As I prepare to say good-bye to Autumn’s puppies in a few weeks, I think the time is perfect for me to share my views and advice regarding crate training. In large part this is motivated because Autumn’s puppies are bursting with the Labrador gene that promises chewing for the next year or two but moreover because they are PUPPIES! Puppies chew. Puppies get into stuff. Puppies poop and pee in places that we’d prefer they not and often exactly where you’ll be walking in the middle of the night to go pee yourself.
As such I believe in the crate. Just like I believe that the first sip of your first beer is the best, that people should always have their checks completed well before their groceries are all rung up, that the best part of the day is at 6 a.m. and that puppy breath is one of the sweetest fragrances on earth.
EVERY puppy needs leadership, guidance, directions and limits very early on as much as they need food, water, cuddles, snuggles and belly rubs.
So often though I hear people (women mostly) express concern over the concept of crate training. They say things like “I feel bad leaving her in a crate all day while I’m at work.” “I feel bad crating him while my other dogs get to run loose.” “I feel bad that she/he has to sleep in the crate and not in the bed with the rest of us.” “I feel so bad about all these things that I’m not going to crate her, I’m going to let her destroy my house until I can’t take it any longer and then I’m going take that puppy to the shelter so I won’t have to crate her and you all can find her a home where she magically won’t do those bad things or at least I won’t know about them and have to feel guilty.”
Okay I’ve never heard that last one but that’s only because most people don’t say everything they think.
So here’s my question to the mother’s out there…. mostly. When your children were young, let’s say 2 years….old enough to be up and about and getting into mischief, did you feel bad putting them in a playpen or limiting what they could get into or hiring a babysitter to watch them while you were gone or not letting them play with knives? Did you feel bad for not letting them roam the house alone or put everything in their mouths they wanted? Did you feel bad telling them “no” when they did things that were dangerous? And did you feel bad for wanting to teach them right from wrong so they’d grow up to be responsible, safe and happy human beings?
If the answer to any of those questions is “yes”, then stop reading cause you’re not going to get my point at all. If you aren’t or weren’t the sort of parent that understood that you would have to do things that were hard or made your child unhappy in order to be a good parent, I cannot relate to you and this blog will likely not resonate the way I want it to.
Normally I don’t do puppies or not for long. Foster them, yes! Adopt them, no! But somehow I’ve landed with two older puppies…7 to 9 months of age each, Oliver and Abby who remind me daily of why I adopt older easier dogs normally. They’re wonderful and about 75% trustworthy not to get into stuff. BUT assuredly they do not get free reign of my home. They have limits and boundaries that my older dogs don’t need. As such, they stay in the garage during the day and will probably do so for the next year.
My point is, that our puppies need and deserve some rules just as much as they need food and water and one should not feel any more guilt about providing them with those boundaries than giving them the sustenance they require. In large part I believe many of the dogs that end up in shelters are there because their owners simply did not give them the limits they needed and they grew up to be “bad” dogs when in fact they had “bad” owners. I don’t really think either are bad, just my way of making a point.
So mom’s out there…those that are and soon to be (Debbie!) STOP feeling guilty about giving your puppies exactly what they need. Stop humanizing them and thinking that if you were in that crate you’d feel such and such. Think more about how you deal with a 3 year old child who was eating the wood work or chewing everything plastic in your house. My first dog as an adult, a Lab named Spinner ate 5 remote controls during her puppy stage before I got a crate and before she gave up the habit at 2 years. She also ate part of an antique table, a plate of chocolate (my first doggie enema application), and about 5 cassette tapes before I started doing my job. I’m lucky she didn’t ingest something that killed her…the tapes could have. And had she been injured or worse, it would not have been her fault. She was just being and doing what puppies are meant to do. It was I that was failing to do what I was supposed to do…be a responsible owner. Responsible mom, leader and protector.
Don’t wait until you’ve had to do that puppy enema or rushed your pup to the vet in the middle of the night because they are throwing up rocks or whatever the catastrophe that will put you over the edge. Get a crate. One large enough for your puppy to grow into over the next 6 months or even a year. Or find a safe place in your home or garage for your puppy to call home (their private puppy pad) when they cannot be supervised. And be consistent about its use.
Please don’t put them there as punishment. It should always be seen as a comforting happy place. Feed them there. Give them toys and treats there. Put it somewhere they will continue to be a part of your family rather than isolating them in the laundry room or basement. When you put the crate in a room far from the normal traffic flow or activity, you’re doing that so you don’t have to hear or see them. They will not feel better about this isolation even if you do. Over the long term they will be happier in their crate when they still feel a part of what’s going on.
There are tons of good articles about how to crate train and I won’t repeat all of that advice here. Google will lead you to that. But please consider getting one. It’s not just about saving the furniture from destruction. Or saving you money on the unnecessary vet bill. It’s about being a responsible owner, leader and pet parent. Our puppies need it just as much as our children. Right moms?
And if you want to feel guilty about something, wait til your pup is grown up and no longer needs the crate and after you’ve put it away comes and looks at you with a “Hey, what’s up? Where’s my crate?” look. Then feel all the guilt you like. Til then be proud of yourself for being a responsible pet owner raising a well-balanced and happy puppy to adulthood.