized the panic was a greater problem for Pager than the trouble she could get into without the crate.

    When I adopted my first dogs, Agatha and Christie, I thought cages were mean and that they would want to be together instead of separated. All these years later, I believe they would have preferred having two separate crates as safe places to get away from each other.

    We're using a 4 x 4 exercise pen with an open top when I need to keep Cherie and Honey separated (like during meals). It's safe but I haven't seen it induce panic in any of the dogs we've used it with. And I've been known to close off the kitchen as a safe place to leave a dog (easy to clean up and no loose stuff around to eat) who needs more supervision.

    Hopefully Pager's new family will work with her a little on crating. They may never need it. But if she ever needs serious vet care, it would be good to know she could tolerate the confinement without panic.

  5. Ah, the crate. I don't know if there is a tool I have discussed more. :-P But I think every dog is very different and every family is very different. The crate works for us and for our dog and she has shown me over and over again how she prefers going in there when she is feeling anxious. The crate gives Shiva peace of mind, from what I can tell anyway. When left free to roam it's almost as if she feels at a loss of what to do with herself. That feeling combined with separation anxiety that I don't think will ever truly go away, usually ends up putting her in danger.

    Of course, it doesn't stop me from feeling bad about it to this day. But you know, this post helps. You say you knew Pager wasn't happy in her crate because she actually destroyed less things when she was left out. Whereas Shiva is super-destructive when left out of her crate but she hasn't destroyed a single blanket or pet bed inside it. Thanks for that!

  6. We never had a crate for Elka, though there are times I wish we did! I'm not sure if I'll crate in the future; I do know that I'm not morally against it. I also don't think it is the right tool for every dog.

  7. I don't understand the crate and have never used one. In the past, if we had dogs with chewing problems, we'd just leave them in the yard or back deck when we were out. The more I read about it, the more I think of the crate as a nest. Some dogs really dig nesting and others don't. I don't think I could personally close the door on it for hours on end though. It looks very confining.

  8. I think the crate can be a great training tool and a wonderful refuge for an anxious or nervous dog, but it is NOT a place for them to LIVE eight hours a day. That in my books is abuse. If I thougt I had to crate my dog for an extended period of time while at work every day, then I would not own a dog. Once your dog is potty trained and mature the crate should be phased out. Then crates are good for a few hours, but not beyond that. They are not baby sitters. If you need to be out for an extended period of time gate off a room (dog proof it if you have to) put in a crate (door open/off), water, safe and interesting toys (kong) and if need be potty pads. If your dog cannot exist for an extended period of time in this situation then I'm sorry to say that you have the wrong dog for your lifestyle and the only fair thing to do is to rehome the dog with someone who can spend more time with it and for you to get a dog who is able to live peacefully uncrated for extended periods of time. The real question here is "who is the crate, or your dog?"

  9. we love throwing confetti too
    Benny & Lily

  10. The crate isn't for every dog. My sister's dog hates his crate, but then he hates the car too. I think for him it is because the puppy mill breeder shoved him in a crate and put him on an airplane, it was too stressful to him.

    I'm glad for Pager's sake you were so in tune to her needs. She is probably adjusting well in her new home in part to that. :-)

  11. I agree with Pamela and Jodi - the crate is definitely not for every dog. Luckily, we can customize based on what works for our particular pups. :)

    Bella never took to the crate - she would never go in there on her own, and she was never really happy there. We tried it for about a month and she's been out of it ever since. We've had a few incidents over the years (and have learned which areas of the house are best to leave her in), but for the most part she is much happier (we have gated off about half of the first floor for her to access when we aren't home).

    With Tavish, we've been using an exercise pen like the one Pamela mentioned to get him acclimated and keep him separated from Bella when we aren't home - although we've been trying short periods with him out of it while we're gone to see if he can "graduate" (as Emily put it... I like that terminology) to being in the gated area since he seems to prefer being out.

  12. True! Dog crates can truly be uncomfortable to most dogs. It is truly necessary to train your dog first before putting them in Dog crates.

  13. And while I agree that crates can be a wonderful training tool, I also think they ...


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.