Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Go to Your Happy Place

I am a firm believer in crate-training dogs. The crate is your dog’s “Happy Place.”

I have a “Happy Place” --my office—to retreat to whenever I get stressed or need a break, and my dogs have their “Happy Place” too. When we travel, the Happy Place is a plastic kennel. At home, Taco has his favorite bed in my husband’s bedroom closet. Cross has a bed in my office, which has French doors that I can close. Taco even goes to his Happy Place on command—if I lead off with a dog treat. Because he can be nippy and noisy, he goes to his Happy Place when we have company, when we’re using power tools or the sweeper and when the neighbor’s pool guy comes. Cross retires to my office when she feels skittish, or I put her in my bedroom closet when I need to limit her stimulation so she won’t bark.

When I was growing up, we never crated our dogs. We didn’t even lock them in the laundry room. They pretty much had the run of the house, which meant they could chew things up or get into the trash. It never occurred to us to crate.

When I adopted my miniature pinscher, Taco, the woman handling my adoption said I needed to buy him a crate, so I bought a plastic kennel. We kept it by the front door, near my office. Whenever we left, or went to bed, Taco went in the kennel. I didn't work, so Taco was crated four or five hours tops.

In the winter, we draped blankets over the top to keep in the warmth. We used the kennel for two years, then gradually, let him have the run of the house. The kennel’s door was always open so he could go inside voluntarily, or we could order him in with the command, “Kennel up.” A small treat was his reward.

When I bring foster dogs home from the Shelter, The first thing I do is establish a calm routine: I bathe the dog, and put on a nice collar or harness. I introduce the dog to my yard (which is securely fenced) and my dogs. Then I make up a crate—with a comfy bed and some blankets. If the dog isn’t a big barker in the crate, I put the crate in the living room, on the fireplace tiles (we never use the fireplace anyway). That way, the dog is part of the family, but not infringing on my dog’s places.

I feed the foster dog in the crate (I have two large wire crates) and provide a water dish. The dog is in the crate whenever I am not able to watch them—or it is on a leash beside me until housebreaking abilities are established. The dog stays in the crate when I gone. I don't have a day-job, so the dog is restrained for only a few hours at a time.

At night, I drape a light flannel blanket over the crate to make a safe, snug enclosure. Sometimes I leave the TV on low until the animal settles. If the dog is a barker, I move the crate into the dining room and turn on our bathroom fan so our dogs won’t bark in response. For barkers, I’ve found most dogs will quiet down with the “sssttt!” command repeated at the first signs of barking or whining. Generally, dogs calm down after a few minutes with verbal correction. Even Darla, the JRT, settled down, although she took longer than most of my fosters. She hated the crate, though, which is why I left her out with my dogs—and it cost me.

When I do adoptions, I strongly advise people to get a crate for their dog. I couldn’t imagine raising a puppy without a crate. Every dog, especially a puppy, deserves a Happy Place.

Photo: My daughter, circa 2002, on a dare from her older brother. No children were harmed in the process!


  1. my son used to love to climb inside kennels and dog houses with our dogs.

    I find crating invaluable in housebreaking dogs. I hate that people over use them, or use them as punishment.

  2. I agree - every dog needs a happy place. I also think that every dog should be crate trained (though I didn't always think this).

    The current foster we have right now refuses to eat anywhere else. She decided one day last week that she would only take her food in the crate and that was that. I couldn't persuade her, so I agreed. She now eats in the crate with the door wide open. (One of the things I try to do with the dogs when they are ready is eat in the same room as my guys - but for her, she feels better in the crate I guess)

    Whenever she is in the house, she is in and out of that crate non-stop. She lies down in it when she's tired, she takes the toys in it to 'hide' them or work them (admittedly, we do close the door on her when it is a food related toy to prevent any issues arising). She loves it.

    Of our three perma-dogs, only one was crate trained as a pup. (one is rescue who panics when that door is closed and the other was rehome and we just didn't crate train her) The only one that will willingly go into the crate is the rehomed 14 y/o that was never crate trained. However, one has a special chair, one has a special spot on the couch and the other doesn't give a damn.

    Dogs make me laugh every day. :)

  3. I do it too. I think it's invaluable with house training and helping them adjust. I do work so I'm afrid mine get crated more than yours but that's partly why I volunteer for those with heartworm and such. They are supposed to be on crate rest while they heal so I feel less guilt if nothing else.

    I have a very snippy girl so I have to manage everyone's crate time on a bit of a schedule. Some dogs she has thouroughly enjoyed and some she'd like to go after on sight. She's on the nervous side. She does this with people too. I'm afraid some of it is in her breeding because she was socialized as a puppy and just has never been totally at ease with animal or people strangers. Once she knows the other though she's fine. I haven't totally pinpointed the issue, but I know she has some and I am careful with how I manage her. :(

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

  4. Oh, and son has been know to crawl in a crate with her to chill. lol

  5. Great Post! We always encourage our students to crate train. It is an invaluable tool! A great happy Place.


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