This issue came up recently with a client, they did have a crate but they didn’t like using it, it made them feel bad locking their dog up for hours at a time. I felt the same way until we adopted our dog from a shelter. I still don’t like leaving her in there for hours at a time, but I don’t feel as bad because I know it’s for her and our other dog’s own good.
I was originally interested in this topic because someone posted a Reddit article asking if crating was an American thing in one of the Facebook groups I’m in. Of course, that conversation went all over the place, but it does seem that crating is popular in the US, but not all over the world.
Why do people crate in the US? Well, usually, the first time is for potty training, then people use it so that their dog doesn’t destroy anything while they are away, people also crate to transport their dogs.
Let’s take a look at my second reason, so their dog doesn’t destroy anything while they are out. There are many studies out there showing that US workers work longer hours and more days than most other 1st world countries. A lot of dogs sit at home for 8-12 hours or more alone with nothing to do, it’s not like they can turn on the TV, go shopping or just go for a walk. Some dogs do get bored, lonely and/or stressed when they are alone. They sometimes do destructive things and it’s rewarding to destroy things because it’s a way to get the stress out like some people run or work out to relieve stress.
The big issues are that we are away so much for work and we do have to leave our dogs home alone for long stretches. Some dogs can handle the stress and chew on bones or just be content. A lot of dogs can’t, they don’t know what to do so they destroy things, that is where crating is helpful to protect your property, but also to protect your dog so it doesn’t ingest something that could hurt it while you are away.
Some dogs do see crates as a space all their own, a place they can go to “getaway.” Pet parents can leave the crates open while they are gone and even while at home and the dog sleeps in there, chews bones, just hangs out whether pet parents are home or not. Some dogs are like this and some, like my own, are not and I don’t think ever will be.
When did I switch over to accepting crating? The first time was when we adopted our second dog. She was already crate trained, but she hated it. But we needed her to be crated when we first brought her home because we had another dog. We didn’t have the room or type of rooms to keep both dogs separated till they could get to know each other. We also didn’t know if she would destroy the house while we were gone. We have tried to leave her out and she sometimes does okay and sometimes doesn’t. We decided for the safety of her and our house, to keep crating her.
We had to work on her “liking” or at least tolerating the crate. What we did was every time we put her in the crate, she gets a KONG filled with peanut butter. We only give her peanut butter for when she is in the crate, we don’t offer it as a treat if she is outside the crate. This makes the peanut butter highly-valuable, she knows she only gets this treat if she goes in the crate. It wasn’t instantaneous at all. It took a few days of consistently doing this for her to catch on. But now, she sees the KONG and she runs to her crate and sits in it waiting.
I like to believe she knows she could be in the crate for hours, but getting the peanut butter is way more valuable than the thought of being in there for long hours, it’s worth the price to get the peanut butter in a sense.
We never crated our first dog as a puppy, I hated it and he hated it. Recently, my wife and I were working a lot and the stress got to him about us being away so much. He did something he never did before, he started eating the dining room table, when we first saw it, it looked like it had been eaten by a beaver.
From that moment on, we knew we had to get a crate. The hours weren’t changing anytime in the near future and we couldn’t risk him eating something else that could hurt him far more than being in a crate. We all know how expensive Emergency Vet care is, we have had our instances ourselves, luckily, everything worked out.
So, what did we do to get him to be okay with the crate? This one was a little trickier because he wasn’t crate trained and hated it. In the past, he would get a kong like our other dog, just not in a crate. The value for the peanut butter filled KONG wasn’t the same for him when we started crating him. We did have to force him in there when we had to leave in the beginning, not the ideal way to get a dog to like a crate, but we didn’t have a choice, like many pet parents.
This is what we did when he was out of the crate to try and get him to tolerate it. Ideally, you want to have time to introduce any dog to a crate without flooding him with the negative experience, but as I understand, sometimes you just don’t have that much time before you need the dog in the crate.
We had to start by making the crate a positive experience. We still gave a KONG with peanut butter when we left, but when we were home, we would treat and/or praise him if he ever went near it, it didn’t matter if he went into it, just getting near it. Then we would try to entice him into the crate with treats by throwing them in, not pushing him in, letting him choose to go in, once he did, we gave more treats. We just kept repeating this over and over.
Eventually, he did tolerate going in, he still isn’t happy about it by any means, but he does go into it to “get away” from our other dog and sometimes we catch him just laying in there. I will never say he likes it though because he can still take his time getting into the crate, but he does get treats and praise when he does.
Crating isn’t a bad thing if used correctly. It isn’t something anybody should shame you about. It’s part of life, it can be beneficial to both the dog and you. It can be a safe place for your dog to go to. It can keep them safe while you are away, have contractors in the house or just company over.