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Look Ma, No Crate.

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I am wondering if anybody else here does NOT use a crate.

My puppy Ganeshani (Gani for short) is about 4 1/2 months now.  AND... She broke her leg 5 weeks ago and so has been on activity restriction which will continue to some degree for another 3 weeks.  (She's healing very well and is expected to recover 100%)

So she hasn't been able to run or jump or go for more than 10 min walks or play with other dogs for 5 weeks. I've had to be creative in entertaining her with training and toys and trips to the hardware store (in the shopping cart) during her recovery. Its been challenging at times (partly because I miss MY walks).

However I have not confined her to a crate. Not once. I bought one because it seems the standard in training these days. It's in the living room. She goes in there sometimes. But I've never shut the door and it simply doesn't seem necessary to get her to behave.

She has puppy spells. Sometimes she gets wound up playing with toys and nips at me. I just stop playing for a while. Sometimes she tries to chew on the rug. I give here something else instead. Lately she's experimented with barking. No response if she barks at me to get me to play. Hush up if she barks repeatedly at something outside.

She is good about entertaining herself with a toy or something to chew or when I'm working or when we're eating dinner.

She's definitely not low energy or sick.  She just seems to get it about what the limits and expectations are for her.

Maybe I'm just lucky and clueless but I like to think that one tool for training is to allow more freedom, not less, the idea being to encourage and trust our brilliant border collies to figure it out themselves.
 

Just some thoughts for discussion that I haven't seen here. Please don't torch me. It's fine if others use crates and I can understand that they are a great tool and maybe even necessary for some dogs.

 

 

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I don't confine my dogs to crates often at home, but I absolutely freaking crate train and make danged sure they are happy and comfortable in them.  This is a life skill.  I've had emergency hospitalizations and death in the family while a dog was recovering from surgery.  Crate and being comfortable in it?  Saved them being stressed out and boarded at the vet (and in a crate while boarded at the vet, I might add!)   I've had dogs be extremely ill and have to stay overnight at the vet for treatment or surgery - the vet keeps them in, you guessed it, a crate (not a large kennel but a cage big enough to lie down, turn around and maybe stand up in).   I travel.  Sometimes by car (wherein I want them crated so they don't become projectiles in an accident).   I travel by plane (Where in, again, crate).  I do dog sports, attend classes, seminar and trials where, once more, they need to be crated. 


There is nothing to be proud of in failing to teach your dog a basic life skill that not having will likely cause stress/anxiety to the dog. It's like being proud you never leash your dog.   If you do nothing else and never use it for training management, at least make sure your dog is happy, comfortable, and content with a crate.  Sooner or later, odds are, they're going to need to either spend the night at the vet (or even several hours during the day), go to a groomer,  travel by plane or public transit, or attend a class that requires crating between turns.  If your life will never include those,  or you get lucky and they never need to spend any time at the vet,  fantastic. 


But it isn't a bragging point.  Most dogs benefit from not freaking the heck out at being asked to spend time in a crate.   Because sooner or later, most dogs are going to need to, for one reason or another. 

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6 minutes ago, CptJack said:

There is nothing to be proud of in failing to teach your dog a basic life skill that not having will likely cause stress/anxiety to the dog. It's like being proud you never leash your dog.   If you do nothing else and never use it for training management, at least make sure your dog is happy, comfortable, and content

I actually agree that it's an important skill.  In fact, Gani goes in the crate on own because I've given her treats and bones and kongs there.  I've taught her "go in your crate" and she does.  Big deal.

The point of my post was to consider whether sometimes allowing MORE freedom is an effective training tool, an idea that I do not see discussed here.

I don't appreciate being criticized and lectured  for raising a new topic of conversation.  Maybe I should keep my ideas in the box/crate.

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Sounds like you are doing well at training your girl. And I agree 100% with Cpt. Jack ~ your dog is likely to have to be in a crate at several points in her life. If you board her, she may be in a crate overnight. If she becomes seriously ill and needs to stay at the vet for a couple days, as happened with one of my dogs, she will be in a crate. If you have to ship her somewhere, it will be in a crate.

Just think of it as another skill to teach her. You don't have to use it, except that one day you might.

Ruth & Gibbs

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Please don't be so sensitive. It's incredibly easy to misinterpret someone's tone in written text and as someone who's been here a long time I know that people are trying to be helpful even when saying something bluntly.

