Is 9 months too old to begin crate training a lab?
November 4, 2011 7:19 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I recently adopted a 9 month old black lab who has not been crated at all. He does fine in the crate at night (just a little whining before he nods off), but when I put him in the crate in the AM, he doesn't like it.

The family who had him before did not crate him, and said he was fine. He's a good boy, and I think he'd be ok left in the main room. Should we keep trying to get him to take to his crate when we leave? Or is that a wasted effort and we should we begin uncrating him during the day.

Relevant facts:
Plenty of exercise - early morning walk, 45 min in the dog park in the morning, lunch walk, happy hour walk, 30 min evening dog park, "final pee" walk.

Doing all the recommended crate stuff - putting snacks in there, not making a big deal about leaving, etc..
posted by stevedee to Pets & Animals (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We never crated the two of our dogs when I was in high school and they was just fine. My mom did crate the crazy one she got after I went to college, but I'm pretty sure she's stopped doing that. Although she does still have the crate in the living room because he really likes to sleep in there.

I've always thought the crate was just to keep the dog from destroying stuff. And if the dog isn't going to destroy anything there's not really a reason to lock him up all day.
posted by theichibun at 7:27 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

We got a lab at 9mo and started crating her. It was very difficult in the beginning - so we actually backed off for a week or so until she was pretty calm in general at home (she didn't pee at all for the first few days we had her. Just. Wouldn't. I got up with her every few hours at night to take her outside.

Anyway, we made the crate nice, put a pad and some blankets and a toy in there. Tended to give them kongs full of peanut butter when we put them in there. Every time they go into the crate we say "kennel" and they both like going in there quite a bit now. It seems weird but they tend to treat them like retreats/caves. At this point we just say "kennel" and they both head straight there and get in.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:36 AM on November 4, 2011

I don't crate my dogs when they are left alone in the house. If your dog doesn't destroy things and doesn't pee in the house I wouldn't worry. Unless you have some particular reason you need to crate him crating isn't something you have to do with dogs. In fact until I moved to the US I had lived in the UK and Australia and no one I ever met crated their dogs and just let them have the run of the house when they were gone, closing doors to rooms they didn't want the dog to go into.
posted by wwax at 7:37 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's never too late to start crate training. People adopt adult dogs all the time and crate train them. He's whining because he's anxious. Keep with your program. If you're not covering your crate with a blanket or other cover, you might try that. It's personal choice, of course, but I can't say I'd ever let a puppy have run of the house when I wasn't home. Accidents happen, especially at that age.

We found that crating when we're not home actually calms our dog down and eases his anxiety, because he's in his "cave" and is comfy and secure.
posted by juniperesque at 7:39 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Follow-on question: The crate is in the bedroom at night, but should we bring it into the main room during the day/dinner time?
posted by stevedee at 7:43 AM on November 4, 2011

Keep your crate somewhere in the house that is in the centre of everything. Our dog liked that; he didn't like being crated away from people.

Try the blanket over the top as well (making sure there's enough room for air to circulate, of course) and perhaps leave a radio on when you're out.

We got there, although it took about a couple of months. Keep at it.
posted by randomination at 7:50 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry, posted too soon. Meant to add, sounds like you're doing everything right.
posted by randomination at 7:50 AM on November 4, 2011

Have you tried crating him just when you are away but not at night?
posted by like_neon at 7:52 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's no reason to crate him. Of course he's whining - I wouldn't want to be locked in a cage all day either. Dogs are so domesticated, have such a special bond with humans, and love us SO MUCH, they will put up with basically anything we subject them to. Just because you can put your dog in a crate and he will get used to it with time doesn't mean it's what he actually likes. You say yourself you think he'd be fine in the main room. Why not go with that?
posted by srrh at 8:45 AM on November 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm with srrh, only crate if you need to. I crated my dog some when he was a small puppy and not house trained. Once he was house trained, I left him out all night. After he got past his puppy chewing phase, I started leaving him out alone all day. I've never had a problem with him barking excessively or come home to a destroyed house or a destroyed anything. (The only time he occasionally chews stuff is when I'm home, never when he's home alone, and that's usually an indicator that he needs a longer walk.)

My guy is big, 125 pounds, and I can't imagine him locked in a cage all day. During the day, he sleeps on giant pillow all sprawled out, living the life of Riley.
posted by shoesietart at 9:22 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't have strong opinions about crating or not crating. I don't believe it's necessarily cruel (my dog and others I've known are absolutely fine with it), but if the dog can't be made comfortable then it's no good to force it.

