I have to admit that years ago I considered crates cruel and never would have purchased one. However, three years ago when I added a new black lab to my home, I decided to give it a try. One of the major reasons for this was my dog’s safety. I have a large in-ground pool in the backyard, and I work. There was no way I could risk my dog’s life by leaving her outside those first few weeks she was with me. I had to work, and I needed to make sure she was comfortable with the pool. At the same time, I couldn’t leave her unattended inside the house. There was just too much ‘stuff’ for her to get into. A bit reluctantly, I purchased a crate and a comfortable bed for its inside and instantly began to train her. I should point out my lab was barely a year old when I got her and she was pretty much a total outdoor dog.
Much to my pleasure, I quickly learned that my dog loved her crate. She took to it quickly. During training sessions, I would have her sit or lie down in it for a while, with the door open. I was always nearby where she could see me. I’d let her come out often. It really only took a couple of days, if that, before she knew that was her home, or special place.
My dog doesn’t get frightened much, but when she does, she takes off for her crate; if she does something she shouldn’t, she heads for her crate. If she just wants to lie down, sometimes she goes in the crate and sometimes she jumps up onto the bed. Of course, much of the time, she chooses to sleep by my feet. In other words, the majority of the time, her crate is a choice, not a requirement.
In my training, I made sure my dog knew that her crate wasn’t a bad place. It was a fun place, and it was just for her. I’d give her treats and praise her. When I had to go to work and leave her, I talked to her about it. Yes, I believe dogs can understand us; at least, the essence of what we’re saying. “I have to go work. I wish I didn’t have to close the door, but I want you to be safe. I’ll be home soon.” She knew those words and never argued.
When I got a second dog to be a sister to my black lab, she already had a crate. She was a puppy, but she loved her crate. I watched carefully as she and her sister bonded. Almost immediately, the puppy began to check out the older dog’s crate, and the older dog let her. Trust me, I was watching this very carefully. I was concerned the ‘alpha dog’ syndrome might affect this, but there was never an argument. Oftentimes, I’d walk into the room, and the two would be side-by-side, sleeping in the older dog’s crate. After some time, I folded up the puppy’s crate and decided to let them share the crate I’d purchased for the older dog. In part, this was necessity as the puppy had grown to the size of my black lab. Three years later, and they continue to share it happily. It’s a big one, by the way, so they have ample room for each of them to stretch out.
Both dogs know the ‘crate’ command. If I’m eating and they get underfoot, I’ll just say ‘crate’, and in they go. They’ll lie down until I’m done and tell them they can come out. They sleep in there alone, or separately, depending upon their whims, not mine. If someone comes to the door, I can call out ‘crate’, and both will run to the crate and settle down, so that I don’t have to worry about them getting out the front door or whatever.
What I’m trying to say is that while I was originally cautious and concerned about using a crate, I’m now a strong supporter of it. I’ve seen how my dogs have taken to it. It’s just like the more typical beanbags that I’ve had over the years for prior pets. It’s their safe haven, their special place to go. The only difference between the crate and the beanbags is that I can close the door (for their safety). I’ve recommended crates to friends, who have followed suit. One wasn’t a believer and was hesitant. They had some problems with their new dog and finally tried it. What a difference in his home. His dog now loves his crate. A happy convert is he!
Crating isn’t cruel when it’s done for the protection of your new family member and when it’s a haven for your dog and not a punishment. For my girls, their crate is a haven, where they sometimes sleep and sometimes take their bones to chew on. They love it, and so do I.