The Crate Saga, Fifth Edition

Against my better judgment, we have resumed crate experimentation. You can read the entire gut-wrenching tale here. To me, it feels a bit like poking a rattlesnake with a stick, just to see if it will bite. But my PH believes Shiva has gotten to the point she can handle the stress. Or at least he figures it’s worth finding out.

We’ve been leaving her alone for brief periods without securing her away first. Despite all my nervousness, she has done amazingly well. Beyond amazing, really. Just the other day she was left alone for a full sixty minutes in a row and when my PH returned, she was right where he’d left her, laying at the top of the stairs. Not a thing had been touched. The word “milestone” doesn’t quite cover it.

But I am still anxious about pushing her any further. We have a formula that works. Why mess with it? Why set her up for potential disaster? I suppose, I’ve never been good at leaving my comfort zones. I worry that Shiva isn’t either.

The secret of my PH’s success – so far, anyway – seems to be a complete lack of preparation. When he left her for the hour, he didn’t move the garbage can to in inaccessible area. He didn’t put things away or shut any doors. He didn’t even give her a stuffed Kong. He just put on his shoes and left. His behaviour remained calm and casual, like the event was just so mundane, she may as well just remain sleeping on the couch.

I’ve tried very hard to do this myself. Since I am a generally tense person, I have to make a very concerted effort to relax. I know when it comes to training a dog with separation anxiety, the absolute worse thing one can do is make a big deal over comings and goings. I worked very hard to be as cool about it all as possible. But after the first set of disasters, I just couldn’t trust her. Perhaps she sensed this from the very beginning and it made her even more uneasy.

Well all have our strengths. Though I have made great gains, calming my emotions isn’t one of mine.

However, it’s been a long time since those early days. Shiva will have been with us three years in April.

Three long, long years.

Many things have improved. She really is almost a completely different dog. Maybe it is safe now to give this another try. Maybe the reign of the crate is almost at an end.

21 thoughts on “The Crate Saga, Fifth Edition

  1. I think as dogs get older it is not always necessary to put them in a crate. Thunder and Storm have more freedom now than they did three years ago. No problems so far with their new freedoms.

    Best of luck to you.

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  2. Go Shiva! As in, be calm, not anxious, non-destructive Go! 🙂

    It took Maggie about 2 years to earn crate-free status in the house by herself. Sadie could’ve been trusted since Day 1 but we decided to either crate them together or leave them out together. Hurley, well, I’m not optimistic about leaving him alone. We’ll probably start giving it a try around a year and a half.

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  3. Just take it slow. Let shiva get really use to the crate without shutting her in. Then only shut the door for short periods.

    Song use to go in the bin (not kitchen as I can close a sliding door to keep her out). She’s just tip it over and mnunch on things inside. If she found paper she’d shred it.

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  4. Baby steps!

    I’m so glad that Shiva is doing well uncrated. We never crated Elka in the first place (though there have been nights I wish we had….), but I’m always interested in reading peoples trials and tribulations.

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  5. I love to read the stories about Shiva and 3 years, wow, I think you’ve done so well with her. It’s so rewarding, we’ve had 6 years now with our little Milly, a cat I know, but she’s had her challenges. Shiva’s such a cutie, have a great weekend!

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  6. For me, crating is also a very emotional issue. I always see a crate as a cage. And it’s only recently that I’ve come to understand that a crate can be as safe and protective for one dog as it is horrifying for another.

    Maybe this is the issue where you let your PH take the lead. You can continue to crate Shiva when you leave in respect for your nervousness. But when your PH leaves, have him do the same old thing.

    The interesting thing will be to see if Shiva goes to her crate on her own if you leave the door open when you go away.

    Good luck with the whole process. And be as patient with yourself as you are with Shiva.

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  7. That is a great move in the right direction!
    I have the same issue as you when it comes relaxing and when I had the issues a few years ago with the boys fighting I couldn’t get a grip on dealing with. I was always so tense and nervous when they were close to each, at times I didn’t want to even be in the same room as them so they didn’t pick up anxiety. My husband was a s calm as could be about the whole thing and I have to thank him for getting us all through the fighting issues. It took me a long time, over a year, to be able to feel confident in certain situations with them.
    Good luck with the crate. I have confidence that you both will be able to get to your goal:)

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  8. Huge congratulations to Shiva, for her 3rd year And for being so well behaved! Emmett stopped using his crate for the most part about a year ago. We still have it for times of anxiety, like when the builder is shooting nails with a compressor. Emmett can’t cope with that so he barks and barks and barks while running from one side of the house to the other. The good news is that we can leave him alone under normal circumstances. His crate is now just about comfort, and we don’t even close the door.

    Cheers to Shiva’s continued success – and yours!

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  9. This is amazing news! Well, you know how they say that the worst destructiveness with separation anxiety happens in the first 20 minutes after you leave–so maybe if she’s OK with these short stays, she’d be OK with longer ones too!