I suspect there are many more people (and their dogs) who've suffered the consequences of not having crate trained their dogs than there are people who've never ever run into an occasion where it was necessary. Thus most of our believing it's something every dog should be taught. And so often when it is necessary there's no time to teach it because it's an emergency or unanticipated situation. My dogs are rarely in their crates either, but being crate trained saved me and one of my dogs having to have surgery for a herniated disk that he was able to recover from with crate rest. Had he not been trained and freaked out when put into a crate he could have made things much worse and even paralyzed himself.

Another thing it will be helpful to think of is that even though you started the topic and the response was in answer to your question, other people read these threads too, often many years after the fact. So even if what's written is in response to you, it may be helpful for someone else as well.

Finally, I'd like to point out that your experience with things working out so well with your puppy isn't universal. If you've read any of the recent threads you'll have seen that a whole bunch of people have been writing about their puppies that are similar in age to yours but are out of control with nipping and other unacceptable behaviors recently. There are many more people who find themselves in that kind of situation than don't and crate training and time in the crate or an ex-pen is very valuable for them. I really didn't know anything about crates when I was raising my first puppy 40+ years ago and I'd never go back to raising a puppy that way again. Even people who have an unusually well behaved puppy still need to have some time when they need to be able to focus on something else for a while and it's more often than not in the pup's best interests and safety to be somewhere where it can't get into trouble or make house training mistakes that just prolong the learning process.

I'm happy for you that things are going so well with your puppy, but too much freedom really isn't always a good thing. I dare say most puppies don't pick up on things as quickly as yours seems to be doing. Count your blessings. ;)

 

 

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Right. So we all agree that crates can be useful and are sometimes necessary. 

How about if somebody comments on topic:  I posit that sometimes behavioral issues can also be addressed by allowing puppies more freedom, not less. Maybe sometimes we people would benefit from trusting our dogs more, not less.

I'm not overly sensitive. Just trying to have a different conversation.  One that doesn't always end with "pop 'em in the crate" as the only answer.

What are puppy steps that folks can use to expand their dog's freedoms and responsibilities? What are alternatives to time outs in the crate? Might it be a good idea to consider that a dog that won't settle is asking for a different kind of interaction? What might that interaction look like?

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We don't use crates for our dogs.

When a puppy misbehaves and won't settle down somewhere we would send it to their place (basket or pillow). Keep taking the pup to place (gently but firmly) until the message is received and the pup settles there, with something appropriate to chew on. This would sometimes happen in the evening when everyone relaxes, except for the pup. It can take a lot of time and patience, but I think it is worth it.

Another thing we do is teach the "go away" command. Very useful. It is mostly for when the dog is trying to get your attention and ignoring doesn't work. It basically means "go settle somewhere, anywhere", which can be quite close to you as well as long as the dog settles down. 

Pups usually sleep in bed with us the first couple of nights, but this depends on the pup. Our oldest dog was very timid and we had to slowly teach her to be alone. My mother's Jack Russell was so confident she was fine sleeping with the other dogs almost immediately.
When there is a new pup, the dogs sleep in the kitchen or the laundry room. They can't do a lot of damage there. When they get older they get bedroom privileges. 

 

 

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We have never used the crate for training. We are lucky that Harry, 8 months old today, has slept in his crate from day one. He only goes in the crate in the day, when we go out, but have not had to leave him for any longer than 2 hours, which I know we are extremely lucky to be in this position. 

Harry is now at the stage that he understands more words than we could have ever thought possible and he is genuinely sorry if we have to tell him off, he stills gets over excited with my two adult sons when they come home from work, but he expects them to play with him as soon as they get home.

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Get the dog comfortable in the crate, but don’t feel you have to put her in there and close the door. 

 

Our Ben was crate trained when he was tiny. He used to sleep in there with the door closed and even spent a few hours a day in there with the door closed. 

However, eventually when he was about 4 months old we stopped closing the door on his crate. Now he goes in there at night voluntarily and sleeps in there with the door open. Sometimes in the daytime he goes in there for a sleep too.  

 

I’m comfortable with how things are now. I know that if I do need to close the crate door he will be ok with it. 

