Regression? The Crate That Won’t Go Away

Despite how seemingly easy our animals have settled into their new home, there is one area that hasn’t remained entirely seamless. And it’s kind of breaking my heart.

I’ve written a lot about the saga of Shiva, her crate, and all my angst therein. It thrilled me to bits and pieces when eight months or so ago she felt comfortable enough to spend the night outside of her den. We started small, just giving her the run of the house on weekend nights. It wasn’t long before she had replaced the bed in her crate with a spot on the couch. I was so happy that she was capable of relaxing without us in the room. It was a milestone.

If she can hang out in the living room at night, I thought, maybe she’ll be ready to give up her security blanket during the day as well. My fingers were firmly crossed.

Sadly, in this new environment, Shiva isn’t quite so at ease as she first appeared. The first few nights were a little rocky but that was to be expected. However, they haven’t really gotten any better. A few nights ago, after listening to her whine and pace until two in the morning, I had to face reality. Shiva is just too anxious to handle freedom. In our new house with its new sounds and smells, she doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. I crawled out of bed and guided her into her crate with a sigh.

The instant I closed the door, Shiva curled up and went to sleep. Finally able to relax.

My feelings about this are definitely mixed. On the one hand it is obvious she feels better with the safety net of her own space. On the other, I hate having to put her in there again when I thought we were done with all that. I am projecting. I know this. Shiva is happier when she knows what to expect.

And yet…

Logically I know the crate is what she needs. It’s probably only temporary until she regains her confidence. Hopefully. But all the logic doesn’t really count for anything when all I see is my poor puppy behind bars.

It’s hard being a human.

30 thoughts on “Regression? The Crate That Won’t Go Away

  1. What’s so bad about sleeping in a crate? I love it! Plus, when I had IVDD surgery, it was a lot easier to get crate rest because I like my crate. It’s comfy and homey like a bedroom is to people. I also love that my crate is in my people’s bedroom. It’s nice to sleep close to them. 🙂

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  2. Kristine, I feel for you. I hate seeing any dog in a crate.
    Sampson was almost three years old when Delilah joined us. At that point we added a second crate, even though Sampson was rarely if ever in his crate. When we moved later that year I had Hubby set up one crate instead of two.

    Would you believe almost immediately we had to set up the second crate because Sampson kept going in there.

    My point is when there is such a major change in our pets lives I think it’s perfectly normal for them to want to return to a place where they feel comfortable and safe. Have you/would you consider putting the crate in your bedroom along with a small bed on the floor? Or perhaps shut her in a smaller room and let her adjust again on her own terms.

    I’m sure with your love and support she will be back to her confident self very soon.

    Hang in there, this too shall pass.

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  3. I would be surprised if there were’t some regression in SOME behavior because of the huge change that exists. I would let her hang in her crate for a few weeks (or months, follow her lead) and i’m sure she’ll get back the freedom again eventually.

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  4. Some dogs look on their crate as their “cave” – a safe place to go that belongs just to them. For my one dog that loves her crate, her crate door is always open, and she uses it at will. She naps in there, takes her toys and treats in there. It’s HER place to escape from the more rambunctious Dobermans. Maybe that’s what Shiva needs – her crate available at will, with the door always open. She may relax just knowing it’s always available to her.

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  5. I see A LOT of benefits to crate training. Especially with a nine month old puppy in the house. lol I do know what you mean, though. Morgan is crated as well when we are gone, and it’s for her own good. Do I wish she could hang out on the couch like the Greyhounds? Yes, I do. However, in my heart, I know that it’s a recipe for disaster. This is a dog who has broken a window to get her pack back together and who views strangers walking past the house as Highly Suspicious Individuals. When she gets ramped up, I put her in her crate, and almost immediately, her body relaxes. Even her eyelids get heavy and she lays down right away. It’s her safe place. We got a new crate liner for her a week ago and she had to supervise the transition very carefully. Then she went in there and laid on it without a bed. She had to be sure it was still safe. I think Shiva will learn to settle in at your new house — she just needs time. There are smells to be investigated, sounds to be figured out and all sorts of other things to keep a dog awake at night. At least you know that if she ever ends up on crate rest that she’ll be able to handle it!

