Jodie & Lucky: Crate Training Case Study
For those reading this Tampa dog training blog, I am sure you have gathered from the title that this entry is going to be about one of my clients and their training case. Most of the time when I recall a particular case study, it is specifically about the dog and how they overcome their behavioral issues. In this instance, it will be recounting a crate training case and how the dog AND owner overcame this problem together.
Jodie is the owner of Lucky, who was dealing with a lot of housebreaking problems and separation anxiety. I am including Jodie specifically in this blog because while I was called to train Lucky, I also had to do some serious coaching with his owner as well. As a professional dog trainer, it is my job to instruct owners how to find their own success with their own dogs.
Lucky is the first dog Jodie has ever had. She had grown up believing that dogs being kept in crates was utterly cruel, based on some neighbors that treated their dog very poorly. To Jodie, putting a dog in a crate was mean, unnecessary, and bordered on abuse and neglect. So when Jodie first adopted Lucky from her county shelter, she was completely lost on what to do with Lucky’s behavioral problems, which included marking inside the home, some destructive chewing, and constant whining and barking for attention. The first time Jodie left Lucky alone in the house, she came home to some destroyed high heels, waste in her bedroom, and a note from a neighbor saying that they could hear Lucky loudly whining and barking for several hours.
Jodie hated the idea of crating Lucky because of her exposure to how a crate used by others, which in her neighbor’s case, was wrong. She detailed how when she was twelve years old, she cried after watching one of her neighbor’s grab their dog by the scruff, screaming at them, and shoving them into a crate that was only kept OUTSIDE of the house. For Jodie’s neighbors, the crate was used as a punishment tool and was never used inside the house, where the dog could at least be in the home and immersed with the rest of the family.
It took some doing, but while I knew what would be best for Lucky’s behavioral growth, I had to also coach and show Jodie how a crate could be used positively, and not just as a cage for the dog. She was very against the idea of confining Lucky and even cringed every time I mentioned the word “crate”. I am not one of those trainers that absolutely demands a crate, but with Lucky’s case, I broke it down completely on how the crate would be beneficial to both Lucky and Jodie. After much discussion and debate, Jodie agreed to at least try it out.
The crate is a tool, and like any tool, if you use it inappropriately, you are going to get some terrible results. Unlike Jodie’s childhood neighbors, we wanted to use the crate for Lucky as both a management tool for Jodie, and as a tool that can help build Lucky’s confidence and independence. We took things slowly for both Jodie and Lucky, so that they could acclimate to this brand new training structure. As we began using the crate, Jodie immediately saw the changes that were happening inside her home. There were no opportunities for Lucky to destroy the home or to use it as a toilet. Most importantly, she saw through the training exercises we utilized, that Lucky was becoming more comfortable being on his own, and was associating the crate as a safe den for him to go to. Jodie was shocked the first time that Lucky went into his crate on his own accord. She thought crates were widely feared by dogs, as she always saw it as a place for a dog to go to when they were disobedient. Once she saw that the crate was a positive tool and a place Lucky felt secure in, her view on crates was turned completely upside down.
Crate training is not always necessary, but it can bring so many positive things for both the dog and owner. If used correctly, the crate can be a safe spot for the dog to go to and also used for management purposes for the owner. When crate training or using any type of tool for dog training, it is crucial that the tools are used effectively, correctly, humanely. Sometimes a big part of my job as a professional dog trainer is to show owners how to use these tools the right way, so that they and their dog can flourish behaviorally.
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