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Sounds to me as if your puppy is a breeze, and you are lucky, so good for you. As noted above, however, it is very important to do the crate training as such, because it will be needed later in life. I would just add to what you are already doing by closing the crate door and leaving her in there for varying periods of time, always with something to chew or play with. And I would leave her in the crate while you leave the house to shop, for instance, so she gets used to being in there alone when you are not there. Just for her own good because she will need to have that skill, as others have said.

As for using the concept of more freedom as a training tool, I don't see it working for most puppies. Having said that, I will say that while there is a certain tool box of  training techniques we use, which ones a person will use and how is always tailored to the specific dog with whom that person working. Your methods are working for you and that is fantastic. If they worked for everyone that would be nice, but they wouldn't, and it would not be one of the things I recommended to a person who came to me for help in training their puppy.

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Your comments are interesting. I think the dynamic of training changes when there are multiple people in the house. Training the others around here is as much as training the pup! 

I taught my guy ‘strokes’ I.e. you come, you sit, I stroke you and say ‘strokes’ and call you a good boy while you sit there calmly. He seems to quite like this and it will be helpful if I get to achieving my goal as having him as a therapy dog. 

We are careful how we use the crate. It got over used (IMO) at Xmas when there was hyper family activity going on. 

Another thing we taught was ‘go to your bed’ and he gets treats if he does. THis is a good interrupter mechanism. 

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We took the door off of the crate when our boy was about 4 or 5 months. It happened to be summer and quite hot and we found he slept better at night if he could get up and change location. He's always been an excellent sleeper at night and hasn't chewed, damaged or soiled but does tend to start in one place and finish in another. He's not even pinched food that has been accidentally left out.

Using the crate as a training aid when he was being crazy as a puppy wasn't really possible because one of our family works shifts so sometimes daytime barking, whining or rattling a crate wasn't allowed. I did put him on the lead a few times which encouraged him to settle down if he was being crazy and got to the point where I could just get the lead and he'd calm himself. We are now using the crate in the car for traveling and he's happy to get in it and is settled inside. I'm glad that if circumstances ever dictate that he has to spend time in a crate it shouldn't be overly traumatic for him. 

I prefer not using it although I can see it would be useful, sometimes I have to be creative to think of solutions for issues that other people might use the crate for. We've had to make sure he can make good choices when we are not watching him and there is an element of trust. I believe in trust but it does carry an element of risk. 

If I ever got another puppy (which I won't!) I would invest in a large X pen though. Those first few months of removing cables from little jaws and redirecting furniture chewing was harder than it needed to be.

 

 

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12 hours ago, Abroz said:

Right. So we all agree that crates can be useful and are sometimes necessary. 

How about if somebody comments on topic:  I posit that sometimes behavioral issues can also be addressed by allowing puppies more freedom, not less. Maybe sometimes we people would benefit from trusting our dogs more, not less.

I'm not overly sensitive. Just trying to have a different conversation.  One that doesn't always end with "pop 'em in the crate" as the only answer.

What are puppy steps that folks can use to expand their dog's freedoms and responsibilities? What are alternatives to time outs in the crate? Might it be a good idea to consider that a dog that won't settle is asking for a different kind of interaction? What might that interaction look like?

I really don't see the logic behind your reasoning. "Expanding freedom and responsibilities" comes after having trained the dog, and you do that, by definition, by restricting the dog's freedom of behavior. You don't start to trust your puppy before you have trained him what it is you want him to do or not do. By the time I start to trust my dog and give it responsibilities it has reached an age I don't call it a pup anymore. I get the feeling this is trying to implement a good sounding philosophy without any practical method or value. In above post you put forward all kinds of questions you apparently don't have any answers for.

 

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I have actually seen situations in which young puppies were over-crated, IMO, and it did lead to issues for the puppy.   However, that was pretty extreme and a situation where the puppy was effectively isolated from LIFE - even observing it because not only was pup crated, it was crated and covered, nearly constantly.  That's not crate training, though, or using a crate to train a puppy.  That was, IMO, flat out abuse ... particularly since it led to physical issues (like UTI and muscle wasting). 

 

In general,  barring abuse situations, your best tool in a well behaved adult dog is to prevent behavior you don' want to occur.  As most people can't watch a puppy 24/7, prevention means, yeah, restricting freedom and allowing the puppy to EARN more freedom as they gain maturity  My puppies can't chew the furniture or pee on the floor when they're crated.    That makes it very easy to instill 'chew these toys' and 'pee outside' to them as habits.  Once those habits are ingrained, they earn more freedom.  (And for other things too, like counter surfing, trash raiding, whatever). 

