Dogs: To crate or not to crate?

11/12/2009:

Hoboken411 reader Aimee is having some problems with a couple rather destructive dogs / puppies she owns – and is seeking advice on whether crating the animals during the day does more harm than good.

What suggestions can you offer her?

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Dog Crate Conundrum

“I am writing to share a conundrum because I thought other readers might be able to offer some advice. Though this seems like an unanswerable situation to me, maybe others can shed some light on it (even non-dog-owners), whether there is insight to share, or because (like slowing down to see a fender-bender or fight on the street) there is a human nature-level curiosity in marveling about someone else’s situation of the moment.

My “disaster” is a pair of purely evil, though lovable, one-year-old high-energy labrador retrievers that share my life with me. Though, actually… they only share me when they feel like it, and my life has hardly been the same since I adopted them. Initially I believed my 1200 sf. space would be big enough for them to comfortably roam around during the daytime while I was at work. I always imagined that I would crate train them only for the first six months or so, until I could trust them to be alone and not have “accidents” inside. Unfortunately, after many more months of patience, brief 20-minute trial periods, and repetitive discipline–I’m honestly not sure if I can ever have the peace of mind to give them run of the house anytime soon. My boyfriend disagrees: he thinks that I can leave them alone with +/- two dozens toys, and actually come home to a somewhat-peaceable situation. As for me, I’m scared as hell just running down the block for a cup of coffee because I’m never sure what destruction is in store for me upon my return. Also, it’s almost impossible to know if they’ve swallowed something dangerous (which happens about once a month and requires immediate [expensive!] medical attention).

Does confining them make it worse?

In a nutshell, my dogs are highly destructive. Don’t get me wrong–I love them! But… they chew corners of moldings and staircases; actually even eat walls sometimes; like to chew apart sofa cushions, rugs, clothing; and will literally put any free object in their mouths just for the sheer pleasure of destroying it. When they are not targeting something in the apartment, they are wrestling which tends to knock things over. Because of this, I live in a totally non-cluttered space that looks more like a hotel lobby than any other regular place in Hoboken. [Actually, this e-mail is even taking longer to write than anticipated because one is trying to eat my desk chair and the other is trying to open the toilet for a drink!] I know they are smart dogs and need to be pre-occupied and exercised, but I take them out for at least two hours of walks/runs/park romps a day, and their walker takes them mid-day for another hour-long romp.

I’m sure my dilemma is clear, but to put it in a nutshell: when do I take a chance and leave them outside their crates?

If the time is not now (which I would argue it certainly is not), when is the appropriate time to let them be free to hang out when I’m gone? Perhaps, as my boyfriend suggests, time out of confinement is the answer to this problem. Will a house strewn with dog toys and some roaming space calm them down and solve all my problems?

And… for those of you with no “dog advice” to offer–are you re-modeling and in need of some cheap demolition work?”

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23 Comments on "Dogs: To crate or not to crate?"

bradykp
Member
bradykp
When I was browsing for my wife and I to get our own dog, I read a lot online about breeds. I grew up with a chocolate lab, and he was a great dog, but he was highly energetic and in his younger years, did some damage around the house. He was never alone for more than 4-5 hours either. When I was reading about the breed on akc (i think), there was a line that stuck out: “needs to be constantly challenged or will find itself in trouble”. The thing is, a lot of people think they are tiring out a lab, but they are not even close. We used to take our lab for 45 minute runs at least twice a day, plus he could run around the yard quite a bit. But we didn’t challenge him enough mentally. We had the kong toys filled with treats or peanut butter. We also had the food ball (has 1 hole in it and they have to push it around to get their food out). We didn’t use these enough at a young age to keep him busy. We also weren’t consistent about giving him 20-30 minutes of play time before we left to go to school/work/out. You have to walk them in the morning (preferably run), and play with them. Maybe go to the dog park and really let them run. There’s a place in Edgewater that has a dog pool also, though it’s expensive. But it might be… Read more »
Bob321
Member
Bob321

Aimee,
My friend adopted a lab puppy and the dog ate everything in sight – chairs, desk, even like u said, walls and the siding of the house. Got sick a lot too!! I agree with most people here: exercise and crating are important. Labs r difficult for the first 3 years but then become wonderful calm dogs for the most part. Good luck!!

