“We don’t believe in crates.”

When you rescue dogs, there are certain phrases that raise red flags. This is one of them. People never tell us that they don’t believe in using collars, leashes, or fences. Why are crates different to some people? Why is crating equated to abuse by some dog owners?

Crates, when used properly, are not punishment. Rather, they are a tool for preventing problematic behaviors and enabling a dog’s successful transition into a forever home.

To start, let’s clarify that crates should never be used to isolate dogs for long periods of time. They should not be used instead of socializing your dog to interact properly with other pets and humans. They shouldn’t be used instead of housebreaking. When we advise adoptive families to crate their new Pyrs, we aren’t suggesting that they keep the Pyr locked up for most hours of the day. That’s misusing a crate.

This is what crates should be used for:

  • Preventing normal but unwanted behaviors during the transition to a new home. Some rescued dogs transition to a new setting in days or weeks. Most take months — plural. Until a new dog can regularly do each of the following, we suggest crating when you are not able to pay attention to the dog. This includes when you are at work and asleep:
    1. Your Pyr has adjusted to your routine for using the bathroom outside and, if possible, alerts you when he/she needs to go. Although having an accident or two in a new home is normal, your Pyr is not regularly urinating or defecating in your house.
    2. Your Pyr does not scratch, chew, or otherwise damage household items, including furniture.
    3. Your Pyr does not engage in unwanted rough play with or bully other pets, and other pets do not engage in unwanted rough play with or bully your Pyr.
    4. Your Pyr does not hunt for food, including taking items from counters or eating items from the trash that may make him/her sick.
    5. Your Pyr does not bark excessively and obsessively, particularly at night.

Each of these behaviors is normal to some degree during the transition to a new home, and all are correctable when you observe the Pyr engaging in them. Stop the unwanted behavior, and direct the Pyr towards an appropriate one. Not able to give your Pyr your attention because you are at work or asleep? Then we suggest crating.

Tito Oliver, who is a much loved, wonderful dog, and who is owned by some of our best fosters, decided to chew up an antique chair the one night he was left out of the crate as a puppy. Why? Because he is a puppy. His Pyrents are advocates of the crate. For the sake of your antique chairs, you should be, too!

We regularly take in Pyrs we are told are destructive or bullies who are model citizens at our kennels, where they are crated, and when we place them in homes where owners correct unwanted behaviors and use crates correctly. Why? Crates work. Why is that important? Because failed adoptions are disappointing and disruptive both for Pyrs and people alike. Temporarily using a crate is one of the best ways to increase the odds of a successful adoption.

  • Giving pets time to adjust to one another and preventing fights over resources. You chose to bring a new fur family member into your home, and while we hope that your new Pyr will be loved by you and your existing pets alike, those bonds take time. Until your pets have developed them, the new dog in an outsider. Giving your new Pyr its own space – apart from other pets — provides security and reassurance. For this reason, we recommend you feed your new Pyr in its crate as we do at the kennels. In its crate, your Pyr knows its food won’t be gobbled up by another dog, and food aggression and fights over food resources will be prevented. Feeding your Pyr in your crate also reinforces their positive association with it as a place where good things – special treats and meals – happen. Most people who have multiple dogs eventually feed them together. (We suggest opposite sides of the room so that dogs don’t make eye contact or wander over to one another’s bowls.) That’s the goal. Not the starting point.

 

In addition, crating your new Pyr during the night while you sleep is important to prevent discord over non-food resources such as couches. Existing pets often defend their territory from new pets, and new pets often try to assert their control over these same resources. A lot happens while you sleep. Crating your new pet prevents these negative outcomes.

 

  • Wellness and emergency. We all hope our Pyrs never get sick. We all hope there’s never a natural disaster requiring our evacuation. We all fear being separated from our pet in an emergency. These scenarios are stressful for us and our pets. Ensuring your Pyr remains crate trained in case of a medical emergency or natural disaster can reduce the stress your pet experiences in these worst-case-scenarios.

 

A Pyr who is storm phobic benefits from being crated during bad weather. He or she may whine and whimper. That’s ok. Consider giving melatonin and/or using compression. A blanket over the sides of the crate and noise (a tv or radio) help create a comforting environment.

So how do you crate a Pyr?

  • Buy a large enough crate. Your Pyr should be able to stand up, lay down, and turn around. We recommend the 54” long crate, which is XXL size in most brands. They commonly have a Great Dane on the box. Big box pet stores will order them for you if they don’t keep them in stock at your local store.
  • Make it comfortable. Include a blanket and toys.
  • Include a water bowl. Most pet stores carry hanging models that save floor space.
  • Your Pyr is used to going in and out of his or her kennel at the rescue with love and affection. Give lots of hugs and kisses when you open the door. We reward Pyrs with a small treat when they return to their crates. If it is meal time, we feed them with enthusiasm. In other words, the crate should be positive, safe place. Think of it like tucking a child in for a nap or sleep.
  • If you do need to crate to separate a Pyr from another pet or stop an unwanted behavior, correct the behavior THEN crate the Pyr without affection. Scolding a Pyr once in a crate doesn’t address the problem.

What happens if your Pyr “doesn’t like” his/her crate?

Ok, here’s the truth: they all did fine in them at the kennels, and so it isn’t the crate. The problem is our human perception of sadness. Note that we said perception. A Pyr giving “sad eyes” in a crate is not experiencing sadness as we humans do but trying to dominate or manipulate its humans. Your job is to establish clear boundaries and positive behavioral patterns in your home. Letting a Pyr control the terms in which he or she receive your attention, interacts with other pets, or accesses resources enables patterns of misbehavior. We all understand that when a toddler throws a tantrum because they want something that isn’t good for them, we shouldn’t let them decide to drink the Starbucks mochaccino, drive mommy’s car, stay up late, etc. We need to have good judgement for our Pyrs and like the crying toddler, know that this phase will pass as the Pyr matures into a wonderful family member who understands the expectations and rules.

In over twenty-five years rehoming Pyrs, we’ve learned that most Pyrs, in fact, like their crates. Over time, most people who adopt from us don’t crate their Pyrs but give them free roam of the house. Many leave their crates up for Pyrs who prefer to sleep in them, but they stop closing the door. Some use their crates only for travel (many hotels and vacation homes require dogs be crated when left alone, which is another reason to crate train). These are wonderful outcomes for Pyrs adjusted to their forever homes!