Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 6, 2013

Crate-Training for the Whole Family

Posted at 12:00PM - Comments: (9)

My sister-in-law and I were talking on the phone a day after our whole family had been together for a holiday event at my house. She said, “The funniest thing from my view in the living room was seeing you repeatedly scoop up your sister’s dogs and lock them in the big cage in the bedroom, and seeing your sister repeatedly come through and let them back out!”

My sister has three little dogs. One of those dogs, Mokie, lived with me for more than three years, and while I had him, he slept in a crate nightly, with the door open. He loved his crate, and made a habit of dragging any favored toys or treats or chews in there to hoard. The second dog is a 6- or 7-month-old rescue pup, a terrier mix. At her former foster home, she was crated regularly. The third is a 5-year-old terrier-mix they took in after a friend fell on hard times. Supposedly he was crated at various times, too, without any problems.

But my sister seems to regard crates as a cruel hardship for a dog. *She* can barely stand it when her dogs are contained. And her anxiety about whether they are comfortable and happy quickly cues the dogs to exhibit anxiety when she comes to “see how they are doing.” Despite the fact that I filled, corner to corner, the German Shepherd-sized cage-style crate with a super plush bed, and prepared canned-food-stuffed frozen Kongs for all the little dogs to enjoy while crated, when my sister ducked into the room and saw them lying in the crate together working on their Kongs, she’d trill, “Oh, my poor babies!” and they’d all jump up and start showing clear signs of oxygen deprivation and beatings (apparently). So she’d let them out, “just for a minute!”

But we had lots of other people in the house, including a three-year-old child who is CRAZY about dogs and who lives with a super-tolerant large dog; I didn’t want my niece to get bitten by a small dog who wasn’t expecting a toddler’s exuberant hug. And Mokie is a unrepentant urine-marker; he’ll lift his leg and mark anything if you’re not watching him closely. The dogs, my house, and the party were better off with the little dogs locked up. (My own dogs were also sequestered, relaxed and comfortable out in my husband’s office, an outbuilding in our yard.) So, yeah, we had a bit of a sister power struggle with the little dogs in the middle.

The day after the party, I lectured my sister some more. “You’re doing them a huge favor if you teach them to relax in a crate! Then they’d be comfortable if they ever had to be in a cage at the vet’s office, or if you ever had to board them. And when you have parties at your house, you wouldn’t have to be so worried about one of them slipping out the front door, or eating someone’s plate of appetizers off the ottoman!” (Those last two things have happened.)

I made a little progress with my sister that day, especially after I moved the giant crate into my dining area, so her dogs had a warm, comfy place to lie and chew the Kongs while my sister and I cooked in the kitchen. I left the crate door open, so she could see that they chose to go in the crate. The truth is, my floors are cold, and if they wanted to keep an eye on her and be warm, too, the crate was the best option. But this was about training my sister, not her dogs.

Comments (8)

When I got my last dog, a labrador retriever puppy, I crate trained. At the time I knew several people with older dogs who were having various illnesses causing the dogs to spew bodily fluids in one manner or another. I decided then and there to continue to use the crate and night, and occasionally during the day so that if it was ever needed for an elderly dog (due to illness or injury) it would not be traumatic. When my dog reached 11, and developed seizures that would periodically outpace her medications and require stronger doses (due to brain cancer), it was a godsend. We lived in a two story house with steep stairs, and I would have been terrified to ever leave the house if there had not been a safe and happy way to confine her away from those stairs.

Posted by: Alice R. | January 10, 2015 8:50 AM    Report this comment

When I got my last dog, a labrador retriever puppy, I crate trained. At the time I knew several people with older dogs who were having various illnesses causing the dogs to spew bodily fluids in one manner or another. I decided then and there to continue to use the crate and night, and occasionally during the day so that if it was ever needed for an elderly dog (due to illness or injury) it would not be traumatic. When my dog reached 11, and developed seizures that would periodically outpace her medications and require stronger doses (due to brain cancer), it was a godsend. We lived in a two story house with steep stairs, and I would have been terrified to ever leave the house if there had not been a safe and happy way to confine her away from those stairs.

Posted by: Alice R. | January 10, 2015 8:49 AM    Report this comment

Oh gee I can totally relate to this. I used to be adverse to crates as being confining and cruel and unusual punishment and have many ruined things to show for it. In NJ we used to foster one Golden Retriever at a time....then we moved to another state where the need for fostering is greater and we foster 4 dogs at a time along with our residential 6 dogs. We rearranged the living room furniture to fit in huge Great Dane sized crates so we live with a crate city in our midst. The foster dogs do not live in the crates but they sleep in them and spend time in them when we are out of the house. We think the trick is to let them run and play in the large fenced yards and learn to settle in the house...sometimes in a crate... with comfy bedding and great stuff to chew on.....it is working so far.

Posted by: Olivia | January 9, 2013 8:58 AM    Report this comment

I just got a 3 month old Mini Schnauzer puppy. He'd been crate trained by the breeder so I've continued doing the same. He is comfortable & feels secure in the crate. I used it to bring him home via car. Worked very well. As he grows I will continue crating him. Has anyone had experiences in crating older dogs? Is this a good idea?

Posted by: Deborah F | January 8, 2013 7:51 PM    Report this comment

I'd just like to weigh in my "YES" vote for crates. They are a dog's haven, safe place, and den. Buddy has one in the kitchen so he can watch the "cooking show" without getting underfoot and one permanently in the back seat of the car for traveling (he is anxious about riding in the car and this calms him). If company comes he has a place to retreat in the kitchen crate and he also loves to just nap in there with the portal open. Crates are great!

Posted by: Becky and Buddy | January 8, 2013 7:17 PM    Report this comment

Yep, crates are essential. I have two dogs, a Papillon, Lily, and a miniature Australian Shephard, Merlin. Lily is a very neat eater and will clean up any kibble that escapes from her dish. Merlin, on the other hand, could care less if kibble is spread over the entire room. So I feed Merlin in his oversize crate, thus restricting kibble trajectories to the interior. Lily just has a small plastic placemat. The crate also was useful when I had the house painted and new carpet put down. I just put both dogs in the crate with food and water; they were happy and the workmen were content that no dogs would get in the way.

Posted by: margeam | January 8, 2013 5:16 PM    Report this comment

I totally agree with the pro-crate position. My rescue Pomeranian likes the safety of his crate when the big dogs are around so he doesn't get stepped on. He's also very anxious about mealtimes (resource guarding to the max) and eating in his crate is the best solution for all of us.

Posted by: Elizabeth D | January 8, 2013 10:53 AM    Report this comment

My husband and I have 2 rescue French bulldogs who are both crate trained. Our male is a somewhat anxious dog and he uses the crate as his "safe" zone, a place to go when he's feeling nervous or anxious. Recently he injured himself and had to spend 3 weeks on "doggie bedrest." Thank goodness for his crate. I don't know what we would have done without it!

Posted by: Rosalind E | January 8, 2013 9:56 AM    Report this comment

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