Of Crates and Cruelty


<Rant-in-a-sentence>

I read this post on mymegadog and realized I promised a crate training post a while ago on our Facebook Page and then committed the thought to my cranial RAM, and then erased it since I’m usually functioning so much in “self-destruct” mode because of all the things I bite off on and can’t chew.

</Rant-in-a-sentence>

Hold on while I inhale.

There.

Crate training turned out to be such a non-issue with the K-Man, that I don’t see how I could write a whole post around how I did it. But having seen the post on mymegadog and actually having had  similar feelings myself, as a brand new pet parent (3 years ago), I figured I could blabber about how it is not cruel, and how we as humans tend to project our emotions on our dogs.

Of Crating and Cruelty is one of these. Humans do not like being in crates, but dogs are den animals. Most like dark enclosed spaces (Note: I say most, because I have seen that some of them really do not do well with confinement – almost like humans with claustrophobia.). Now, it is important to understand that we should not, absolutely not, associate crating with punishment. As humans, and dogs. We should not be sending them to their kennel if they did something “wrong”.

With the K-Man, since he is usually cautious of everything, it took him a few weeks before he set paw in the crate. And I mean, one paw, literally. It was months before there were two and we never got to four. It was a wire crate. I was doing it by encouraging him with every little puppy step, putting exciting things into it etc. Nothing worked.  Except when I went in there with him. That was fine.

Ma, it's you and me against the world, in a crate.

Ma, it’s you and me against the world, in a crate.

I sold the wire crate and graduated to an airline safe one. I need the K-Man  to be ok with crates incase we have to pick up and go back to India someday. So, I called our favorite trainer from Doggie Dayz – Michelle, and followed her advice and it worked like magic beans. The trick is to not make a big deal about it. I lifted his front paws and put them in the crate, and then his behind and gently coaxed him in. Closed the door. Locked it. Gave him a bunch of treats. Went about my usual business while being within puppy-eyeshot. In ten minutes, I let him out. He came out bounding, happy and gave me a hug. All was well in crate-training-land.

How in the world did I get here? But you know, this ain't all bad!

How in the world did I get here? But you know, this ain’t all bad!

(I apawligize for the unclear pictures.)

We did this every few days. And then “Kennel” became a word everyone understood. There were always treats. Meanwhile, Midnight had free reign and I swear there was a time I heard a “Hell, Yeah!” in a voice that sounded like someone breathed in Helium. (That’s what I imagine she would have sounded like if she could speak, and K-Man would be something Scooby-Doo-ish). Anyway, that was a cratakewalk.

My fosters  or temp strays always sleep in crates.And they are crated when I am not around. A crate establishes a safe, secure space for the dog that he or she can call their own.  I have been slacking when it comes to the K-Man and his “Kennel”, but now that I know it is not a big deal (and he knows that too) we don’t have to feel like it is a horrible chore. We can have fun with it!

Associating crates with cruelty is just one part of the bigger picture of us tending to project our emotions on our dogs. They do not think like us. They are uncomplicated. We need to be sensitive to their emotions/signals and love them like our own, but we do not need to complicate it. I am guilty of this emotion projection too. For instance if there is a week that I am busier than usual and cannot walk Kahlua as much or take him to play Frizbee. I have to tell myself that it’s fine, and he does not care. Because indeed, he doesn’t! Of course he LOVES  the times that we do go to play Frizbee, but it is not like he is  thinking to himself  “Damn I wish we were playing Frizbee right now instead of sitting here on the couch writing this blog post or making flyers for events!”. Dogs are just not that over complicated. These are my thoughts that are more than likely a product of the guilt that I am feeling for not taking him to out play.

(I do think however that when he was watching us humans play catch with his tennis ball, he was thinking “What is this pointless game where noone needs to Fetch?”)

Another example is travel. Yes I feel awful leaving him and I have more separation anxiety than he does. But family and friends are important too. If you need to go see them, then you need to go see them and leaving your pup does not mean he thinks you’re abandoning him or that you’re the worst parent in the world. (Unless you are abandoning him, then I have a different set of words for you.) It’s taken me three years and several trips to realize it is alight and that he will have a blast without me anyway (This, I ensure). And we will reunite and all will be well in the world again! *Gasp* I just realized that I actually have started maybe looking forward to vacations again!

Yet another thing that I personally feel bad about, but very slowly am coming  to terms with, is leaving for relatively longer hours. Like say, taking a class after work for an extra hour, or going for a run by myself (read why I love going with the K-man, but it’s difficult, over here. ) I used to agonize about these things and still do, but much less. It is ok to do things for yourself too. If your dog is no longer a puppy, and does not suffer from separation anxiety, embrace the fact that you can spend and extra hour doing something that you enjoy even if it doesn’t involve them. There are some places that you can take your pup and I slave to find activities to include him, and I used to try and limit myself to doing things only in that realm. I used to think that he’d be very upset if I stayed away from him for yet another hour those two days a week. But this is not true. He just gets another hour to sleep! And is perfectly happy whether I return at my regular time or an hour later. Those complex emotions were just me feeling guilty for being out working all day,  and then toying with the idea of doing a class after work, when I really should be getting home to him. He doesn’t really care!

Now, I am by no means saying, go out, be irresponsible and ignore  your pup and let him be alone for hours at a stretch. Absolutely not. That is inexcusable. In fact some things to do to ensure you pup is taken care of are listed here-

1. Plan in advance. Dinner with friends?  Drinks? Plan a day ahead and take him to day care so that he is tired when you are away for the evening and does not notice your absence.  He gets to play all day and you get to play in the evening! And you deserve to have a good  time too, correct ?

2. Do you have a lot of errands to run on the weekend ? I hear you. Rise a little early and go play with your pup or take him for a short run so he is tired and sleeps while you are away. Some daycare facilities are open Saturday too!

3. Don’t be afraid to board when needed, even if you are in town –  There is one particular St. Patrick’s Day in my past that my friends and I would like to forget (well, most of them don’t remember too much anyway and I am seriously amazed that I remember as much as I do.) But on that night, I actually boarded him. He got to play in the little doggie pool, pig out on ice cream and get a good night’s sleep and guess what? I did not need to drink and drive. That was what was most essential. I stayed at my friend’s and woke up and went got him and then went home. Everyone was happy. Yes, having a pet is responsibility. But if you plan well, it is all very doable.

4. Think you will have a super long day and can do none of the above ? Ask a friend to help you let them out. Buy them lunch in return! Win-Win-Win! (You, pup, friend).

So these were my few hundred words for today. I hope you have a wonderful week whatever you do – with or without your furkids!

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8 thoughts on “Of Crates and Cruelty

  1. This is a nice post. We recently crate trained our two little dogs and they now play outside all day and sleep in the crate at night. They don’t seem to mind they actually prefer it 🙂

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