Every so often questions come up about our use of dog crates - the crates are an important part of how we manage to live with our dogs and since the Wee Monster arrived, even more so. The crates aren't just a physical restraint for the dogs, they're also about emotional security. Good crate training is when a dog is happy to spend time in their crate. If we're at the park or even in the backyard, and the dogs see a bird/possum/cat/other dog/interesting piece of grass, they will probably ignore me calling their names - they're typical huskies in that sense. But if someone comes to the front door and I'm holding the baby, or I'm cooking one handed and the dogs are getting underfoot, or if the baby's nappy explodes, or any of a dozen other things, I need the dogs to respond promptly to my cry of "crates!" And fortunately they do. We don't keep them crated for long, except for overnight, but being able to crate them quickly for a few minutes to answer the door, up to an hour for us to cook and eat dinner, is essential. We also find they will choose to spend time in their open crates at other times, which suggests they're happy there.
J has always fed the dogs in their crates, and being highly food orientated, this makes their crates a positive experience. There are some amazing videos out there of different groups of dogs patiently waiting to be called to their bowl and no one else's, but our little pack can be pretty competitive and protective of their food. Getting in their crates for their bowl of kibble or a bone or other treats helps them all feel like they can relax and eat, without growling or carrying on. The bonus is that they are always happy to hop in their crates, just in case there's a treat in the offing.
Yesterday we had some left over bread rolls that I decided to give to the dogs. I called out "crates!" and Frankie and Bolo scrambled into their respective spots. Ishka got into Czar's crate in her excitement, leaving Czar standing outside a bit bemused. I told Ishka to come out and she dashed into her own crate. I handed out half a bread roll each to Frankie, Bolo and Ishka, and then called Czar into the kitchen to practice some obedience commands. I kept it short and sweet, and ended with a successful Recall. Then I handed Czar his half of a roll. Despite being the only dog in the room, he chose to carry the roll into the lounge, into his crate, before ripping it up and scoffing it.
It made me feel good to see this. Our crates are places where the dogs feel comfortable - an inside kennel - where they can relax peacefully and happily. Such a valuable tool with a small baby in the house!