Learning to love the crate … or not


Charlie and Lex snooze away after a day of play. (Photos by Matt)

Everyone has issues.

As for Charlie, our recently adopted border collie mix, he enjoyed making deposits on top of the guest bed or the laundry in the basement.

Seriously, this is not a big deal. I mean, he’s a puppy, almost five months old. Proper house training takes time, and patience. But this became a bigger issue when we visited the vet to treat Charlie’s worms. The vet tech strongly encouraged us to crate Charlie. At night, and even during the day. No more on the couch, and definitely no more sleeping with us.

I was crushed.

I could think of nothing better than waking up to puppy breath. Matt was more straight-forward about it. Charlie needed to learn he was not on par with us humans.

Sigh.

Matt firmly embraced his new role as Stern Daddy. And when Charlie kept pooping on the bed, Matt resurrected the crate. We had tried it for like a day when we first got Charlie, but he peed all over himself. He seemed less stressed outside of the crate. But now, Matt wanted to try it again. We went on a short trip to the store, and left Charlie in the crate. We came back to a completely drenched dog. We couldn’t tell if it was saliva or pee. We washed the crate pad, and left him alone a few hours later. When we returned, again, he was soaking wet.

That night, we played crate games. Matt and I took turns tossing squeaky toys into the crate, alternating with biscuits. Charlie seemed comfortable with it. He even went all the way in and curled up for a few minutes. But when it came time for bed, and the game included closing the crate gate, Charlie simply lost it.

He waited until I was almost asleep, then let it rip. A-WOW-ROW-ROWWWW!!!!!! WOOOOO! YIP! YIP!

I had read that I should let him howl. To not reward him by letting him out. I turned on my side, and tried to not think about the chaos downstairs. I started to drift off, then Charlie stepped it up a notch. I thought of my neighbors, and asked Matt if the downstairs windows were open. He couldn’t remember. I didn’t want anyone to call the cops.

I sighed. Heavily. And weighed my options. I walked downstairs.

Charlie howled until I opened the door. He was dripping wet. I pulled out the wet mat, then took Charlie outside. He immediately peed, so I started thinking he was wet from nervously drooling on himself. Matt and I decided to put a fresh blanket in the crate and bring it upstairs. We got Charlie back in, but he was not happy about it, and let us know all night.

Snuggle bunnies.

We woke up knowing we had to do something. After consulting multiple pet behavior websites, we hatched a plan. We drove to Costco, and bought three dog beds — a large one both dogs could use on the main floor, then two individual beds for upstairs. Then we went to Meijer and bought a baby gate. We put a dog bed on Matt’s side of the bed, and put the gate between the bed and the wall, providing Charlie a space that is about 3 feet by 5 feet.

It worked like magic.

Looking for reassurance, I went to the message boards (specifically my dog friends at Reddit) to get input. Mostly everyone encouraged us to stick with crate training, although some said if the current approach worked that was cool, too.

We tried the crate a few more times (usually when we made short trips away from the house) but the end result always was the same. Charlie would drool all over himself. I began to suspect a form of separation anxiety, and worried that continued exposure to the crate could cause harm.

So we continued with the confined space at night (baby gate, plus dog bed) and experimented with letting him roam free during the day. Even when we were gone. The first time we tried this, Matt and I were terrified. As we drove home, we imagined the destruction waiting for us.

But upon opening the front door, we were greeted with … nothing. Not a squeaky toy out of place. We chalked it up to beginner’s luck, then tried it again. And again. Always with the same result. Charlie didn’t even nibble on his chewy.

What great relief.

Now that Charlie recently taught himself to use the dog door, and apparently is housebroken (through positive reinforcement, he’s finally pooping outside), we get to move on to the next commands.

Did I mention he already knows how to sit?

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2 thoughts on “Learning to love the crate … or not

  1. Pingback: Separation anxiety | Finding Furever

  2. Pingback: Tried, convicted and sentenced | Our Furever Family

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