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9 minutes ago, Smalahundur said:

I really don't see the logic behind your reasoning. "Expanding freedom and responsibilities" comes after having trained the dog, and you do that, by definition, by restricting the dog's freedom of behavior. You don't start to trust your puppy before you have trained him what it is you want him to do or not do. By the time I start to trust my dog and give it responsibilities it has reached an age I don't call it a pup anymore.

 

The logic is this:  instead of preventing a dog (of any age) from making mistakes by prophylactically limiting their freedom, an alternative approach is to start by determining the degree of freedom and responsibility that they can handle by allowing them to make a few mistakes and then scaling back if necessary.  In other words, I am exactly saying that I want to start by trusting my puppy in order to determine the degree of training and restriction required instead of starting by restricting the puppy without knowing the degree to which it is necessary.

Here's an example.  Like most people, I do not want my puppy to eat the house while I am away.  Many people deal with this POTENTIAL problem by automatically crating their pups. But in the scheme of allowing the most freedom possible, I started by allowing Gani access to the kitchen/living room and a fenced yard (via a dog door) while I am away.  She could eat the couch, rip up houseplants, "read" a bunch of books, get into the trash and the catfood, chew on my favorite rug, etc etc etc. 

However, she has not done any of those things.  In fact, she just plays with toys, chews on a bone, sleeps on her bed, and generally hangs out in much the same way as she does while I'm sitting there.  (I know this because I started small and monitored her -- at first, I just crept around and spied on her through the windows.  Then I left for 10 minutes.  Now we are up to about 2 hours.)

It's an approach that encourages and entrusts the dog to figure out the limits instead of automatically removing their involvement/responsibility.  Just something to think about.

Again, I'm not saying crates are never useful.  I just think they have become reflexive as a first line approach, when in fact they aren't always necessary and they have some downsides too.

 

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I do that to an extent. I've always said I prefer not to puppy proof my house (at least not a lot), choosing instead to teach the puppy what is and isn't acceptable to interact with.

But leaving most puppies for only a few minutes without supervision can result in damage or ruining something valuable, or even potentially a dead puppy if it chooses that moment of unlimited freedom to chew an electrical cord. I prefer to keep my puppy confined to a smaller area (crate or ex-pen) where it's safe while I'm gone or not able to supervise.

Maybe you puppy proof more than I do. Maybe you're just lucky with the puppy you got. The last puppy I raised couldn't be trusted for more than 2 minutes without my eyes directly on him not to get into some sort of mischief until he was nearly 10 months old. Whatever it is I'm glad it's working for you but I don't think it's reasonable to expect everyone to have the same experience -- or puppy -- that you do and recommending that approach could be dangerous.

I think the best thing at this point is to agree to disagree.

p.s. I also don't believe it's safe to give any dog access to the outdoors, whether a yard is fenced or not. I've heard about too many negative consequences for dogs, whether it's  developing nuisance behaviors, becoming reactive or fearful of things outside the yard, being harmed by other animals that can get into the yard (hawks here are big enough to carry off many puppies and small dogs, snakes, etc.), escaping the yards with sometimes fatal results or being stolen. None of these outcomes are things I care to risk.

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You know those remarks about 'removing cords from puppy mouths' in this thread?  How long do you think it would take a puppy to chomp through the protective barrier, unsupervised?  Electrocuted puppy, anyone? How long does it take a puppy to swallow the stuffing from a toy  - or a bone from the kitchen trash, or a part of a stick. Muti-pet home?  How long does it take for an accident to happen with a puppy there, leading to injury or worse?


No.  Thank you.   Never mind the risk to property,  which is not entirely irrelevant. 


I have had puppies who had almost unlimited freedom, fast, because they were well behaved naturally (and had little drive and were fairly low energy).  That is the exception, not the norm. 


(And no my dogs are NEVER outside unsupervised and never will be, frankly.  Digging under, going under, birds of prey, things tossed in, theft - No.  I take risks with my dogs, but I do it with me there to mitigate. I'm no leaving it to CHANCE)

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For the O.P. ~ I've never raised a pup. If I were to get a puppy to raise, I'd look for advice from people who have a few puppies 'under their belt', so to speak. And I'd probably be a little extra cautious, particularly with things that could quite possibly harm a pup, simply because I'd be a first time puppy raiser.