rao611
Member
rao611
Hi Aimee…My husband and I lived in Hoboken for almost 2 years with a Border Collie/Beagle Mix, so he was VERY smart and liked to be active…and at times we were at our wits end with his hyper behavior. We crated him during the day without a dog walker (which I felt terrible about) and though we occassionally had accidents, for the most part it was OK. We went for a good walk in the morning and then straight to the dog run after work and he was ready for bed! We never left him out of the crate during the day because we’d come home to minor destruction in the past. While he wasn’t as bad as ripping up pillows and chewing apart furniture, he would shred papers all over the apartment and then “mark” them when he was done. Additionally, he’s a counter surfer (a problem we’re STILL trying to fix) so we couldn’t leave anything on the counters that he could get. We started taking him to doggy daycare at Hoboken Unleashed for one day in the middle of the week and he was exhausted for days and happy to be in the crate. We tried the 1×1 training with Joanna from Sit & Stay. She was more behavioral than anything and while it helped with his separation anxiety a little bit, her methods were hard to live by day to day…unless you work from home and can dedicate between 3-4 hours a day just to dog… Read more »
willow
Member
willow

Patience is all I can say. I have a 12 yr old lab. When I first got her I thought I would lose my mind. The first few year more or less we had some moments. The one thing that I agree with everyone above is exercise until they cant walk. I know it can be time consuming on you but hay its a great work out.

Another option is to take them swimming occasionally. There is a dog pool in NYC on Worth street call Water for Dogs. They have a swim time or you can have an instructor be in the pool. I find when I take my dog there she will sleep for 5 hrs straight after we get home.

I like the crate option when you are not there as long as it is not a lengthy amount of time. Another option is a gate (i believe Orvis might have it) that is like a play pen. So it forms a circle and you can leave the dog in that with some toys. The kongs to get the treats out are great.

AMG1055
Member
AMG1055
Hey– Thanks to everyone for their advice. I’m going to have to think about all this information to try to figure out what will work best for them. The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that it must be a lot like having teenagers. My dogs hardly ever do anything truly mischievous in front of me–it’s always when I’m taking a quick shower, running downstairs for the mail, cooking, etc. They are sneaks! I agree that more discipline would help, but they know how to “act” disciplined to get what they want. This must be a dominance thing, right? One thing I can say though is that it’s not too little exercise, or two much affection. It’s more likely the opposite, even. We are always outside walking or at a park, and I give them affection only when they are really docile and calm (hardly ever!). That’s actually why this is so confusing to me. Maybe I should give more positive reinforcement regardless? Anyway, the classes I took them to were big classes and didn’t really help target my problems. Everything was about doing a trick for a treat–Big deal! What I really need is obedience without food incentives–I will check out the trainer recommendations, so thank you again. Other thoughts: I have heard about the hot sauce but haven’t tried it yet. My boy likes eating the bitter apple and is indifferent to antiperspirant spray that is supposed to be a deterrent. I even wiped habanero peppers all over, but… Read more »
sookie
Member
sookie
One thing I’m thinking is that maybe you have a separation anxiety problems (well, your dogs, not you). My family owns an 11 year old lab and when she was a puppy she did the same stuff, destroying things when we weren’t around. Then it escalated to making a mess of things when we were around, but not paying her any attention. Even my puppy now gets some anxiety when either my boyfriend or I leaves the house, but the other is home. She’ll stand at the door and cry and whine until she’s reminded that someone is actually there with her. The crate has helped tremendously with this. I think she feels more secure when left in the crate than she does when left out (we’ve tried leaving her out a couple of times when we’re only leaving home briefly, we usually find her crying & whining at the door just where we left her); it’s a safe space for her that makes her feel comfortable. If your dogs are feeling anxious when you’re away, that could definitely lead to destructive behavior, so that’s another thing to consider. Again, best of luck! In response to AMG1055 who said: Hey– Thanks to everyone for their advice. I’m going to have to think about all this information to try to figure out what will work best for them. The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that it must be a lot like having teenagers. My dogs hardly ever do anything truly mischievous… Read more »
woofgang
Member
woofgang
Hiya, Aimee. Laura, the trainer, here again. My final thoughts to your last message… – They’re NOT being dominant. The reason they do the stuff when you’re not around is because they’ve gotten yelled at in the past. It’s like when you were a kid and gave the dog your vegetables only when your mother wasn’t in the room. You’d have to be stupid to do it when she WAS in the room, right? – Don’t use the taste deterrents. You’ll only find yourself painting every surface in your apartment. You have to teach them alternatives. – Finally, you need to do more training with them, but you need to train them separately before you can train them together. Each one has to be fluent in polite behaviors before they’re challenged with doing it in the presence of the other. Feel free to call/email me or stop by Cornerstone Pets on a Sunday (except this coming one) between noon at 2pm if you have any more questions. I’d be happy to give you some more ideas. In response to AMG1055 who said: Hey– Thanks to everyone for their advice. I’m going to have to think about all this information to try to figure out what will work best for them. The interesting thing I’ve noticed is that it must be a lot like having teenagers. My dogs hardly ever do anything truly mischievous in front of me–it’s always when I’m taking a quick shower, running downstairs for the mail, cooking,… Read more »
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