Crating – A Life Skill

Crating is one of those things that divides people.  Some people say it’s wrong, some people say it’s necessary; some people call them cages, and use them only for house-training their puppy, some people call them crates, kennels, or dens, and use them throughout their dog’s life.

I saw a comment from someone recently who refused to use a crate for their dog because he’d been a stray in Romania, and then was in rescue kennels for about 12 months.  I wonder what they think of me, having crate trained Inka even though he spent up to eight months of his life in a shed full of other dogs?

I love crates, I really, really do.  They’re amazingly useful tools (we have five, in a house with two dogs!); and the thing is, regardless of what anyone thinks, or wants to believe, being crated really is a life-skill for dogs.  Whether we’re crating them at home, or other locations (class, trials, and so on); or if they’re spending the day at the vets having surgery or x-rays; or if they’re in kennels while you’re on holiday, or they’ve been picked up as a lost dog; or in even, in some cases, if your dog has a serious accident or injury and needs to be on crate rest for a number of weeks; and the simplest of all – in the car, being comfortable in a crate is important (I know many dogs travel wearing a doggy seatbelt, but the majority travel in the boot, which is basically a giant, moving crate).

A lot of people say that they don’t like crating their dog because their dog doesn’t like it – but given how necessary it is, even if it’s only on the occasional time when your dog’s away from home, then surely you should work on your dog thinking his or her crate is a super-fun, super-awesome place to be.  Lets face it, for many dogs being away from home is stressful enough – why would you want to make it worse by not acquainting your dog with a crate beforehand?

When I thought I might need to send Inka to the vets to have x-rays last year, I was worried how he would be.  He had a crate at home, but wasn’t ecstatic about it, and lets face it – he was going to be in a strange place, that would smell pretty funky too, and getting poked and prodded to boot!

But, thanks to Susan Garrett and Crate Games, I have a dog who loves his crate.  He sleeps in it, relaxes in it, runs at top speed when I ask him to go to it, I really don’t know what I’d do without his “crate love”, he thinks it’s one of the best ever places to be!

Here’s a clip of him & I having a run-through of his Crate Games in the back garden earlier this week.

Of course, there’s more than Crate Games to help you get your dog comfortable in their crate, but I like that Susan finds the dog’s joy so important, and works to make each exercise fun – that’s what I wanted for Inka, not a resigned “oh, OK then”, but a happiness and a sureness in what he was doing, and enjoyment in the activity.

And I can safely say that Inka was fab when he was at the vets for x-rays last year, and he was just as fab when he had his operation earlier this year too.

Over to you, readers: what do you think of crating dogs?  If you do crate your dogs, what’s your preferred method of crate training?

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7 thoughts on “Crating – A Life Skill

  1. Nice post! True story: I have a feral puppy (Clara) who had been raised in the woods. She came fearfully into my house when she was about 10 weeks old after being separated from her litter mates (she heard one of my dogs barking). I had a plastic crate with some soft bedding next to my bed, and when we went to bed that night she saw that crate, crawled in, and didn’t utter a peep for the next six hours. You can see it in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20LGThDGpMc . You can also see her sleeping in a wire crate in my car the second day I had her. I can only speculate what kind of living arrangement she had with her dam, but some kind of den seems likely! She liked crates before I ever reinforced her for being in them, and now that I have done that she is crazy about them. My dog Zani also came to me liking crates, and while my dog Summer did not like them at first, I trained her using Crate Games and lots of great reinforcement in the crate. She now chooses to sleep in her crate with the door open a lot of the time, even with many other cushy places in the house available.

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  3. All but 2 of our fosters or permanents have been crated initially. Some for weeks, others as long as a year. At the point we knew they could be trusted unsupervised, the crate stayed, but the door was removed. While all will go in a crate if asked to, none do it on their own anymore. Still, it is an invaluable tool to set the ground rules when a new kid comes in.

    Of the 2 that weren’t crated, one was a girl with pain issues. We started her in the crate, but she could barely get out when we got home from work, despite the fact the crate gave her plenty of room to stand, turn, and even take a couple of steps. Her condition was such that she needs the ability to get up and physically walk around when she starts to get stiff, and she couldn’t do that in a crate, no matter how large it was. A dog run would have worked, but we don’t leave our kids outside when we aren’t home.

    The second one, like the first commenter, was (is) a feral. A crate was attempted, but she was so adverse to any human contact, and had such fears, that once she went in the crate, she was too terrified to come out. To go in an get her caused yet more fears.

    But that was only 2 of a multitude. Personal opinion: crating is great provided it doesn’t become a means of avoiding responsibility on the part of the human. Far too many people seem to think it is a place to stick a dog when you don’t want to bother. That, and not crating, is what’s uncool!

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