If you want to experiment w/the 'more freedom' approach with your next few puppies, please post your experiences. 

Ruth & Gibbs

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3 hours ago, Abroz said:

It's an approach that encourages and entrusts the dog to figure out the limits instead of automatically removing their involvement/responsibility.  Just something to think about.

So when your pup needs a nap and won't give up the ghost on her own, we just let her be her own "nap captain"? :D

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I had to chuckle when I saw this, because I just had this conversation with a family member. The end result was a txt and photo showing some damage to their carpet, and me trying desperately not to say “I told you so”.

I do think you bring up some valid points regarding popping a puppy in a crate as the go-to remedy for every undesirable behavior. However, I have never suggested that or seen it suggested on these boards.

I also think the use of a crate can be abused, but that doesn’t detract from its appropriate use.

You have a 4 1/2 month old puppy. This story has barely begun. If, after teething is over and the pup has reached maturity, you still don’t have any valuables ruined or emergency trips to the vet for intestinal obstruction, I will salute you!

You may have an exceptional puppy. Even then, I see the crate as protection for a puppy. So, at the very least, I’d crate when I leave the home. Just my two cents.

 

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I have always crate trained my puppies just for their own protection.  Little puppies have to be watched every second if they are out.  My dogs like their crates.   They get fed there.  And sometimes I need to put them up if repair people are in the house.

They are never in for very long.  If I am home they are out.  They don't bother anything now but they would have when they were younger.

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I have limited experience with this. I crate my 11 month old when I am not home. Crate training, to me, has been one of the most important things that I have carefully managed. I know that my dog would do unsafe things when unsupervised because she tries to do them sometimes when she is supervised. Things like get into the trash or chew cable wires. These dogs require a lot of entertainment to not get bored, and if they do get bored they are very creative and can be very unsafe. In addition, border collies form habits extremely easily. If you are not there to discourage an activity, the dog having a few hours to enjoy themselves may make it very hard to correct.

I think crate training is important to the dog's ability to be safe and content in its position as your pet/worker. My family has dealt with too many dogs with separation anxiety for me to risk anything with Fern. I have worked very hard on her ability to be crated alone both while I am home and when I am away. I think the process of crate training helps the dog develop comfort by themselves that they will need. In addition, it's a good way to teach the dog to relax and have a "time out" when you need them to.

I think if I had a 4.5 month old dog I would be very worried if I had not started crate training because as the dog gets into adolescence you might find very different urges start to surface. Your well behaved pup may turn into a more defiant teenager. And if you have not crate trained early, you will have to figure out something to do with the dog. And sudden crating with no prior conditioning could result in your dog freaking out and developing confinement anxiety or isolation anxiety.

I think the safest route, as others have said, is to begin with crate training so that it will always be an option. That way the first time your dog tries bad dangerous things, you will likely be able to correct them because you will be there. Then you expand the freedom depending on the dog's behavior. With my dog, I have slowly expanded her freedom. At first she was not allowed out at all unless directly supervised. Now I allow her out as long as I am home, even if I'm in a room she does not have access to. In the future I will start leaving her alone for brief periods of time. But probably not for a while. I have generally heard most people say they start allowing more freedom at 1.5-2 years of age. By that time you can be more confident that they have built good habits and will not endanger themselves. I have had dogs (not mine) die in my arms from eating poisonous seeds. I have saved the life of one of our family's dogs that went into anaphylactic shock after getting into an unknown substance (you're looking at $2-5k in vet bills for something like this).

In conclusion, I'd rather use gradual freedom as a form of positive reinforcement for good behavior than have to switch to crating after the dog has had its taste of freedom and failed. Also, I do use crating to "correct" behaviors as you may have seen others refer to. But I only started using it in the past couple weeks because I wanted to be absolutely positive my dog was happy in the crate. It is not a punishment. I simply act as if I believe that barking means she wants to be crated. She picked it up almost immediately, and ended a behavior she has struggled off and on with for a while. And yes, ignoring did work for a while, but the issue resurfaced with determination.

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My library doesn't have it so I'll have to see if I can get it through inter-library loan.

I'm having a hard time imagining how finding an adult semi-feral (or feral) dog and accommodating its transition to life in a home would parallel raising a border collie from a puppy, but I'm prepared to be enlightened. 

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