September 16, 2014

When Crate Training Comes In Handy

 Even if they aren't used regularly, crates are a good tool if your dog is unpredictable, anxious or fearful around strangers and you suddenly need to let those strangers into your house. 
Both of my dogs spent a fair amount of time crated when I first adopted them (or in Boca's case, when I took her on as a foster dog). I don't believe dogs should be crated more than five hours at a time on a regular basis, but when introducing a puppy or new dog into a household, it is a temporary way to slowly introduce them to more freedom. Ruby quickly proved that she could be trusted home alone (I keep her in the gated kitchen/dining room so my senior cat can have the run of the rest of the house), and we pretty much abandoned the crate after the first few months. Ruby doesn't love her crate and never goes in it on her own if the door is left open.

Boca, on the other hand, seems to like her crate enough to sleep in it voluntarily sometimes, take comfort there during thunderstorms, and it's where I prefer her to go when I feed high-value, long-lasting chew treats like bully sticks, so that there are no quarrels between sisters. While she can also be trusted free in the house, I have continued to crate Boca in the mornings during the week, and she spends afternoons in the kitchen with Ruby. This arrangement works well and I think it gives them some quiet time apart from each other.

Recently I was reminded of a good reason to keep up with their crate training when I had to have some HVAC service people in the house. Despite her reactivity, Ruby has thus far been good about strangers coming to the house, but they have always been people I know and maybe that made a difference for her. She did not like the first repairman and I quickly realized she would need to be crated while he was there. Boca is fearful of strange men, particularly if they are wearing hats, sunglasses, or carrying things. I got them both safely secured, and although Ruby did a lot of whining, she did eventually settle down and chew a bully stick. We had to repeat the whole routine the following day to get another estimate.

The bad news is: I need a new furnace. Two installers will be at my house all day on Friday. I don't plan on crating the ginger sisters the entire time; in fact, it will be a perfect opportunity for me to work upstairs in my spare room and they can hang out there with me. Still, the whole experience prompted me to brush up on Ruby's crate skills, since I had to catch her and physically put her in the crate last week. She had obviously forgotten what 'go to your den' meant, and I saw it as a training opportunity.

Last night with the aid of the clicker and handfuls of smelly Only Natural Pet treats, I worked with both girls on their crate cue as well as waiting for release and staying with the crate door open. By the end of our session, Ruby and Boca were running excitedly to their dens. Ruby was laying down inside and waiting for the 'okay' before coming out. Hopefully this will make things easier the next time we need to unexpectedly utilize their crates.

12 comments:

  1. I want to get Silas to run into his crate on cue, but Mr. Cautious hurt himself going in once (no idea how; I have the bottom wires taped over in the front for exactly that reason) and now he tiptoes. He does go in, though--I put him in every time our doorbell rings, so that I can open the door in peace.

    Our problem is that I don't have anywhere to put the crate that isn't right in the living room, where he can see/bark ferociously at anyone who comes in.

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    1. Mine are in the living room, too, and for this reason I prefer people use my back patio door into the kitchen but this doesn't always happen.

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  2. I agree, creates can be a good tool especially for special situations like repairmen, etc. But I also think they are way over used. 8-10 hours is way too much--though I confess that I've done it with foster dogs! It sounds like you are doing crate training exactly the right way and your girls are continuing to build positive associations with their crates. I did a post a while ago on a foster dog who hated her crate, and the best solution for her was not to use it http://peacefuldog.blogspot.com/2012/07/crate-solution.html. Thankfully you're doing things right from the start!

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    1. I didn't even own dog crates before I started fostering - that was when I realized what a valuable tool they could be. I agree with you that they can be over used. I'm off to check out the post you linked to - thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Our dogs never ever go into a create. LIE

    It's nice to have a crate around as a place to hide. When the puppies are uncomfortable with something, they go to their crate and chill. It's nice to have a safe place where they can relax.

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    1. Boca chose to sleep in hers again last night before we went upstairs to bed. I think the training session made an even stronger positive association for her!

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  4. Crate training, like you said, is an awesome tool when used properly. It's a safe, comfy (and tasty!) place for your pup to relax, and it gives you peace of mind for your pup's safety.

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  5. I have regretted so many times not putting in the crate training effort. At Emmett's shelter, they told us he would have panic attacks when crated, so we just used baby gates in our kitchen and did the same with Lucas. We *started* with Cooper in a crate, but we didn't put in the appropriate effort. Now, when people like your HVAC folks come in, we have to figure out which room to shut them in. Not such a good solution. I really regret not putting in the effort early on... Such a great post and reminder!

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  6. For my girls, crates are necessary. Zoe can be a grumpy resource guarded from time to time. So they eat in their crates and Zoe sleeps in hers, too.

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  7. Crates are a really great tool. When Laika was a puppy I could crate her during the mornings and it was such a relief to not worry about what she was getting into. We introduced it slowly and with lots of praise so luckily she never had a problem going in there. We don't actively use it anymore but we still have it out because she actually likes to go in it and rest.

    Speaking of HVAC guys my last dog Carter became best friends with one of the repairmen we had named Gary. Carter was usually pretty aloof but he followed Gary around everywhere and sat about 3 feet away from him watching everything he was doing the whole time he was here. I kept asking him if he'd like me to remove the dog but he said it was fine; he loved dogs and had some of his own. He'd always pet Carter between tasks and my dog was living it up.

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  8. I'm a staunch believer in the awesomeness of using a crate for dogs - as long as it's used properly. A crate can't ever be used as a punishment, but it can definitely be used as a training tool. Nike is not a fan of her crate, but she willingly goes to it when I ask her to (and when I mention a treat!). She's only in it when we're not home (which isn't often), and never more than 2-3 hours. I don't worry about her getting hurt or into something when I'm gone because I know she's safe.

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