Crate Training a Beneficial Tool

Animal Connections
Published by the Virginian Pilot on 01-06-2021
Written by Lacy Shirey, Chesapeake Humane Society Executive Director

All three of my dogs were adults when I adopted them, and they all lived their lives outside before being welcomed into my home. One of them was pretty scared of everything in life when I first took her in, and the other two were not housebroken at all. I mention that only to prove that crate training can be used with dogs of any age and with a wide range of backgrounds.

In their first six months or so with me, I implement crate training methods consistently. Usually, it’s harder on me than it is on them.

Having a routine and remaining consistent with any training is often the most important factor. It’s also hard for me because when I say good night to them and tuck them into their crate, I secretly wish they were snuggled up with me in my bed. But it’s worth it. The result is that they see their crates, or their dens, as a safe place.

And don’t be fooled because I work with animals — my dogs are not the most trained or well-behaved dogs. Thankfully, they were housebroken pretty quickly, but they bark more than I’d like (they are hound dogs), they jump up on people when they are excited to see them, and my bloodhound will dig a giant hole in my backyard if I turn my back for too long while he’s outside. I’m not perfect, and neither are they.

After the initial training is over, I leave their crate doors open for them to come and go as they please. To this day, some nights they snuggle up with me in bed and some nights they curl up in their crates — both of those scenarios make me happy.

They rarely get closed in the crate, but if I do close them in, they are comfortable, not anxious, and I know they are safe. If a thunderstorm rolls in or if fireworks can be heard, I often find my dogs in their crates because that’s where they feel protected. If I have a contractor in the house who isn’t fond of dogs, I know I can put my dogs in their crates without causing them stress.

I never use a crate as punishment. Their association with the crate should always be positive. I feed my dogs in their crate, which helps with creating a rewarding experience, especially if you have a food-motivated dog.

I have certain toys that only come out when they are in the crate, making it exciting for them. The toys I use for crate training are very durable, like a large Kong or a Nylabone, so I know they won’t destroy and swallow parts of a toy while unattended. I never use plush toys or rope bones unattended as those could easily be ingested and lead to a harmful blockage.

I’m careful to close my dogs in their crates for different scenarios so they don’t associate going into the crate with me leaving the house. So when they are being trained, they’ll periodically have crate time for 20-30 minutes at a time while I’m still home. This helps to build their independence and can help with or prevent separation anxiety — especially since many of us are home more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I will mention, I have worked with dogs that just don’t do well in a crate. Despite working with them in a positive way, the crate causes them so much anxiety that they are physically harming themselves in an attempt to escape. In my experience, this has been with dogs that have extreme separation anxiety or have a negative association with a crate from previous experiences.

Thankfully, this is not the case with most dogs, but it is something to keep in mind. If you are having issues to that extent with your dog, hopefully you are working with a behaviorist and your veterinarian on that behavior.

If your dog continues to be anxious in a wire crate, try covering half of the crate with a blanket or try using a more enclosed airline crate. For some dogs, this simple trick makes a world of difference in making them feel comfortable, so it’s worth trying if you are struggling with crate training.

Lacy Shirey is executive director of the Chesapeake Humane Society. She can be reached at director@chesapeakehumane.org.

Chesapeake Humane Society on WCTV

Chesapeake Humane Society’s Executive Director, Lacy Shirey, joins WCTV to talk about two dangerous diseases pet owners need to be aware of: heartworm disease and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Plus, she shares information about a fun new cat cafe in town! Special guests George and Carob also make an appearance.

Girl Scout Council of Colonial Coast

Community Service Spotlight: Chesapeake Humane Society Giving Tree
Posted: 12-08-2020 

Girl Scouts love helping others and the holiday season is an especially busy time of year for Girl Scouts doing community service to help their community friends, including the four paw friends!

Girl Scout Brownie Troop 382 in Chesapeake, led by Carolyn Engler, decided to create a Giving Tree to support animals cared for by the Chesapeake Humane Society. The Brownies identified the need in the community to help animals. They took action to research what the animals most needed and then set about developing a plan. They contacted a nearby animal feed store in Chesapeake, Tractor Supply Co. located on Centerville Turnpike, and asked if they could place a holiday tree in the store with wish list ornaments. The answer, yes!

The girls then set about making ornaments. Each ornament is made of paper but unique in design, and each has a written item from the Chesapeake Humane Society’s wish list. The girls’ goal was to have customers and community friends pick up an ornament and then place the gifts they purchased or made under the tree.

Each week, the troop checks on the gifts and arranges a pick-up. To date, they have collected more than 100 pounds of food and items to donate!

Whether you’re out shopping or celebrating with friends and family, don’t forget your furry friends this holiday season! Check with your area animal shelters or animal services to see what they might be in need of and then take action!

Each ornament has a wish list item

Picking up donations from the tree

Russell’s Heating and Cooling Helps CHS Prep for Storm

September 18, 2018

Chesapeake Humane Society is tremendously grateful to Russell’s Heating and cooling for helping us prepare our building for Hurricane Florence. The Russell’s crew stopped by to work on our HVAC system but was unable to complete their work due to the impending storm. Instead of getting back to business, they offered to assist with securing our building! Hurricane preparations that would have taken our staff the entire day were completed in just hours.

Thank you, Russell’s, for this kind and unexpected gesture!

While we were lucky to miss the storm, Hurricane Florence has devastated our neighbors to the south. Please join us in keeping our sister shelters and the communities they serve in your thoughts.

Foster Families Help Basset Pups Find Homes

August 27, 2018

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but we know that rings true for puppies and kittens too! Recently, Chesapeake Animal Services accepted a large number of Basset Hounds including a mom with nine puppies.  Because the shelter is too stressful for a mom with young babies, they reached out to us for help. One of our dedicated foster homes kept the mom and her puppies together until they were old enough to be weaned.

Then, four foster homes took on the exciting but challenging task of preparing the litter for adoption! Thanks to the dedication of our foster volunteers, the hard-working team at Chesapeake Animal Services, and our caring medical staff, all nine puppies and their mom founds new forever homes during WAVY 10’s Clear the Shelters promotion. It is truly an inspiring thing to see so many forces unite to help homeless animals! 

We rely on our foster homes to help as many pets as possible. For more information on becoming a foster volunteer, click here.