Not knowing much about properly training and raising a dog (or anything for that matter), I always find myself feeling sad for animals locked in cages. For me, “cage” conjures up images of imprisonment and captivity. I instantly feel the urge to rip out my stash of bobby pins, pick the lock, and send these animals scurrying to freedom. Well, with the exception of birds, which are my number one fear. (Go ahead, laugh it up, but it is so a real fear — ornithophobia.) Anywho, once we got Watson, our next purchase (after food and Cheerios, of course) was a cage/kennel/crate.
We introduced the little guy to his new digs, and he seemed very curious about the metal crossbars and latches and the blankets we lined it with. As with everything else in the apartment, he sniffed it, licked it, nibbled it, and repeatedly bumped into it. We decided to use the crate (doesn’t that sound so much better than “cage”?) for a few things: 1) for him to sleep in at night and 2) for him to stay in when both of us aren’t home.
In reading up on cage training, we came across another possible use for crates: timeout. We figured we needed to invoke something like this for when Watson nibbled too hard, peed in the house, and/or chewed up another pair of shoes or undies. So we also decided to use the crate for 3) a timeout space. Of course there was a lot of crying and whining when we’d have to lay down the law and send Watson to his room crate, but every puppy has to learn, right?
Well, when we told the vet about our methods of discipline, he informed us that the crate should be used for either sleeping and safekeeping OR timeout, but not both. Whoops! Just like our bedrooms are supposed to be our sanctuaries, a dog’s crate needs to become theirs so they feel secure and comfortable when they are away from their owners. Poor little Watson was getting mixed signals from us, so we dropped crate use #3 and switched timeout to the bathroom.
As for use #1, Watson was very good about sleeping in his crate, whining to let us know that his tiny bladder needed to be relieved. This was until he found his bark… For such a small dude, he has quite the howl. Because we live in a building with at least seven other apartments, Watson couldn’t keep barking three times throughout each night. Some of our neighbors (particularly an older lady who lives below us) mentioned his loud yelps offhand, so out of respect for everyone else’s sound sleep (of which I am insanely jealous), we knew we needed to try another approach to bedtime.
Use #2 is the only one we haven’t changed. Watson goes into his crate every time we are both away from the apartment. Yes, he whines like the best of them, and it tears our hearts to pieces when we hear it through the windows on our way out, but this way we know Watson (and our stuff) will be safe in the apartment while we’re gone.