Years ago I lived in the mountains of Colorado in a town where there were more licensed dogs than registered voters. Seriously, you’d go to a house party where there’d be 15-20 people and 20-30 dogs running around. For me, and for the dogs, it was a bit of paradise.
At the time my roommate rescued a puppy from the local humane society and brought him home. Jaxson was his name. He was one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever known – I was going to make it all the way to Letterman with that dog if I had the time. But more about that later.
The roommate also purchased a dog kennel to place him in when we were away from the house – out snowboarding, at work etc. I thought it was simply awful to lock him in “a cage” this way. So one afternoon, when I was the last one home with Jaxson, I figured I’d just leave him in the nicer downstairs bathroom when I left for work. The bathroom was carpeted, didn’t contain any items with which he could chew and get sick from, and had a window he could see out of. Again, at the time, this made the most sense to me. I was never so wrong.
The poor puppy was obviously distressed at being left alone and must have figured we simply forgot about him. There were no witnesses, but he effectively trashed the bathroom – knocked down the blinds, chewed the carpet, and scratched at the door endlessly. Luckily, he didn’t hurt himself, but the damage to the bathroom was obvious.
When my roommate came home and found her puppy in an exhausted panic, she was rightfully furious. Until I learned what he had done, I still would have sworn it was the right choice. But from that moment on, I promised to also use the kennel. And wouldn’t you know it, he still didn’t like being left alone, but in the kennel he’d quickly calm down and go to sleep. Lesson learned.
I took this lesson one step further when I got my current dog, Sadie. When she was a puppy I didn’t hesitate to purchase a kennel, first a small one when she was little, and then a larger one as she grew but was still young. In fact, we brought a kennel home the very first day she was in the house – even before she made it to the house, in fact.
The small kennel (carrier, actually) was mostly covered with only small slits in the top and the wire-door. The big kennel had the larger wire-pattern – mostly referred to as “crates” (vs kennel or carrier) if you’re looking online. With the larger crate, we added a heavy denim blanket we had around the house and placed it over the top and sides. This made the crate more of a cave-like domain and boy did Sadie like it. All we had to say was “go to bed” and she’d get right in. In fact, during the day when she wanted a nap she’d just go in it by choice.
We attribute this preference to the “wolf-like” behavior all domestic dogs display at times. For a dog (or wolf), the cave was a place of safety. There was only one way in, and one way out, and it was easy to monitor this access. No other animal or predator could sneak up from the side or behind. The dog could rest comfortably and easily and get some decent sleep.
When Sadie got older and we didn’t need to lock her in the crate any longer, we started slowly by simply closing the crate door but not latching it. We figured if she wanted out, she’d push on the door and find her way out of the crate. She didn’t even try. She was so comfortable and content in her crate she’d simply wait for us to return and open the door.
Eventually, we just stopped putting her in it but always left the door open so she could still go in and get some sleep when she chose. It wasn’t until we moved from that one place did we abandon the crate altogether.
To this day I still recommend all puppy-owners get a kennel/crate/carrier. It keeps the dog out of trouble and safe when left unsupervised, and they quite frankly prefer it. It truly is a win-win tool to invest in for both you and your new best friend.
UPDATE: Sadie is now almost 10 years old and we haven’t even had a kennel up in the house for her for many years. It’s never been an issue and never necessary until just this past Summer. Sadie blew her “ACL” chasing a squirrel in the back yard (damn squirrels). We went through the whole TPLO surgery (more on that later) and she came through just fine. However, during her recovery, it was very necessary to keep her sedated and immobile as much as possible. We didn’t want her jumping on and off the bed, running around the slippery wood floors, etc. It was during this time we very much wished we had continued with the kennel routine for her. In the future, with any other dog we may raise, I can guarantee the kennel will always be a part of their day-to-day life. Again, they like it, it’s convenient, and may very well be quite necessary in some situations.
2nd UPDATE: We’re now raising two dogs, 3 and 4 years old, and they have also used their crates since the day we brought them home. During the day they are open and available. At night we still lock them down. We all sleep better this way. They will both voluntarily go into their kennels without being told, and our shepherd Maya chooses to be in her kennel most of the times during the day.