Doing all the recommended crate stuff - putting snacks in there

Can you be more specific about how you've done this? With our first dog we were in a hurry and started crating him the first day -- mostly for our convenience. He panicked, tried to break out the crate, whined incessantly and generally demonstrated his misery. With our second dog we tried again but took a good long while getting her used to the crate as a space before we ever closed the door. We fed her in her crate twice a day for a week with the door wide open. Then we started closing the door while she ate without latching it, then we latched it but stayed in the room and let her out after 10 minutes, then we crated her for a while as we stayed home but in other rooms, etc. Now she's enthusiastic about the crate - it's just a space with a comfy bed and maybe some treats; not a jail.

So based on my tiny sample size of 2 dogs, I think it's possible to move too quickly; the treats are better used to create positive associations BEFORE the dog is ever closed in and left alone, so that the anxiety doesn't even start, rather than as a salve after the dog is already anxious.
posted by jon1270 at 9:38 AM on November 4, 2011

If he's old enough to be trusted alone, I wouldn't routinely crate him. You might want to feed him in the crate for a while so that he's still happy and thinks it's his place so you can easily crate him if dog-phobic visitors or untrustworthy children come over.

Do teach the pup to go into the the crate on cue and do not give that command when you are angry or he has done something wrong. Kennel up or whatever should be used to mean benign things like "Aunt Edna is arriving soon" or "you need to be out of the way while I mop and wait for the floor to dry."

I'm not a big fan of blankets over crates - anxiety about dogs pulling the blanket in, chewing, and choking. But rationally, I think that's not truly a significant risk so do your own math on that.

Congratulations on having a well-behaved young animal.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:39 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I do think having a crate trained dog is a good idea for those times when you actually need him crated like Lesser Shrew indicates. Because my dog is so big, I send him to his pillow ("go to your pillow") and close him in my bedroom when my 2 year old nephew visits or others who don't like/are afraid of dogs. Getting hit with his wagging tail is like getting hit with a stick and being eye-to-eye with my dog scares my nephew. A crate in the room where we are would be a good idea in this case so my dog could still see what's going on and not feel excluded. Unfortunately, his crate is the size of a small car (thanks Continental Airlines) so it would be in the way and a pain to drag around.

So, having a crate-trained dog is a good idea for when you need it. When I had a smaller crate, I would give the command, "go to your crate," and lead him in with his favorite treat, chicken jerky, and then give him a few more through the holes. But overall, I like having my dog have free reign around the house. When he's hot he likes to to lie on the kitchen or bathroom floor. Occasionally, he likes to sleep in different rooms.

Dogs are flexible and can get used to most things including crates if that's what works best for them and their humans.
posted by shoesietart at 10:05 AM on November 4, 2011

Keeping him locked in a kennel overnight and during the day is way too long imho. That's 16 hours a day? I had to keep my dog locked up while I was at work for a year or so (until she stopped destroying the place basically) but I think 8 hours per day is the max. And now that she's good(ish) she hasn't been in the crate in years.

They get very hot in there too.
posted by fshgrl at 10:57 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I've had two yellow labs that were perfect gentlemen in the house with no crating. We kept the door to the trash shut and made sure no food was at snout height, but aside from that, they have run of the house and they only ever touched their own toys. Never destroyed anything else. (Labs generally don't once they're past teething, is my understanding. Especially if the previous owners had good reviews.)

Labs have energy and are bigger dogs and I wouldn't want to crate mine. It seems cruel when they can go around sleeping throughout the house and otherwise being able to roam.
posted by disillusioned at 11:43 AM on November 4, 2011

Keep in mind that just sticking the dog in a crate and leaving is not "crate training". You want your pup to believe that the crate is a safe space that he wants to be in. This takes some time and effort.

And no, it's not ever too late to begin training a dog. Just be sure you're training, and not just expecting him to become a certain way by default.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:10 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

We have never crated them at night, with a few exceptions, it doesn't seem necessary. Our crates are in the bedroom - but we hang out in there a lot. If we're home and in the bedroom, half the time at least one dog will be hanging out in it's crate. One of them will often wander away from us and hang out in hers even if we're not in there. Would they prefer to be out and running around while we're gone? Probably. But they get along with it just fine when required.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:26 PM on November 4, 2011

We needed to crate train our dog because he had a huge amount of separation anxiety. He was 1 1/2, so bladder control wasn't an issue. The best tool for us was a kong toy with peanut butter when we left. It kept him occupied, and gave him a positive reward. He loves his crate, and frequently naps in it during the day, plus goes into it at night to sleep. I will close it at night, because if i don't, he wakes up Mr. Sunny when he hears the paper being delivered at 4 am. A great bonus to it is that when we have had to stay somewhere with him, we had a happy place for him. It decreased his stress.
posted by annsunny at 6:17 PM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and you can check the Humane society's website to see, but 9 months may be too undeveloped for 8 hour long bladder control. We no longer crate ours during the day, but he goes in there and does sad face when we are leaving.
posted by annsunny at 6:19 PM on November 4, 2011

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