Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Great Crate Debate: The Joy of Being and Having #CrateHappyPets

This post is sponsored by PetSmart, and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Containment Products and Education for your pet, but 'Pixel Blue Eyes: Her Tails of Adventure' blog only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. PetSmart is not responsible for the content of this article.
Ahhhh, the great "Crate Debate". Are crates good? Do pets like them? Is crate training cruel? Why try using crates at all...isn't that like a cage?  Mommy and I have heard so many questions, so many uncertainties. Hence, when we heard that our friends at PetSmart®, whose vision is to provide Total Lifetime CareSM for every pet, every parent, every time, believe like we do...that crates and pet carriers should be a safe, happy place that pets will actually choose to go to on their own...we were thrilled to team up with them and spread the word about how great crates are!
My sisters and I, and all dogs in my family since long before I was born 7 years ago, have used crates since day one with our family. For over 22 years, Mommy has been crate training dogs with love, affection, and great success. Dogs don't and shouldn't live in crates, or be forced to stay in them for extended periods of time, but they are a great tool when needed and a safe haven when used correctly. Since we now have four little girl dogs in the family, we call them our "Princess Towers" and we LOVE them. We have open "princess towers" all the time in the house so us pups can go in and take a nap, chew on a favorite bone or toy, or go some place to "feel safe" if we hear loud noises, such as someone mowing the lawn outside (it is getting to be spring after all). Whether we were adopted as puppies or adults, we learned quickly that crates were our friends. Let me tell you what I mean...
Training a New Puppy to be a #CrateHappyPet
When I first adopted Mommy, she was in school and living alone in a small apartment with lots of things I could have gotten into if left alone. Mommy wanted me safe, but unfortunately, she had to leave me at times to go to class. She bought me a large metal crate (but not too large) and a comfortable padded liner to go in the bottom. Then she got me a very plush bed to fit inside the crate, where there would then be plenty of room for a water bowl that would not tip over, and a few safe toys in the crate as well.
She rolled up blankets around the edge as sort of a bolster for padding, as in this photo here. Then she introduced me to my first "princess tower". Now, of course I was a puppy and didn't understand why I couldn't be in Mommy's arms every single second so she started slowly introducing me to it. She left it open and hid treats in it for me to find on occasion and we'd "play" in it. I loved that! No wonder I became the "finder of long lost kibble" later in life. Then she started placing me in the crate with some treats and the door closed for only a couple of minutes. I'd cry. She'd wait, and then let me out tell me I was a good girl for being in there. She slowly lengthened the time and would walk out of the room on occasion so I couldn't see her. I'd cry at first, but she'd wait until I stopped for a second. When she'd come back, and whenever she opened that door, it was always the BEST most HAPPIEST REUNION!! Even if it was just 5 or 10 minutes. Within a week, she was taking showers or cooking supper and I'd stay in the crate just for practice. Always, always, when she'd open up that door, we had the most loving time together, where she told me I was such a good girl and I'd get a few treats. She'd still leave it open and inviting all the time, and she soon saw that I'd go in there for naps if she was busy cooking supper or doing something else where I couldn't lay right beside her.
When Mommy had to leave for class, she'd put me in the crate with several treats (of course I protested at first, but then I loved it after learning it was such a great place!) and I'd happily wait until she returned. She always returned to me, and that is how I learned that the crate was such a happy place. I associated the crate with Mommy coming home to me and a wonderful cuddle fest afterwards. She'd open that door, and I'd roll on my back immediately and rub my little eyes, giving her a big smile. She'd stick her head and arms in that big crate and she would hug and kiss me so much! It was the best thing. To this day, I roll on my back like that for hugs and kisses from Mommy!
