When we first adopted Freckles, I was the one who didn’t want to use a crate for her. She was a former backyard breeding dog and spent pretty close to her entire life in a crate. Plus, an accident with a crate is how she lost her one eye. Obviously, I did not want to put her through any more trauma.
We soon discovered that she suffered from separation anxiety, and would pee and poop on the floor whenever she was left alone. We did everything to try and curb that by cutting her water off after a certain point before bedtime to taking her for a walk right before we went anywhere or went to bed (as she would do this night because she does not sleep in the room with us because she snores incredibly loud).
We even would leave our bedroom door open so she could come up and sleep on the bed. While I had no problem (as she wouldn’t usually come up till around 3am), she started coming up earlier and would spend the night standing on Dean and trying to lick him. Enough to say, that didn’t last.
Whenever we tried something with her, it would only work for a short period of time and we would go back to finding pee and poop on the floor. As you could imagine, we were exhausted and incredibly frustrated.
Plus, if we had to travel and take her, I really did not want the people we were staying with to see a mess on their floors.
Dean suggested we try a crate and for a long time, I resisted. After another full week of cleaning up messes in the morning, I finally was at my wits end and we bought a crate.
In order to make a comfortable and safe place for her by putting her blanket from her pet pillow in and also by rewarding her with a treat whenever she went in.
I was extremely nervous and anxious on the first night. As I’m the one who usually goes to bed last, I was the one to put her in her crate that night. So, I grabbed a treat, picked her up and gently put her in and closed the crate door. She didn’t whine or cry, she just sat there and looked really confused. I headed upstairs and went to bed. She managed an entire night alone in her crate, downstairs until I let her and Max out around 4am (yes, that is the time they go out and I feed them). It was so nice to come downstairs and not be filled with dread of what you might have to clean up (or worse, step in).
Soon, it became our evening routine where I would tuck her in for the night by putting her in her crate and shutting the lights of. And for a period of time, she would go in her crate whenever we would leave but thankfully no longer needs to as she has not made a mess on the floor since we got her the crate. Instead of whining and pacing, she goes upstairs to lay on her pet pillow in our bedroom or lays on the landing in the sun.
She has become so comfortable in there that she even goes in willingly on her own when we are all sitting downstairs. It’s become a place she likes going, instead of fearing it.
We also crate trained Bandit when he was a puppy to help him with house training (especially as we lived on the 9th floor of an apartment at the time). Many trainers will recommend using the crate over pee pads and I have to be honest, as someone who has done puppy sitting, the puppies who were in their crate and let out house trained faster than those who used only pee pads. That being said, do what works for you.
Crate training is a positive tool if you use it that way. That’s one of the reasons why it’s been so successful for her is that we make it a positive and comfortable space for her. If you use a crate for punishment, your dog will hate and fight going in. It all comes back to positive reinforcement. I can definitely speak to my experience that a crate is what helped her separation anxiety.