For years our lab, Colby, slept in her crate at night. We trained her to love her crate when she was a puppy and she was always happy to retire to her cozy kennel each night. At some point years ago, she began to prefer to sleep on the floor of our bedroom, rather than in her crate. Her transition began with her sleeping half-in and half-out, and then fully out of her crate each night. With multiple dog beds and human couches at her disposal, we accepted this change. We began allowing her to sleep wherever she felt most comfortable. Eventually, her crate was dismantled and stored away in the garage.
This summer, we had reason to reintroduce her to her crate.
FAMILY TO THE RESCUE
For the first time in a long time, our travel plans did not permit us to bring Colby. Typically, we find hotels or accommodations that accept dogs. This summer, however, we were traveling with a large group and we did not get to choose where we were staying.
Colby is nearly 11 years old now. She has recently developed a dislike and discomfort with loud sounds (like thunder, loud music, or alarms). Because we would be away for nearly two weeks, I didn’t feel comfortable boarding her at a kennel. My concern was that the noise and all-day stimulation would be too stressful for her. I also wasn’t entirely comfortable leaving her at home with a dog walker checking in and feeding her at random intervals throughout the day. We were to be away for a long time! That option seemed very lonely and isolating for her. I began looking into hiring a house/pet sitter.
OLD DOG, NEW CRATE
Thankfully, my sister stepped in and offered to take her. This was an amazing relief for us! Colby is super comfortable with my sister and her family and has always felt at home in her home. She and enjoys the company of my sister’s not-yet-4-year old labrador, Boone. We knew Colby would be in good hands and would be happy and well cared for while we were away.
We decided to buy her a new crate for her vacation.
“We trained her to love her crate when she was a puppy and she was always happy to retire to her cozy kennel each night.“
NEW CRATE = LESS ANXIETY
My sister’s plan was to sleep Colby in the room we usually stay in when we visit her so that she would feel the most comfortable. She set up a crate for her there and padded it with a nice mat and some of her favorite toys. Even though it had been years since Colby had been asked to sleep in a crate… she took to it like a fish to water! My sister didn’t even close the door to the crate. Colby darted in, curled up, and slept safely and soundly inside all night long. During her stay, my sister reported that she would often find Colby happily snoozing in her crate during the day. It had (once again) become her safe and happy place.
During the 4th of July fireworks, my sister was ready to watch Colby for signs of anxiety. When the celebration started, Colby disappeared into her crate and rested there until the fireworks died down.
WHY IT WORKS
While crate training first became popular as a way to reinforce housebreaking during the puppy stage, many veterinarians and experts agree that crates can help satisfy the den instinct many dogs have. Intuitively, many dogs seek safe havens in the form of small spaces. In this way, the crate can feel like a protective shelter. When introduced properly, dogs form a happy, positive attachment to the crate, which can prove beneficial when traveling or a medical condition requires your dog to be confined.
Though we hadn’t employed the crate in years, we were thrilled to discover that Colby had a fond memory of hers. As she ages, I want to encourage her to sleep in our room so I can keep an eye on her throughout the night. I now know I can do so easily by placing her crate by my bedside… which will be a source of great comfort to both of us!
Dogs of all ages can learn to love a crate! Check out our guide to introducing your dog to his or her very own safe space.
Photo by Bethann Harvey
If you enjoyed this post, you should read It's National Feed A Rescue Pet Week, 2021: Can You Help? here.
Does your dog love his crate?