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OUR ANIMALS, OURSELVES: Crates

September 28, 2018
By ANNOEL KRIDER , Lake Placid News

I visited friends of mine years ago and was looking forward to spending time with them and their dog Jasmine. We enjoyed our evening meal together, ending with a cup of tea prior to bedtime. As I gathered up my things, ready to retreat, my curiosity was tweaked as I watched them lead Jasmine down to the basement. I followed and was soon witnessing a scene that made no sense to me at all, knowing my friends as I did.

They were putting this dog into its metal crate, just large enough to hold her, where it sat on the concrete basement floor alone, in the midst of nothing, two floors down from the nearest living being. The feeling of exasperation took hold as I bit my tongue while uttering the words, "This is where she sleeps at night?" Putting just enough emphasis on my question to express concern yet not enough to offend.

The next couple mornings I was up at dawn, running down to the basement, releasing Jasmine from her confinement and taking her outdoors, where we walked and sat and discussed her dilemma and what to do about it.

Article Photos

Our puppy Addie in a soft-sided playpen. Provided photo — Annoel Krider

According to a Whole Dog Journal article, "Crates are perhaps second only to choke collars as the most misused training equipment forced on dogs." Crates should only be used for short-term confinement and to teach dogs two important skills: eliminating when and where it's appropriate, and to keep dogs out of trouble.

Crates aren't meant for long-term close confinement because animals suffer when forced to stay in so closely confined areas for more than a couple of hours.

Understandably, you can't give an untrained dog the run of the house while you are gone, so instead of a closely confined crate, come up with another area of confinement that will serve the same purpose yet gives your dog freedom to move, including some stimulation like doggie chew toys or a window he can look out.

It's also crucial to have someone come in and take the dog for walks. This long-term confinement is only temporary until your dog learns how to behave in the house while you're gone.

In the case of my friend, not only was this dog confined for too long. It was also alone, and the anxiety of this dog not being near her people at night was huge, not to mention her inability to move around. I don't know about your dogs, but mine love stretching out when they sleep, bellies exposed, legs reaching out in all directions.

When we were looking for a puppy a couple of years ago via rescue sites, one of the first questions they asked was, "Are you going to leave the puppy alone during the day for any amount of time?" If the answer was yes, then the deal was off. Puppies are babies and need continuous care and observation throughout the day. Few people seem to realize this responsibility, resulting in puppies being left alone in crates. Besides requiring supervision, puppies don't like being alone. Think about it. They are happily playing with their litter mates, cuddling up next to their mom then someone comes along and takes that all away. No puppy mates, no mom. They are afraid. When we finally got a puppy, we purchased a soft-sided play pen that had a top that could be zipped on and off. We put it near our bed at night so she could feel safe and let us know when she needed to go out. We didn't leave her alone.

This same play pen was brought to work with us, along with our puppy.

When a puppy gets older (6 to 12 months), you can begin leaving it for longer periods.

On the plus side, crates can become that safe den your dog retreats to. It's not always about shutting the door behind him, either. Once he is trained you can leave your dog home, and because he has learned the rules of the house, he can be trusted. No confinement necessary. He can move in and out of his cozy crate space at will.

In our household, besides the doggie door that leads outside to a fenced area, the dogs have indoor spaces they have made their own. We don't have crates, just cozy corners.

After returning home from my friends', I immediately wrote them a long letter with my thoughts about Jasmine along with research concerning crates. Jasmine was older and well behaved, so it appeared that they just wanted her out of the way.

Getting a dog comes with responsibilities that perhaps might cause some inconvenience. You've made a commitment to this animal, and if a crate is the way you want to go, there is a lot of information out there to show you the proper methods of using it responsibly. Make the effort.

 
 
 

 

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