Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Crate

To crate or not to crate?  It's a big issue in the world of dogs. There are those who swear by crates and those who abhore them as torture and there are those in between.

Today I witnessed a rant by someone who was trying to adopt a puppy from a rescue and was turned down because of his views (so he says) about crates.  He is for crates, so is the rescue, but there was a HUGE difference between them in how a crate should be used.

I use crates.  In the last 4 years, with the 4 puppies that I've raised as my own, I've used a crate for them all until they were 9 months to a year old.  That three month difference between dogs was due to differences in maturity level between the puppies.  Only one of the puppies was crated at night and when I wasn't home until a year old.  The rest were free of the crate at 9 months.  When I was home, they were free to roam the house after they were 4 months old.

In this last 4 years I have had no problems with potty training, chewing or other destruction, counter surfing, trash diving or any of the other normal issues people have with adolescent dogs.  The oldest dog is now 4 and the youngest is 20 months.  There have never been any fights between these dogs - ever.  None of them have separation anxiety, fear of thunder or fireworks, they are friendly to other friendly dogs and love meeting new people. These were all puppies that I raised from 8 weeks old. I have had fosters during this time as well. The oldest is now living with my daughter and two young grand children.

So what about older dogs that are adopted? Should you use a crate?  In my opinion and practice, yes.  The new dog, no matter what it's age, condition or behavior issues, knows nothing about you, your other animals, your rules, boundaries and limitations.  They need to learn those and earn your trust just as you need to earn their's.  So a crate is essential and in the first week of having a foster I use the crate for everything.  The dog sleeps in the crate, is in the crate to eat and when I'm not home or I'm working intensely on the computer and don't have any spare attention units.  If the foster is ill to begin with, the time in the crate is longer to make sure the dog gets sufficient rest in order to heal.

In the almost 59 years I have lived with dogs, the adult dogs have had free run of the house and the yard.  In those 59 years - 17 of which I was still living with my parents - I have lived with 23 adult dogs and numerous puppies (more then 40).  Some of the adult dogs were raised from puppies, some were adopted from the pound as adults.  None of them stayed in a crate with the door closed for any reason after the first year (that long only for the puppies - otherwise 30 - 45 days was the longest).  The time the dogs spent in the crates, other then at night, was never more then 3 hours at a time and then an hour of exercise, training and non structured play.  The time out of the crate, free to roam the house, was progressively lengthened as my trust in the dog's ability to live appropriately in my world increased.

One of the dogs that I grew up with, had it been in a crate unable to interact with the environment, would not have been able to warn my sister of the 71 earthquake in So Cal.  My sis would have been severly injuried had Petunia not woken her up.  A large heavy book shelf fell on her bed.

In those 59 years I have had only three fights happen.  Two were mildly serious because of the size difference between the dogs, the other wasn't serious at all. All three of the fights were provoked by one of the dogs involved and the other dog defended itself.  I witnessed all three fights and all three involved the same dog of mine and someone else's dog.  There has never been a fight when I wasn't around - at least not any that involved blood or other evidence that there had been a fight.

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