Crate As Training

Depending on who you ask, crates are a hot topic, so let me start off by saying I am pro-crate.

I think crates are a great way to provide safe supervision and prevent destruction when you’re not present. I know there’s a common argument about confining dogs to a small space, but provided the crate is properly sized (so the dog has room get up and to turn around), there’s nothing wrong with having them spend time in a crate while you’re away or asleep.  Likely all they’re doing while you’re away is sleeping anyway, so in my opinion there’s no harm in just changing up exactly where they sleep. Not to mention, once they’re comfortable in the crate, it’s a great thing to bring while travelling that will feel safe and familiar for them.

So, even though we’ve never used a crate with Moses, that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t, and also means – as I mentioned recently – we’re employing the crate with Alma as a firm barrier between her and… say… brown sugar.

Alma in her crate. For those curious, it's the Kong Double-Door crate in the biggest possible size: 49"L x 30.5"W x 32.25"H

But I find it kind of a misnomer when people talk about “crate training”.

What is “crate training”, anyway?

I mean, we’re using the crate to help control Alma’s anxiety-based destructive habits.  For Alma, the challenge ensues when we’ve left the house, and she’s left completely unsupervised – even more so in the instances when we take Moses out and she’s left completely alone.  Even when we’re asleep she’s fine and trustworthy in the house, so it’s clear separation anxiety that is channeled into mischievous behaviours.

But putting her in the crate doesn’t actually teach her anything about not counter-surfing or not taking her stressful energy out on the box of Kleenex.

In fact, in reality, a crate is more like an avoidance technique.

It’s just like how walking a dog super early in the morning or super late to avoid other neighbourhood dogs may result in calmer, easier dog walks, but really doesn’t teach them anything about on-leash manners when passing other dogs.  You need exposure to your challenges in order to provide training opportunities and work through them.

So if “crate training” isn’t providing any lessons to curb destructive habits, then what is it?

Well, it’s just training your dog to get used to spending time in the crate.

In order to do this, we had Alma inspect the crate and spend time in it with the doors open before having her closed in it while we were gone.  Then we begin every crate experience with positive associations: making sure she goes in by choice (not by force) and then giving her treats and a toy at the outset.  When we come home, we always wait for her to be calm and sitting down before letting her out, so she associates the crate ritual with relaxed and positive experiences.

And we’ll continuously make sure the crate is never used as a punishment or “time out” location, and that any whining there may be will just be ignored.

The most perceptive reader may notice a crate next to Alma's in the picture above. That belongs to Jasper, the Duck Tolling Retriever, who is also crate trained and spending a few days with us.

Only a couple weeks in and I’m happy to report the crate training is going famously, and she’s quite content to spend time in there while we’re at work.

And you know how I know this?

Because technology is awesome.  And really, so is the Husband, because it was all his idea.

We’ve downloaded a webcam app on our MacBooks and iPhones, so now we can put Alma in her crate, set up the laptop so she’s on camera, and we can login on our phones and check the live footage.

And looking at the  various camera feeds available, we’re by far not the only folks out there using this system to spy on our pets (don’t judge – we all know you’d peek on the other feeds too).

It’s a great way to check and ensure Alma’s calm and relaxed while we’re gone.  For example, I took Moses out for a solo walk yesterday, and it was great to check the camera and see how long it took her to relax and lay down before we headed back to the house (for the record, it was about 20 minutes).

So, yeah, there really is an app for that.

What Moses does when left home alone.

About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

19 Responses to Crate As Training

  1. Jen says:

    Leroy loves his crate and always has. He naps in there all the time. Sherman never liked a crate and we really never pushed the issue.

    Completely off the subject, I am wondering what type of mats you have on your deck and do use them to help prevent the dogs from slipping? Sorry if I’m being nosy I just really like that idea!

    • thatjenk says:

      Hi Jen!

      We got the rubber floor tiles to help Moses post-surgery in the summer. We had them all throughout the house and deck at first, while he built up strength to get up and stand on our tile floors. When we found the ramp and deck also a bit slippery, we extended them out there, too. We have a lot of tiles (we found them on a crazy sale at $1/box). Ha! But slowly, as his balance and strength came back, we reduced the amount of tiles in the house, and took the last ones out around Christmas. The ones outside are really helpful with the ramp, though, so there’s been no hurry removing them.

      The tiles themselves are initially designed for garages, workout rooms, and basements, but also great for post-op dog recovery!

      Definitely worth it, useful, and are holding up well. If you were close, I’d just give you some of ours.

