While not everyone uses crates, most of us do when our dogs are puppies or adolescents. Providing too much freedom in the house unsupervised during these stages of development can set our dogs up for trouble. Crates can be great tools in this process. But they should be temporary tools that we wean our dogs off from once they are well-behaved in the house when unsupervised.
Romeo was acclimated to a crate from the first day we brought him home. I took two weeks to shape going into the crate on his own and getting comfortable before I ever locked him in the crate and left. I used an ex-pen during that time when I could not be closely supervising him. He learned starting from day one that the crate is a great place where you can eat, sleep, play with toys, and feel safe and comfortable.
He has been crated when left alone until recently. For several months, we have been leaving him out of the crate if we were outside but still at home. We might be out of the house for a minute or a couple of hours while working outside. He did fine. I could have started this process sooner, but it was such a part of our routine that it was easy to stick with it.
Ninety-nine percent of the time when I am ready to leave, Romeo is in his crate before I can even say “kennel up”. Why mess with something that is working so well? But, now that Romeo is two years old, it’s time to wean him off the crate. Last week, when we headed out, he was in his crate again. But this time I left the door open. We were gone for a couple of hours. He did fine.
Since then, we have been leaving him out of the crate when we go. My husband and I are seldom both gone for more than a few hours. In the past week, Romeo has been left out of his crate (with his big sister, Jahzara) several times, from less than an hour up to four hours. Each time, he has done very well.
The true test was when we left him home with the bathroom doors open. Previously, we’d been closing them, since Romeo’s favorite “looking for fun” activity is getting into the toilet paper. Toilet paper was untouched when we arrived home a few hours later. Woo-hoo!!
I’m hesitant to pack away the crate. Not because Romeo needs it, but because it has become such a comfortable habit. He still goes into the crate when we’re ready to leave. He still goes into his crate when he wants something – like a bully stick to chew. To Romeo, the crate is a magical place that makes good things happen. I’ll be just a little bit sad to see it go.