The Crate Debate

Just like pretty much every other part of dog ownership, there are lots of opinions out there regarding crating dogs. Some people swear against it, some people swear by it, and some people just don’t care. Similarly, some dogs love it, some dogs hate it, and some dogs can be trained to tolerate it.

I love crating. Responsible crating, that is – i.e. in a crate suitable for the dog’s size and for an acceptable amount of time. There are some parts of my fostering life where I’ve found it’s a total life saver to be able to crate a dog – mostly being any time I need them to not have free reign of whatever space they’re in (duh). It puts everyone’s mind at ease when you don’t have to worry about the dog getting into any trouble, and knowing that they’re happy while staying secure.

Something I’ve started doing with my fosters is crating at night. I believe that it’s best to keep my foster pups away from my room for bedtime so that they don’t get too used to sleeping in “my pack”. Who knows if it actually makes a difference, but since this is not their final destination I don’t want them getting too comfy with me at night.

It also helps me to be able to crate dogs when I, well, need them contained. This was very important for Baxter because of his affinity for eating things. That meant any time he was home alone, he was crated. He would get kongs and other indestructible things to keep him occupied, and he seemed pretty fond of his little house (after the first two weeks).

Regardless of the arguments one way or the other (dogs should never be caged vs. dogs love having something resembling a “den”), I choose to decide if my dog is happy to be crated simply by how they act. Do they resist going in? Do they whine? Do they bark? Do they try really, really hard to get out? While these are all things that can be worked through with a dog, it still helps to determine a pup’s initial feelings on the topic.

Otis’ last owner said she didn’t crate him because she knew he had probably been in a cage most of his life. While I understand that when translating this to human emotions you might not want to continue to “put him through that”, but in Otis’ mind the crate is his safest place. When I brought him home the first night, I walked him straight into his crate and closed the door while we hung out in the kitchen (the crate is right there in all the action), and he settled in nicely. I wanted to show him that this could be his happy place while at my house, and it’s continued to be that way ever since.

Since Otis doesn’t have the same eating problem that Baxter did, he gets the run of the house when we’re gone (so nice to have a dog like that, I know!). Honey Bunches only stays in his crate at night now. I’m okay with it because 1. He walks in willingly when it’s time to call it a night 2. He doesn’t whine or bark when he is in there and 3. He settles right in when I turn off the light and say goodnight. He seems to like it.

I also always make sure he isn’t in there for too long. If I want to sleep in, I often wake up super early to let him out to go to the bathroom and then I’ll let him sleep in my room for the next few hours since it’s technically just a nap, and it’s not every night.

So for us, crating works well and can be a total blessing for those “special cases” that need a little more supervision. I know that a lot of people don’t believe in crating, but – like most other things – I like to just look at it from a dog to dog (and situation) basis. Perhaps the next dog I get will hate crates. After whining about it myself for a few hours, we’ll figure out an alternative. We’ll work towards crate acceptance. We’ll adapt. That’s what you’ve got to do. But for now, we’ll revel in our crating successes.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.

Progress Makes “Perfect”

I’ve really driven home on this blog the point that Otis can be a bit co-dependent. That’s what I remembered him being from over the summer, and what was confirmed by his last owner when I took him back. After an independent Baxter, I was wondering what it would be like to have a shadow dog again. I had visions of him whimpering outside the bathroom door while I showered, getting stuck under my feet at every step, and showing separation anxiety when left alone.

What I wasn’t accounting for was adjustment, relaxation, and a mind at ease. These ingredients have brought out an entire new side of Otis from when he came to me six weeks ago.  I was able to enjoy and appreciate progress with Baxter every day, but for some reason I’ve been totally blind to how far Otis has come.  So I want to take an entry to celebrate Otis’ victories like he deserves.

While Otis still loves to hang out with me, he no longer needs to be attached to my hip. A big milestone he recently started enjoying is relaxing in the living room by himself while everyone is in the kitchen. He’ll also leave my room and walk upstairs to hang out with my parents if I’m not doing something entertaining enough for him. He’ll be that companion dog who will follow you from room to room and keep you company, but who won’t let the whole neighborhood know when you’re separated from each other in the house.

In the same vein, another thing that makes him a great dog is how well he does when alone. He just stays on the couch the whole time he is by himself. No chewing, no whining, no destruction. Just calm and patience, waiting for our return. It’s so relieving! It is especially nice to know that he can stay home all day while I’m at work and not bug my parents. In fact, they barely even realize he is around.

Otis has also become a “normal” eater – he gobbles his meals down, he is enticed by treats, and sometimes he even comes over to have a sniff of what we’re eating. For the first while, Honey barely touched his food, let alone treats. I was worried about him, but he has proven to be just as eager as the rest of the food motivated pups out there. Along with the food motivation has come basic obedience. His butt is on the floor as soon as he sees a treat in my hand; a scene much like the photo below. “I did it, now where is my reward??”

Finally, one of the biggest things I realized when I stopped to reflect on Otie’s first month was that the jumping has almost completely stopped. It was always Otis’ go to –  he would get excited, then hop his front paws on whatever was in front of him: a human, a couch, a bed. He was always bopping around. Now it seems he doesn’t even think about jumping up (with a few exceptions of over excitement, of course).

So no, he is not perfect – but every day he is becoming more calm, comfortable, and happy – and what else can we ask for? So many dogs get bumped from home to home because they are not given the chance to settle in.  Otis, just like Baxter, is a prime example of a dog who needs a little time and TLC before he becomes the best that he can be. But once they come out of their shell and show you their goofy and loving personality, you’ll be so glad you gave them that chance.

For more information on adopting Honey Bunches of Otis, go to his Adopt Me page to learn more about him and how to get in touch.