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Miles is rarely alone, and when he is, the longest amount of time is usually when I am at a movie. A lot of people might think, “Why would a dog like Miles benefit from crate training, if he is hardly ever alone?” Well, it may surprise some to know that I feel it is extremely helpful, and for reasons you may not expect. The first thing many people might not expect: most of the use of Miles’ crate occurs with the door open. If the crate is always available at home, and is never used for punishment or forced confinement, you will find it to be a very useful space for your dog whether you are home, or not.
1. Dogs like to have a personal den
Miles’ crate is always out in a central location. The door is open, and it is the only space in the house that is 100% his. No one can bother him when he is in there, no one can force him to get in, or to get out. It is the one place where he feels he can rest without worrying about being disrupted. It is a place where he can seek refuge, yet a place he can be where he never feels he is missing out on anything going on in our home. Miles loves to curl up in his cozy den, and often rests his head just outside the crate. The open-door crate offers the ultimate sense of security if used properly, for it has a durable all-around den-like quality that no dog bed can match. Gone are any worries of being tripped over or stepped on.
If I run outside for a moment, and leave Miles in the house, I’ve been told that he stands by the door anxiously awaiting my return. If I didn’t have the crate, I am sure Miles would experience a lot more stress when I have to leave him home alone. Before I go out, I just tell him “in you go” and he saunters into the crate. (When he was younger, I tossed a little treat in too, marking the experience as a very positive one.) Then I slowly shut and latch the door, and that action marks that it is time for a cozy, uninterrupted nap. Miles knows he will be able to really take full advantage of his crate if I am not home, because I won’t be around banging dishes around or making other annoyingly loud noises. Because Miles loves his crate, and knows this routine means “time for a quiet nap,” he doesn’t worry at all about where I am.
3. Relief from his job (and relief for neighbors)
Dogs were bred and trained for a wide range of specific jobs. Most dogs, regardless of their primary job, were also used as watch dogs. In a rural area this serves an important function, because when there is a noise outside, the dog can alert their humans, and let any outside parties know that they are on watch. In the city, or in closer quarters, there are going to be a lot more noises, and therefore, a much bigger job for the dog on duty. An alert busy type of dog that is left alone may feel their job is to keep watch over the home while you are gone. My routine of crating Miles when I am out automatically relieves him of any jobs he would otherwise feel he needs to perform. He knows he is officially off duty. Even terriers get relief from someone else taking charge now and then!
High-energy dogs like Miles are physically and mentally active. Miles is always on alert for just about any kind of stimulation. By nature and by breeding, many terriers are prone to being mentally “on” at all times when they are awake. You may notice a high-energy dog or puppy getting restless long after they are clearly tired, and this exhaustion leading to irritable behavior. This is because the dog or puppy hasn’t figured out how to manage their propensity for over-stimulation, and quite simply, they are overwhelmed by it. If you are able to offer a special space, like a crate, the dog will be far more likely to quickly learn how to relax, and to manage their need for breaks by themselves. Miles retreats to his open-doored crate often throughout the day. The sides and ceiling of the crate block out distractions of the outside world, while the little windows offer the re-assurance that if the dog wants to know what is going on outside, he can figure it out by peeking out, without needing to disrupt much-needed down time.
Having a place that your dog loves and that is the ultimate secure comforting place is fantastic. Being able to easily take this place on the road? Even better. When traveling, a crate isn’t just a mode of packing your dog for transport. It is also a home to set up in each new place, whether it be a hotel room, friend’s home, or so on.
Article © 2012 Miles & Emma.