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  6. I hear you, I felt the same way when I had to put the muzzle on Leroy to go outside when he was eating the rocks. I t broke my heart to see my gentle giant with a muzzle on, the only thing that kept that going was knowing that it was keeping him safe. I don’t have to use the muzzle anymore, but I still have it handy just in case.

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  7. I think it’s pretty common for dogs to be unsure in a new home. I bet Shiva will relax as she gets more confident in her new surroundings. Moving is super stressful for many dogs. I know mine have always taken time to settle in. Plus your last home was probably the first safe, real, forever home that she’s known. Having that change has got to throw her for a loop. Hopefully she won’t take more than a couple months to get back to where she was. Hang in there!

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  8. I have no experience of crating. Does it have to be kept closed? If all she needs is the sense of being in a “cave”, maybe it can be left open so she can come out any time she pleases. It can be a baby step? 🙂

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  9. To this day if there is a crate in our house, Cali will go in. I’m sure she will start to get used to all of the new noises and activity, but for now, she enjoys the stability and comfort of her crate – don’t worry mom, she’s okay!! We all need a little security once in a while (we just call our mom, or sister, or friend when we need to be comforted!!)

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  10. Hmmm….I think this is the first time I have ever heard of someone trying to train their dog to get OUT of a crate. I do know how awesome it is to have your dog sit on the couch with you or sleep in your bedroom (or in our case, the bed). Maybe she will never come around but I know you won’t stop trying 🙂

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  11. The crate isn’t what Shiva needs, it what she wants. It’s only your perspective of seeing it like a cage that is wrong. A lot of dogs like to have their own little area. You have your bedroom and Shiva has hers.

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  12. There’s nothing wrong with using a crate 🙂 I leave one open at all times next to our bed, and Chewy sleeps inside it more often than not. He usually starts on our bed, and then retreats to the crate. Obviously, the crate is a source of comfort for him.

    Shiva will get there, and it really is awesome that she loves her crate so much! In fact she is a prime example of why crate training is so beneficial ~ no matter where you go, the dog’s safe place can travel along.

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  13. Some people rest better knowing their front door is locked. Some dogs rest better knowing their crates are closed. This sounds like a success to me. You identified a problem, found an easy solution, and successfully implemented it.

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  14. It’s a tricky balance… we initially tried crate training with Bella, and she never took to it. Her anxiety was much less when she could roam more freely. (She has, however, made her own caves in our various apartments/houses.) Some dogs thrive in the crate though. Just like people, they’re all different – what seems like jail to us (which is I think how I often thought of crates for years) can be a safe haven for some dogs.

    Whichever way it works out, know that it will be the right way. Either Shiva will adjust to the new house and feel secure to leave the crate, or she’ll settle into a new routine with her safe den. Neither one is necessarily better or worse than the other, as long as it’s what’s right for Shiva and your family.

    Hang in there… as I know full well these days, change can be seriously tough to handle!

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  15. We have a dog we crate at night because he prefers it. He is our ‘guard’ dog. He has taken on, by himself mind you, the duty of watching over us and our home.

    The crate? Lets him know he is ‘off duty’. Think about if you had to work 24 hours of the day and your boss didn’t want to let you get down time. At the end of the day he is in his crate and waiting for that door to close, and then he sleeps.

    Try flipping your internal story on Shiva into something like that, see if it fits, and feel better about the crate.

    Don’t see the cage – with all those negative connotations. See a comfy bedroom, a dog-cave retreat, a place where cares are put aside. She doesn’t see a cage!

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  16. Did you ever move when you were a child? When you travelled when you were younger did you have a special blanket or toy that had to go with you because it comforted you? (The PH had a fox stuffy). Shiva is reacting the same as a young child – she wants back in her crate as it takes our pets time to feel 100 percent comfortable in a new enviroment. It is only been a couple of weeks. She just needs a little more time to realize this is her new place. Her actions are normal and to be expected.

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  17. I’ve always felt kind of guilty because none of my dogs ever had their own little safe cave to sleep in. It seems like Shiva is managing her new environment very well by going to the place where she feels safe. I think you should be happy that she is able to adjust in her own way.