There are so Many Great Crate Uses. Here are some of the many other ways that our family uses crates to make me and my sisters #CrateHappyPets:
One look at Sassy's face, and the terms "joyful haven" and #CrateHappyPets will speak for themselves. My sisters and I love going into our "princess tower" crates to chew on a bone, take a nap together or play with our favorite toys. Sassy and I both LOVE to chew a rawhide or sweet potato chew in them as well.
Peanut and I will go in sometimes and lay together, or Dixie Mae and I will have rubber duckie squeaking contests in the "princess tower" crates. If a family member wants to find one of us, where will they often look? In one of the crates.
Now, we sleep with our family members in their beds, and spend the day on the couches, or dog beds around the house near them, or going out with them etc, but we also choose to spend time in our princess towers. We get to choose where we hang out at in the house.
And let's not forget the kitties love the crates too. Noel had quite the collection of toys she kept in her crate we always had available. We constantly found her in one of the crates bringing her "treasures" and making a collection pile.
Just like humans, pets get sick, have injuries or need to get surgery sometimes. We use both metal and soft sided crates, depending on the situation, for rest and recovery during those times.
After my tail surgery a few years ago, Mommy set up a large metal crate right beside our bed so she could watch me every second. The vet required me to stay still, and I was not able to sleep on the bed with her like I normally do. I needed to be on a flat, cushioned area and not running around on the bed at risk of jumping down, so the crate was safer and wiser for me to be in. My sweet sister Peanut lay on the bed by the crate many a time with her nose almost through the bars so I would know she was close. It was such a comfort to me and showed just how devoted and loving we animals are to each other.
Fast forward to this very month. My newest sister Sassy, who is 6 months old, just got spayed, but at the same time, poor sweet Peanut, who is 10 years old, has a bad neck problem and is having trouble walking and using her legs. Peanut HAD to remain stationary so she would not harm her neck further, and Sassy had to remain calm and contained because she had an open wound in her abdomen and needed to rest. So we have had TWO dogs "convalescing" at once...both needing their own crate to rest and recover in. So, we set up two crates in the living room, one for each of them. They are never left alone. There was always at least one adult watching them at all times. They got bathroom breaks, water breaks, proper feeding times, lots of loving affection, but LOTS of required rest. And even though Sassy was not thrilled about it, we found ways to help her through.
Would it have been better for us to let a puppy with stitches run around all over the place, have full freedom right after surgery and potentially break open those stitches, requiring further surgery? NO. We've experienced that horrible mistake before. Sassy is all healed now and back to full fun times with no crate needed of course. It was just a necessary tool, like being in the hospital basically. If you had surgery, your doctor wouldn't allow you to run around and play would he?
As we all know, some dogs get scared of things like thunderstorms, jets flying overhead, lawn mowers outside, even the vacuum cleaner. By having an open crate available to your pet, they will always have a "safe place" to go to if they at all feel uncertain and can't run into your arms immediately.
I actually go to one of my princess tower crates at times when my tail nerve pain acts up. I have written about it in previous blog posts about tail docking. It's a way for Mommy to know that I might be in pain if she sees me run to the crate for no apparent reason and act distressed or start going after my tail.

