Why Crate The Dog?

Escalon Times - - PERSPECTIVE - Dier­dra McElroy Dier­dra McElroy is a grad­u­ate of Texas A&M Univer­sity and is an An­i­mal Be­hav­ior­ist spe­cial­iz­ing in ca­nines. If you have ques­tions or con­cerns about the pets in your house, you can get them an­swered through a fu­ture col­umn of Dear Didi. E

DEAR DIDI: I don’t un­der­stand why peo­ple are putting their dogs in a cage these days. We never did that grow­ing up with our dogs. They were per­fectly happy out­side and now my trainer is rec­om­mend­ing that I crate my dog in­side to potty train her. How is a cage in­doors bet­ter than let­ting her have the en­tire backyard to run in? - Man­teca Dog Owner

DEAR DOG OWNER: I will de­fer to the cliché, “times have changed.” There are a lot of things we used to do and now know bet­ter! We took dogs for granted for a very long time. Be­hav­ior­ists were busy study­ing chim­panzees, dol­phins, and whales for decades. We now know, thanks to some sci­en­tists that both­ered to look at the do­mes­ti­cated ca­nine, that we have grossly un­der­es­ti­mated the in­tel­li­gence and abil­i­ties of dogs. I be­lieve what we know now only touches the tip of the ice­berg and that even more will be dis­cov­ered about ca­nines over the next 10 years.

Over­all, hu­mans these days want a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with their dogs. Many of us now think of them as four-legged fam­ily mem­bers. We want to take them places with us and do more ac­tiv­i­ties with them than we used to. We have also learned that the dog wants a closer re­la­tion­ship with us! Rel­e­gat­ing them to the backyard sep­a­rates them from us and lim­its our in­ter­ac­tions. They tend to de­velop dif­fer­ent at­ti­tudes as a re­sult. Many dogs get bored out­side and seek to en­ter­tain them­selves by rac­ing along the fence bark­ing at things, dig­ging, chew­ing up plants or sprin­klers, or find­ing ways to es­cape the yard al­to­gether. Ev­ery dog is unique. Ev­ery breed has unique char­ac­ter­is­tics that give some in­di­vid­u­als the de­sire to de­fend ter­ri­tory, rip up plants, chase squir­rels, bark in­ces­santly, be ner­vous about un­known noises, or just lay around and take ev­ery­thing with a grain of salt. No one tech­nique or train­ing method will ever work for ev­ery sin­gle dog. The ‘art of dog train­ing’ re­ally comes down to mod­i­fy­ing meth­ods and ap­proaches to what works best for the par­tic­u­lar an­i­mal be­ing worked with. I think all par­ents can agree that what worked with one of their kids may not have been ef­fec­tive for a sib­ling.

I know that some hu­mans look at dog crates as be­ing ‘cages’ but it is in­ter­est­ing that those same peo­ple never thought twice about putting a hu­man in­fant in a playpen or crib. The only dif­fer­ence is that your puppy or dog needs a top to the playpen be­cause they climb bet­ter! The crate al­lows the dog in train­ing to be amongst the fam­ily and ex­pe­ri­ence the smells, sounds and move­ments that go on in the house­hold with­out get­ting in the way or caus­ing dam­age. Dogs, un­like hu­man chil­dren, are den­ning an­i­mals. They in­stinc­tively feel more se­cure in a small, dark, en­closed den un­der­ground. This is es­pe­cially true for when they sleep. They are born with in­stincts not to re­lieve them­selves where they sleep be­cause it could cause dis­ease. So if a crate is prop­erly fit to your dog’s size it helps en­cour­age your dog to not have ac­ci­dents be­tween ‘outs.’ Ob­vi­ously if you give the puppy a big meal, tons of wa­ter, and then lock him in a crate for five hours you will have a huge mess, and the dog will learn to over­ride in­stincts in fa­vor of the need to ‘go.’ The crate is a tool only to help de­velop good habits.

Think of the crate as a crib or playpen that keeps your dog and your home safe while al­low­ing the four legged fam­ily mem­ber to live in close prox­im­ity and de­velop a bond with the hu­mans. Dogs that have bet­ter re­la­tion­ships with their hu­mans will lis­ten to di­rec­tions bet­ter and be less likely to cause prob­lems. When used ap­pro­pri­ately, crates are a fan­tas­tic tool to help in that process.

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