crate training

COVID-19 and Crate Rest

If your schedule hasn’t been affected by COVID-19, aka Coronavirus, then you are in the minority.  We have many friends who are trying to figure out new schedules for themselves, their employees, and their children.

But what about your dog?

Many folks won’t realize that these changes may be affecting their dog until a negative behavior begins or occurs.  Dogs love structure and schedules, so as you make your plans for creating a new normal over the next few weeks, don’t forget to include the dog!

We’re all basically on two weeks of “crate rest” – so don’t forget to give your dog crate rest*, too!  Most adult dogs sleep 12-14 hours a day.  Puppies under 10 months old need to be closer to 18-20 hours!  When we disrupt our normal schedules, it is very easy for our dogs to miss out on their normal nap times and rest periods and become anxious, grumpy, or otherwise off their normal.

You have permission to crate your dog even if you are working from home.

Let me say that again – you have permission to crate your dog even if you are working from home.

If your dog is struggling with finding a new normal, help him out by keeping his sleep pattern as close to his previous normal as you can.  Schedule naps, play, training, and feeding times.  You’re the human – it’s your job to advocate for your dog and help him navigate your world.  And sometimes, that means putting him down for a nap whether he likes it or not.

I can already hear some folks saying, “But my dog goes crazy if I crate him while I’m home!”  This is exactly why we encourage our clients to practice utilizing their crate for a variety of circumstances and at different times of the day.  Normally, we encourage this habit because of the potential of a medical reason on the dog’s part for unexpected crate rest (kennel cough, surgery, pulled muscles, etc), but today, we can add “just in case you get stuck working from home during a pandemic” to the list.

If your dog struggles with being crated while you’re home, try some of the following:

  • Begin feeding your dog his meals in his crate.
  • Make sure your dog is getting adequate exercise – we’re talking planned and purposeful exercise, not just “walking around and barking at birds out the window.”  Go for a walk (6 ft way from other humans, of course), play structured fetch, paper plate recall, or any number of other structured activities that use both your dog’s body and brain.  (Your training homework can also count here – hint, hint!)
  • Cover the crate – for some dogs, seeing everything going on outside the crate is just too hard and they settle better with a blanket over the kennel.
  • If covering the crate isn’t helping, move the crate to a central location so you can provide feedback more easily – treats and/or release from the crate for good/quiet behavior, verbal reminders or crate pops for poor behavior.  Rinse and repeat in small increments.
  • Allow the dog to have special edibles or toys while in the crate – and in the crate only!  Make the crate a desirable place to be.  (Please be sure to only provide edibles or toys that are safe, especially for unsupervised use.)

To be clear, the concept of making sure your dog has adequate rest applies in a wide variety of circumstances, not just during a pandemic.

The nature of our work and schedules means that our dogs, Tucker and Ellie, are very accustomed to having a slightly different schedule most days.  At the moment, however, we are practicing down time and crate rest because we have ended up with a foster dog in the house.  Even at 9 years old, this dog needs the rest and downtime because she was an only child until three days ago.  As she navigates her new world, new people, new siblings, it’s important to be sure that we aren’t asking her to do all of that with a low battery.  So right now, as I write this, she’s crated and her crate is covered to encourage her to take some deep breaths, nap a little, and give her space to process.  She’s doing well so far, but it’s our job to be sure that we do everything we can to set her up for success.

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Daisy – 9 year old Weimaraner 

 

*If your dog is able to rest well  without a crate, modify the advice to fit a dog who can rest on his “place” or in a particular area of your home.

Categories: Behavior, Blog, crate training, dog training, Dogs and COVID-19, owner encouragement, Rescues, training tips | 2 Comments

Freedom is Earned

In my domain, my dogs have always earned freedom.  What does that mean?

It means that before Tucker earned unsupervised free run of the whole house, he had to show good unsupervised behavior in my bedroom.

And before he earned unsupervised free run of my bedroom, he had to show good partially supervised behavior in my bedroom.

And before he earned partially supervised behavior in my bedroom, he stayed in his kennel when I wasn’t able to watch him – because that was the safest place for him (and my stuff).

It would surprise most people to know that Tucker was not left outside of his kennel if I wasn’t home until he was somewhere between 2-3 years old.  Why?  Because I knew his kennel was safe, and when he was an adolescent, I didn’t 100% trust him not to stick his head in a trashcan or steal some kleenex.

I have received numerous calls, emails, and text messages from folks who have provided their dog (usually a puppy) with too much freedom too fast.  Young dogs are like children – they get distracted, they “forget” rules, and they are easily tempted.  You shouldn’t feel guilty for limiting your dog’s unsupervised freedom – it can save you money and your dog injury!  I have heard of dogs destroying couches, digging through walls, and even ingesting foreign objects – all because they were trusted too soon.

But here’s the reality folks – as you begin providing freedom, you may have great success for a while and then your puppy does something very “puppy.”  So what then?  Just like a parent with an unruly teenager, it’s okay to take freedom AWAY again for a time until you feel it can be handled appropriately again.

Exhibit A:

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Ellie just turned a year old this past Saturday.  She’s a firecracker, so she has not been given much freedom yet.  It’s only been in the past few months that she’s even been trustworthy enough to leave in the living room while I walk down the driveway to get the mail.  Lately, she had been showing much improved maturity – so the hallway gate blocking off half the house was used less frequently and fewer doors were closed when she was out of her kennel.

This morning I took a phone call from a client.  I didn’t realize that Ellie was no longer in sight until the call ended – less than 10 minutes.  I found her ripping up Tucker’s bed in the back room.  So what now?!  We’ll take away some freedom – we’ll spend a while using the gate again and closing more doors – and when she has gone a while without an incident, we will slowly begin providing more freedom again.

Restrictions and boundaries aren’t mean folks – they’re a safety net for you AND your dog.  Don’t feel guilty – feel in control!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Behavior, Chewing, crate training, dog training, Ellie the Warrior Princess, freedom, kennel, owner encouragement, Puppy, training tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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