Dixie Mae has special circumstances that makes her afraid of things including thunderstorms and loud airplanes too. She escaped a horrible puppy mill after years of abuse, neglect, and then being shot. She was rescued and we were blessed to have her become a part of our family. But she still carries the bullet, and she still carries some of the fear. So when she hears loud bangs, she runs away and tries to hide under anything she can. We found she feels safest in my little travel crate, so we have it set up for her to go to anytime she wants to. We watch the weather close during thunderstorm season, are careful about hunting season since we live in the mountains, and make sure a cozy crate is available for her to feel safe and protected 24/7.
Our family takes a vacation every year together, plus we go on drives and run errands all the time. If we need to travel in a carrier for safety, Mommy will have the carrier open for us ahead of time in preparation for the trip. We always give it an "inspection" and usually take at least one nap inside it before we are on our way. My sister Dixie Mae loves playing with our rubber duckie toys in one of our little travel crates that Mommy sometimes keeps open on the bed before a trip. She likes to have it open so we get used to going in and out of it before the trip, so it's not just a "grab and shove" type of surprise for us. We love to travel with our family, and love our crates, but she still likes for us to be used to things and never get "surprised".
We are a family that has both dogs and cats, and we've fostered several kitties over the years. With each one, there's a time of quarantine, then spay/neuter, then introduction into the family. As I mentioned before, a really comfortable crate is an excellent place for a pet to rest and recover from surgery. It's also perfect time for pets to get to know one another from a safe distance, without the feeling of being "threatened" in a way, especially if some of them had a rocky start to life. That is how I got to know several of my foster kitty sisters, including Noel a few years ago. She and I were especially close after we got to know one another. But first, I observed her at a safe distance while she was recovering from her spay surgery in a safe crate. After several days of just looking at her, I eventually sniffed the crate, and one day we finally met. But that crate gave us a safe way to be close without being "too close".
This is a photo of Sunny, a very special dog that Mommy helped rescue a couple of years ago. Mommy has worked in rescue for years, and Sunny was just extra special. Sunny climbed the fencing of her kennel every single day multiple times, just like an escape artist. But she didn't run away, she just wanted to be with the people at the shelter. Mommy used her connections to help find a way for Sunny to get to a new home where she got trained to be an agility dog. It was a wonderful happy ending! Mommy used a metal crate to transport Sunny to get spayed and a crate was used to transport her all the way to her new loving home in northern Virginia. It was a wonderful experience and Sunny's life was saved thanks to the good use of crates that helped keep her safe during travel.
Our family has fostered and adopted many rescues over the years, and on occasion there's been a dog who had food issues. Whatever the reason might be, some dogs have a fear of their food being taken away, or they just can't eat around other pets. You can train pets to eat near each other by using a crate. Start by having two pets eating far away from each other, the aggressor in the crate with their food. With a lot of time, and careful proximity, you can slowly bring the two dogs closer together until they are within a few feet of one another. Mommy always recommends giving each dog "food eating space" because that is just proper and respectful to each dog. You can also help train the dog to lose food aggression towards human interaction while eating, but always consult a professional with any questions on this.
MAKE THE CRATE/CARRIER AS COMFORTABLE AND INVITING AS POSSIBLE. Soft bedding, plush padding, bolster blankets around the edges, whatever it takes to make that crate a haven. Try to think of what your pets needs are. Do they have arthritis? Do they get cold easily? Do they tend to overheat? Are their paws sensitive? Alter the customization according to the pet.
DON'T LOSE PATIENCE WITH YOUR PET. They are learning and unsure. They need all the reassurance they can get. When Mommy would put me in the crate (right outside the bathroom) and then take a shower, I cried so many times all the way through Mommy's entire shower when I first was learning about it, but I needed to know it was okay. I wasn't being hurt. Mommy had to let me sit in there, safe, surrounded in comfort, and let me realize in my own time that it was really an awesome, safe place to be when she went to class for 2 hours.
ALWAYS KEEP THE CRATE EXPERIENCE POSITIVE. Never ever punish a dog while they are inside the crate. They can have a few minutes of a time out in the crate, but don't punish, yell or make the crate a negative experience or they will fear the crate.
NEVER TRAP YOUR PET IN A CRATE FOR ANY LONG EXTENDED PERIODS OF TIME. Crates are not meant to be a long term living quarter for your pet. Your pet is meant to live and be with you! I live with my Mommy, sit and lay on the couch with her, sleep on our bed with her, follow her everywhere. However, a crate can be a safe haven in various circumstances, including the ones I mentioned.
These are just a few of the ways that crates can be used in a positive and healthy way with pets to help them be #CrateHappyPets. The benefits of crate training are tremendous and will last a lifetime with your pet. Here is my final thought on why crates are a good thing for pet parents to consider for their beloved little (and big) ones: When used in the manner that I spoke of above, crates are safe, loving way to deal with separation anxiety, travel needs, pet safety, pet health, and pet happiness. When you use a crate for transport safety or to help your beloved pet recover from surgery, and they are surrounded by plush warm comfort better than some humans, and spoiled in the best way with a loving human right there watching over them in case they need anything...how can that be anything but loving?
To learn more about making your pet a successful #CrateHappyPet, here are a couple of helpful links:
PetMD Puppy Crate Training
Positive Portable Kennel Training