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  18. As long as Shiva is happy in her crate, that’s all that matters. I have a photo of Phoebe and Tucker when Phoebe had just come home. Tucker hadn’t been crated in over three years by that point, but was very interested in Phoebe’s crate and at one point they both crowded in there together for a nap. If you didn’t know the door was open it would look almost cruel the way they are packed in there like little doggie sardines, but the truth is, they were happy as can be snuggled up together in there.

    Sometimes crating is necessary even when the dog isn’t super happy about it, but when it’s for the dog’s own comfort level, there’s really nothing to feel badly about.

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  19. Aw – Shiva will come around and even if she doesn’t – that’s what crates are for – to make dogs feel secure. If she didn’t like the crate, then it’d be a different story. I know my old dog Copper used his crate a lot as a security blanket. As long as it made him feel safe and content – it was all good. It really was like his own personal bedroom and I just made sure it was lined with a comfy mat.

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  20. Don’t feel bad. You are doing all you can. It takes some dogs a while to warm up to new surroundings. When we moved into a new house a few years ago, my Lightning was so disturbed that at first he preferred to sleep in the yard (in winter nonetheless!) instead of being inside with us as he had for years. Give her time to get comfortable in the new place, and don’t worry about her sleeping in the crate. As bad as you may feel about it, her getting rest in there is better than getting none outside of it, right? It will all be alright. And so will she.

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  21. Maggie used to love her crate, and Duke used to go into his every night at bedtime. We took both huge plastic airline crates with us on vacation last fall, and Maggie flipped out after we closed the crate door! She would not stay in her crate, so we had a very romantic vacation with Maggie sleeping next to the bed and Duke wedged between us every night. 🙂 We wish they had wanted to sleep in their crates!

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  22. Our dogs spend a lot of time in their crates, like when we can’t kennel them outside, when we travel in the car, at hunt tests and training. We put a lot of effort into making them really like their crates. They aren’t like Shiva in that they would pick the crate over freedom, but they like them well enough. I bet there are lots of people who wished their dogs felt secure and comfortable in their crate.

    Have you tried only giving Shiva a smaller area so she is not overwhelmed? Say block off part of the bedroom at night. We do that when we transition the dogs from crate sleeping to sleeping in our room.

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  23. The important thing is that you love Shiva enough to give her what she needs to feel comfortable. Even if it makes you feel like a puppy jailer. 🙂

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  24. When I first read your post yesterday I felt sad. I can relate to that feeling. I remember the days when Daisy didn’t feel comfortable outside of her crate either. It made me sad to see her always going there instead of sitting on the couch with me.

    But over time, I have come to see Daisy’s crate for what it is – her safety zone. She eats in there and sleeps in there (unless there is a thunderstorm) and she’s happy and comfortable in it. Of course, over time she has gotten much more comfortable being outside of her crate and I love it. But, when she’s nervous or scared, that’s where she goes.

    I hope you won’t be sad for too long Kristine. It’s not permanent. I think for Shiva, the new house is just a bit overwhelming right now. She’ll become more comfortable with time, but for right now it’s familiar and safe and that’s what she needs. For now.

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  25. If she likes her crate, then go with it. I have a crate in my office and during the daytime, Dexter goes in, all by himself, for a nap. Some dog just like the idea of having a “den” to sleep in.

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  26. Gwynn loves his crate – he treats it like his room/safe haven. He gets in when he’s decided it’s time for bed, and then glares or woofs until the door is closed behind him. He still goes into his crate when I’m getting ready for work – I don’t close it anymore, but it seems to be part of the routine. I wouldn’t worry too much that she likes having a safe place to sleep – and maybe she’ll adjust again, with a bit of time, and adopt a new spot on the couch.

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  27. I have the same gut reaction when I think about dogs in crates, even though I am well aware that crates serve many wonderful purposes and most dogs absolutely LOVE them. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t shake it. That being said, I have mentioned to my husband that I would 100% do the crate thing with our next dog, because Desmond’s inability to be crated/gated has caused a slew of problems and complications. Although, I guess I would only be able to do that if Desmond is no longer with us, because I can’t fathom the idea of having one dog in a crate and one dog not in a crate.

    I’m sure things will improve for Shiva in the new house, but at worst maybe you can do something to the crate that will make you feel better about it–like decorate it or something. Or you can get/make one of those crates that are built into furniture.

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