      Not sure if these are the exact ones or not, but they’re close:

      • Jen says:

        Thanks for the link! I know I have seen them somewhere else and now I think I saw them in some dog catalog! Those are great idea and it is nice to know that they hold up outside! I can see those being added to my house in the future!

  2. Crates can become a source of comfort for some dogs and it sounds like Alma has really taken to hers. Interestingly, neither Sage nor Toby have anything to do with a crate (and both were rescues, although Sage was only 10-weeks when she was adopted). Our Maggie loved her crate (and wasn’t a rescue) and would go to it when a thunderstorm or something similar frightened her.

    • thatjenk says:

      Yeah, the crate seems to help ease (as well as control) her separation anxiety, since I can watch the feeds and see how fast she calms down if left completely alone (meaning: without Moses, too). We’ll build her up to not requiring it, but it will be a nice tool to use as needed.

  3. 2browndawgs says:

    Glad to hear that Alma is taking to the crate so well. Just make sure to remove all tempting items from around the crate. A four foot distance should suffice. LOL See our Monday Mischief post. 🙂

  4. Kristine says:

    I’ve written a lot about crates and crate training and am definitely “pro”, with the addendum that it is used appropriately. As you said a crate isn’t a replacement for proper training, it is more of an assistant or aid. I love ours and am so glad our dog does too. It made things a lot easier during the peak of her separation anxiety. Now, I am stunned to report, we can often leave her alone in the house without closing the door and she does just fine. So do my shoes. 😉

    Love the webcam app! I may have to find something like that myself!

    PS. Jasper is so ridiculously cute! I am kind of in love with Duck Tollers and totally wanted to get one before we ended up adopting Shiva. I know more about the breed now and am not sure I’ll ever go the purebred route but I can’t stop myself from gushing every time I see one. Maybe one day…

    • thatjenk says:

      Oh man – I am very happy and lucky to report that my shoes have remained untouched from Alma, even pre-crate. Though, I’m sure had she’d shown interest in them, then the crate probably would’ve made an earlier appearance. We do hope to ween her off its necessity eventually, but it is nice to have for travel and future dog-sitters (believe it or not, she’s still welcome at Dion’s even after “the incident”).

      Yes! Duck Tollers are great and Jasper is 2 and has retained his cute puppy look, so he’s extra adorable! I also think they’re great dogs – like of like a little dog for “big dog people”, because they’re so athletic and trainable. Jasper even has a surprisingly deep “big dog” bark (learned that while vacuuming this weekend).

  5. Amanda says:

    We probably should have warned you about the vacuum aversion… Public enemy number one. It’s extra fun when the vacuum comes in roomba form. Hope he’s behaving himself otherwise!

    • thatjenk says:

      Haha – not to worry! That’s also something I probably could’ve remembered from last time. But he’s having a great time! Watching him and Alma wrestle is pretty hilarious.

  6. Julie says:

    Cali always loved her crate and was always happy to show foster dogs how to use them properly 🙂 We had considered setting up my flip camera to see what Saydee was up to while we were gone but never did! I didn’t know that there was an app! Too cool!! Why wouldn’t someone want to check in and see how their babies are doing?? 

  7. lexy3587 says:

    Gwynn wasn’t a huge fan of his crate for the first little while. Looooots of treat luring. Now, when he’s not in the mood for people, he tucks himself up in there. When I’m getting ready for work, he runs in there and watches me, because he knows he’ll get a treat before I leave, even though he doesn’t get closed in there for the day anymore. I think crates are a great idea – even just giving an anxious dog a safe spot in the house probably helps relieve some of the anxiety of people leaving.

  8. Crate? Huh? Oh yeah I remember those days – but luckily our crate training went well and I trained my Mum and Dad to let me stay in the house and not the crate cos I never really liked it!! I’m super good when they’re not home or at night though (I don’t want to go back in the crate!) 🙂 I save my Mischief for when Mum’s at home and she can appreciate it!! Tee Hee

    Happy to hear Alma likes her crate though, not sure regular amounts of Brown Sugar would be a good thing 🙂

    Oh by the way, what is the app you’re using, Mum wants to see how good I can be while they’re out! 🙂

    Have fun,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

    • thatjenk says:

      It is the My Webcam app by EyeSpyFX. It was free to install on my MacBook, but I believe cost $4,99 to install on my iPhone to check in on the feed. Pretty easy to use, though, and has settings for privacy and even archives of footage.

  9. wow, that app is awesome! excellent find. glad to hear things are going well with the crate.

    p.s. jasper is super duper crazy cute. omg.

  10. that app is really cool. excellent find! glad to hear things are going well with the crate. sometimes i wish we were able to use one.

    p.s. jasper is super duper cute!

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