    I’ve actually had a similar milestone with my crew lately–been leaving Sandy out of her crate when us humans are out. The reason for the crate was that she and Fozzie might play to wildly, or even get into a disastrous fight, if left to their own devices–but nothing bad has happened! The house has been unmolested and they’ve been calm as can be, apparently. I think that with the humans away, they are happy to just rest…almost like its no fun to get into trouble unless we’re watching!

    One thing is for sure, you’ve made huge progress with Shiva!

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  10. Wow – that sounds so promising. I’m like you, I’d want to batten down the hatches before leaving, and you are so right that it is not a good idea for a dog with SA. Fingers crossed the crate has nearly seen its final day!

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  11. I agree, it’s a big move. Something I’ve done on those short outings to help calm my nerves when leaving Blaze alone, is I would video tape her while I was out. Even if I was just walking another dog. It made a world of difference. It me see how she was really reacting, was she driving herself into a panic attack or was she just trying to get my attention?

    I don’t do calm very well either and I understand fully where you are coming from when there’s been a history of destruction. I still tape her every so often when there is something new or I just want to check where she is at, at this point in the game. It really worked for me.

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  12. The first time that I came home to find and out-of-crate Dexter, I was surprised to find that he had destroyed nothing! We still have to hide shoes, though. The only time that I crate him is when I know that I am going to be gone for more than four hours, which isn’t often.

    Dexter used to spaz out when I left the house and he was in his crate. Now he just makes a few half hearted attempts to try to leave with me and them resigns himself to watching me leave by looking out the window.

    I never say good-bye to the dogs or make a big deal about leaving, I just leave.

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  13. Isn’t it funny how our behavior can set off so much anxiety in our dogs? For Felix, putting on my shoes is a huge anxiety trigger, so for MONTHS and MONTHS on end, I would wear my shoes randomly in the house and when I left the house, I’d carry the out with me and put them on in the car. LOL. No no, my dogs don’t rule my life.

    I suspect you’ve hit the nail on the head with the aura of “no big deal” being a factor in Shiva’s good behavior (or lack, there of). Whatever you do, perhaps this is a dawn of a new era for you and Shiva. An era where you no longer have to worry about her being a destructo dog and you can focus on all the fun parts of training.

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  14. I bet the end IS near Kristine! Have faith. She’s not just a more disciplined, better trained dog by now, she’s also matured. Do you remember how destructive Georgia was? The Other Half and I didn’t leave the house together for at least a year. I think what PH did was perfect. Leave without haste or worry and don;t make a big fuss of her when you come home either.

    I still don’t understand crating. I don’t know anyone who does it here.

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  15. I’m curious to read about how this goes.

    Neither Alma nor Moses is crate trained – not even bothered to try. They both have free access to the house and are non-destructive… for the most part. One evening last week Alma did get bored and made confetti out of an empty cereal box from the recycling. But that’s nothing serious.

    The only time I wonder if a crate would be a good idea is when friends helping us out and dogsit for us have questions about letting them loose in the house when their own dogs are crate trained. Or sometimes when travelling I know dogs that love and are very comfortable in their crates since they are like portable little homes – keeps them comfortable and calm with something familiar when on the road.

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  16. When Saydee came to stay with us I got our crate back from a friend that had been “borrowing” it (for two years!) but right away it was apparent that Saydee wasn’t going to go in it (and I didn’t want to force her). I threw all of her tennis balls in there and left the door open – she did finally get them all out, but we never saw her go in there! We have been lucky and she hasn’t gotten into any trouble when left alone. Our trash is always in a cabinet so she can’t get to it 😉

    It sounds like Shiva is doing GOOD! Keep up the good work 🙂

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  17. i’ve always been inherently against crates, not because i think of them as punishment, but because i know so many people who have dogs that just roam around the house all day and have no issues, and i felt like, “well why shouldn’t my dog be able to sit on the couch if he wants to?” oh, and also because i think they are horrifically ugly and huge and we have a very small house.

    when we adopted desmond, we bought a crate under the guise of giving him a den/safe place even though we didn’t want to, because everything we read about bringing home a dog told us to do that (even though he was over a year old and house trained). in the end, we couldn’t crate him because of his severe aversion to being contained–and possibly to actual gate-type things or things with bars–and his exceptional ability to escape containment of any kind.

    so we returned the crate and baby gates and left him out and dog-proofed the rooms he’d be in and stored all the danger items behind closed doors. we had to do much of this every morning before we left, regardless of conventional wisdom. we also gave a calm goodbye and greeting, regardless of conventional wisdom. eventually, after quite a bit of destruction, desmond understood what this routine was about and that his job was to rest up and wait for us–the same way many dogs understand that concept when they are crated. so, i think it’s important for you to just do what works for your family and not worry so much about what’s “right” or “wrong”.

    i think that because of what you’ve already accomplished with shiva, you can pretty much do anything with her. i would not be at all surprised to find a post from you one day stating, “Shiva learns to fly!” have faith. and patience. 🙂 best of luck.

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