To Crate or not To Crate, that is the question..

Opie Proofing the Living Room

We’re getting ready to go to out to breakfast with friends. Before we leave the house we have to  “Opie proof” the living room.  What does that entail?

  • Remove everything from the dining room table, especially any paper napkins, pencils, paper clips, or other detritus of  school homework tasks. 
  •  Clear off the coffee table completely. 
  • Move my computer chair into the laundry room. Make certain that if he jumps into it he can’t go anywhere.
  • Close the lid on the laptop and push it well back against the computer desk.
  • Close the bedroom and bathroom doors.
  • Lock the kitchen trash can and make certain the reciycling container is latched down as well.
  • Water in bowl
  • Laundry basket locked up in a bedroom.
  • Favorite items out of reach

Okay we’re good to go.

When we return home we look to see if there’s been any damage. 

  •  Paw prints on the coffee table — yep!
  • Orange from kitchen counter under the coffee table — yep
  • Mail from my computer desk spilled all over the floor — yep.

Not too bad really.  Last week he destroyed two pillows. They’re gone, so there’s not much else to ruin.

We make a laughing complaint to our breakfast buddies about the ” Opie Proofing,”  and the suggestion is made to crate train him. They have crate trained Rhodesians Ridgeback,  and they swear by it.

Crate or Not? Pros and Cons

The Pros are obvious — he’ll have his own little den, and our den will stay pristine! He’ll have a place to actually hide his bully stick!   He might even be able to tolerate a kennel better because, and of course, he can travel in a crate.  I read all the Internet literature on crate training. It is highly persuasive.   Destructive behavior is minimized, and dogs feel more secure, according to this literature.

Opie Crate Free and all over the furniture!

 

 The Cons — it will break my heart to shut him up in his little jail while he’s being trained.  Some dog trainers have linked it to Stockholm syndrome for dogs.

“Crates are not universally accepted as a positive method of dog training. Steven Lindsay, in his Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training compares a dog’s attachment to a crate with the Stockholm Syndrome.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crate_training

So, if I crate train I turn into some sort of kidnapper or warden?!!!

This actually makes sense to me.  A friend of mine recently told me that his crate trained dog is so well trained that he does not need to latch the crate. The dog comes in and out at will, but when he returns from work the dog is in his crate. That behavior could definitely be a pro, but I was reminded of the way that East Indian elephant trainers trained elephants.  Take the baby elephant when it is small and stake it with a HUGE chain to the ground. The baby elephant is too small to break the chain. Eventually, the trainer can replace the chain with a rope, but the elephant is conditioned to believe that he has no escape.  I always thought this was a sad story. Maybe it’s apocryphal, but I know where my heart is. 

I just can’t do it. I don’t want to be Opie’s jailer, or condition him to accept and love his jail.  Now, I know that’s not really a con. That’s just me not wanting to do it. Sometimes you have to go with your gut instinct on things.  What’s right for some may not be right for others. I like being Opie’s mom, not his warden.

Do we really have to crate?

Now rationally, let’s see if crating is really necessary for our family. 

Here is our family situation.  My husband and I both work at home. During the 9-5 hours that most people are at some office, we are home. We eat lunch at home.  On our lunch break we eat at the dining room table and watch Netflix episodes of Bones ( Love that show!)  We take breaks at home. We work in our home offices 7 days a week.  The only time we go out is on the weekend, to the movies, dinner, social engagements, etc.  Before Opie, the only exercise we got was walking from the kitchen refrigerator back to the desk. Now we walk a couple of times a day for at least 30+ minutes a day.

Most people crate because they have to go off to work and they  don’t want to return home to a disaster. They are gone perhaps 8-12 hours.  Even a well trained  good natured dog can get into a lot oa mischief in that time.

A variety of a soft crate.

Some dog from wikipedia in their soft crate. Clearly, not Opie.

 

 

For the most part, Opie is in our clear view all day —  Perched on top of the couch as if he were a cat, watching the passers bye out the front window, keeping tabs on the local squirrels.

Is there an area of our house that is completely off limits to him?  No, not really. The boys close their bedroom door because they are never too sure they’ve put all their Legos away. They don’t want Opie to eat one and choke on it.  Correctly, they treat him like a baby who might put anything into his mouth.  Additionally, both boys have a collection of some items ( stuffed toys, action figures, etc. ) that Opie might find irresistible. These things are “supposed” to be put away or on a shelf, but  the boys are only 8 and 12. They aren’t perfect.

Opie is only banned from our bedroom when the back window is open. The squirrels are irresistible, and he’ll knock out the screen to get to them if that window is open.

Of course, the trump card in favor of crating is the inevitable summer or spring family trip.  No — no trump!  We plan to kennel him or let him have an extended play date with his old foster family. They offered and we must might accept.  I found a  local kennel that has webcams in all the “dog play rooms and kennels” so that you can check on your pup via your computer if you’re away.  ( I wish they had one of these at the boys school!)  You  can literally be a fly on the wall.  I’d never crate him for the 5-7 days we’d be away from the house. Never, never, never!

Life with Opie Crated

What would our life be like if Opie were crated when we went out to eat or to the movies?

Well, the boys would not feel compelled to pick up every small toy that creeped out of their room mysteriously. Shoes would remain scattered underf the coffee table without fear of some little Snorkie chewing them to bits.

The dining room table would remain cluttered with all kinds of stuff. The coffee table would go back to being the receptacle of used glasses of milk, juice and the odd bag of pistachios.

In short, our house would be a mess.

Life with Opie Uncrated!

Something odd has happened at   our house since we got Opie.

Our house has gotten neater.  Counter tops, table topis, coffee tables, and the floor are clear. It used to be an uphill battle to get the boys to put away their stuff. They started shedding their clothes the minute they came home from school.

  • Coat  — floor
  • Sneakers  – under coffee table
  •  Back packs — front hall way floor
  •  Base ball caps — all over the place.  

The threat of some little Opie eating up their prized possessions has made them pick up after themselves.

Bottom line — the little work I do to Opie proof the living room before we leave has a huge benefit for our family. 

OMG!

 I just realized that Opie has trained the boys to clean up their room and take care of their things! 

Hmm! I suppose Opie’s quiet chewing up of stuff is a much more effective deterrent to clutter than my ranting and raving.

Just call me Little Opie Homemaker -- I may get my own show for this!

 

Now, if I could just teach him how to use the washer and dryer, fold and hang up clothes. 

Hmm… Where is that treat bag?

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About Opie and Opie's Mom

Snorkie with attitude. My mom writes about me and sometimes she lets me write something too. I was rescued July 11, 2010! I am so happy! I love my family and I hate squirrels. I don't know any cats but the neighborhood cats are fun to bark at. Read Opie's Mom's Blog to find out more about me. View all posts by Opie and Opie's Mom

2 responses to “To Crate or not To Crate, that is the question..

  • sherry

    Wow, Opie sounds like a great way to keep the house clean. Every home should have an Opie!

    We don’t crate train our dogs either, since my hubby or I are always home. Yes, Charlie has been caught on our dining room table once or twice. But yes, it has also forced us to not leave our dishes out.

  • Opie and Opie's Mom

    Well obviously, I’ve changed my tune a bit since this blog post. I don’t feel like a jailer at all and Opie really seems to love his crate. He hides things in it. When he was naughty ( Pumpkin pie incident) he ran right to his crate. It was his sanctuary. Stockholm syndrome… well maybe, but if he’s happy so what?
    Opie’s Mom.

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