All through the month of March, Petsmart is having a sale on all their pet carrier and containment items in stores. They have a huge selection of soft sided and metal fold up crates, like the ones you have seen in my photos, as well as great looking and highly durable plastic crates. They are all great choices, it just depends on your needs.
Can't find a Petsmart near you? Use this store locator link to find your nearest Petsmart.
So tell me friends, is your pet a #CrateHappyPet? If you have any questions on my experiences I'd love to talk more, so please ask me a question in the comment section.


  1. We have never used a crate but it does have it's advantages. Very informative post. Have a terrific Tuesday and happy St Patrick's Day..
    Best wishes Molly

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  2. I used to think the idea of crates was awful, but when one our dogs injured her back and had to be kept very quiet, I realised that they give the dog a secure, safe place of their own. They give both dog and owner peace of mind, and now I would never have a dog and not try to give them that security ( I say try because you never know what issues an individual dog might have, and I always try to rescue)

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  3. My Sweet Pea is very well crate trained and spends the time while I'm at work in hers. She goes there willingly and likes to feel safe there. I have always crate trained my dogs and it has been a challenge at times - my whippet, Ariel hated it....I had to "borrow" a friend's whippet daily to get her used to it - so one trained the other! It has always been a safe and happy place for my dogs....even Ariel started to love hers after a couple weeks of sharing!

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  4. We newly have introduced Vaks to the crate. At first he didn't want to go inside, but with lots of treats he now eats his treats in the crate without being afraid.

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  5. there is nothing wrong with crates, as long as they are used for thr right reasons...We have two Poms now just lost our little Lexie last July. And yes we still miss her...But we have never used a crate..they are all the best dogs anyone would want. and that being said two of the three came from abusive and horrible homes...Oh sure they have their accidents,but we clean it up and go on. They don't know what it is like to be scoulded. Our oldest is a very nervous dog, so putting her in a create would not work, I'd be afraid it would scare her to death..So we just don't use them...and very seldom do we go away and leave them by their selves...However I know people who use crates, and I see no wrong in them unless you make them live in them permanently..profile 2

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  6. Great information. We tend to only use our carriers for transportation, but our mom does leave them out so we can sleep in them if we like.

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  7. We were crate trained as little pups so are used to our crates. We go in them when we want some quiet time away from each other and when the family is going to be gone for more than a few hours. Great post, this was an important topic and campaign! Love the pics!! :)

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  8. We love the crates here on the bayou. Bentley opens the door with his nose and goes inside his to sleep undisturbed! Our new wire kennel is perfect for the SUV and traveling. This is a super post!

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  9. Great article Pixel!As a studio animal trainer Momma Jean had to use crates on the studio jobs she would do with the animals. It was a great place to catch a nap while waiting for our scene. It also was safe when we were traveling (you should see her drive in LA traffic) Over her 18 years of studio work she had hundreds of dogs in crates. There was only one who I swear was clausterphobic. My dog brother Jasper. He did many jobs and ALWAYS barked constantly when the door was closed. Momma Jean sayd too many people use crates all day long. AN eight hour work day plus the drive to ad from work means a dog is in a crate for 10 hours. We prefer blocking a dog into a small room that has a vinyl floor (Bathroom or Kitchen) with a puppy gate.for those all day times. Mommy just did chickens on the Rocky movie called Creed (shooting in Phillie) and she even had the chickens travel in crates. I didn't get to go along.

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