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.