CRATES AS A SAFE HAVEN FOR DOGS
Poor Maggie spent most of her life in a cage in Taiwan. Her new mom writes:
“Maggie is a 7? year old Golden Retriever that we rescued from Taiwan in May 2014. She spent her life in China in a cage & was used as a breeder dog. Maggie was surrendered when she was no longer desirable. We are having a problem with destructive behavior.”
She now loves being walked, cuddled & loved. But she gets nervous when she’s left alone in the house. She chews up anything loose, and even gnaws on furniture.
Sometimes, all that’s needed is to allow a dog to settle and feel safe is a nice, *comfortable* crate to sleep in when no one’s there to keep them company.
Of course her new parents worried crating her again would be cruel… But it isn’t!
Many dogs find crates soothing, since they are safe places for them to rest. Having to keep track of a whole house and all the scary noises when you’re not there is a hard job! No wonder she got nervous! Once she’s back in a crate for the 2-3 hours you’re gone, she’ll sleep like a baby.
Don’t feel bad for using a crate. This continues to be a great solution for many minor separation anxiety cases. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. I don’t like for a dog to be in a crate for more than 6 hours at a time. Preferably 4. And you MUST exercise them for at least an hour before putting them in and ensure they’ve eliminated fully.
In fact, The Pooch Coach suggests to all her clients that they train their dogs to be comfortable in crates. Otherwise, if there is an urgent situation requiring crating – e.g. a long drive or flight, a hospital stay, or a way to offer your dog respite from children or partiers – you don’t want your dog to panic and struggle on top of the stress of the situation. A crate should simply mean “lie down and relax”!
Here’s how you go about establishing the crate as your dog’s friend. This is a short video to help you teach your dog to get into a crate and be comfortable:
For more instruction, here’s an article on the “get in your bed” command.
If you want to test if your dog is ready to be left out on her own, do it in small steps. Try leaving her out for a few minutes while you’re gone at first and see how she does. Also, restrict the area to one room at first – don’t go right to allowing the entire house. Gate off the kitchen, for instance. Then try just the downstairs. Eventually you can work up to the whole house as she gains confidence.
Build up the amount of time you leave your dog alone without being in a crate. Once she does well for an hour, she’ll be fine. But you still need to exercise her before leaving her alone! Dogs also easily get bored and anxious when they are alone for too long and do destructive chewing & digging. So tire out your dog before leaving them alone no matter where you’re leaving them!
Lastly, if you find your pup gets too nervous or is destructive when left out on her own, then go back to the crate. There’s no harm, as long as you don’t leave her in there too long. Allow her to have her safe den and not be scared of all the little creaks and squeaks in your house!