I Used To Sleep With a Knife Under My Pillow, Why Crates are Crucial
I was sitting on my sofa just last night, trying to explain the importance of crate training to my 8 week Aggression Coaching Class, when I remembered an important story that I thought was relevant.
So here I am sharing it briefly to the masses so you, too can understand what your dog may feel like alone and unattended in your home.
Many dogs get “super” aggressive over their home and territory; especially after their owners leave and this can become a dangerous problem.
I once worked with a client who’s Rottweiler would break windows out of their home in an attempt to get at delivery men or anyone who he deemed was “too close” to the family home.
He would bark, snarl, lunge at the windows when his owners were home but it was worse when they were gone.
Imagine being a UPS man, delivering a package, only to watch in horror as a 150# Rottweiler jumps through a glass window.
I can only imagine that PTSD caused that delivery man to quit and find other employment. Thankfully he was fast enough to make a retreat and jump into his truck to drive away before the dog got to him.
I am still amazed that the dog in question only received a few scratches.
I Think I Know The Problem
It has been proven that a lot of aggression stems from fear.
You know that “fight or flight” feeling that you get when you are afraid of something.
It is this instinct that essentially keeps you alive.
A lot of animals and people choose “flight” to simply get out of the situation, but some animals choose “fight”.
Because, you can “fight” and still have the option of “flight” if things change or don’t go your way.
And, the more successful you are at showing defense and “fight” the more apt you are to use it in the future.
So your dog thinks he successfully scares away the mail man, UPS, FedEX delivery man, or even people walking past on the street (we know he isn’t scaring them away, unless he is breaking out of the window, but he doesn’t know that) and it conditions him to use aggression as a display to keep people and things away from his space.
Have You Ever Been Scared?
Yes, it’s true; I slept with a knife under my pillow a few times… let me explain.
I used to pet sit, and I had one very wealthy client.
The house was HUGE many, many bedrooms as well as a theater (yes, with a real movie screen and stadium seating), a pool, a wine room, and all the other amenities that rich people have that I never will ha ha!
As you can imagine it was a nice house in a very rich neighborhood and I was pet sitting a Labrador Retriever (about 6 months old) not exactly the vicious guard dog type.
I was in my early 20’s, didn’t have a lot of “life” experience and I was nervous when it was time for bed.
I locked up the house, checked the windows and doors (admittedly I may have watched a few too many horror films) and still was uncomfortable. In my tiny mind, if a house was going to be broken into, this would be the one.
So I decided to sleep with a large kitchen knife under my pillow, for some reason that made me feel a little better; although I still didn’t sleep well.
You see I wasn’t nervous in a 2-5 bedroom house, I can handle that… but a mansion that echoed was intimidating.
This is How Your Dog May Feel When You Leave
He may even feel this way if you leave him OUTSIDE in your yard!!!
If you crate him, he has a small space and can feel comfortable; you take that fear away from him… just like me in a small house.
Now put him in a crate and pull the shades and turn up the radio and it can totally squelch his fears because he can’t even see or hear the people that once upset him.
That Big Tough Rottweiler?
Well, it turns out he wasn’t so tough and he didn’t want to be the big bada%$.
We got him a crate, played crate games to acclimate him to his new digs, worked on his basic obedience, shut the windows, turned up the tunes when his owner put him in a crate… and his aggression at the window, even when they were home decreased.
His barking decreased, his lunging and snarling at windows stopped and his owners were able to control him through obedience when they were home.
He felt forced to defend his space and was overwhelmed by everything that went on around him.
Sometimes just taking the stress out of certain situations lets your dog calm down and not take life so seriously.
After all, he would protect his owners if push came to shove the important part was his owner learning some coping mechanisms and control to help calm him.
One Last Important Note
As I write this and get ready to publish I wanted to add that 2 out of 3 of my dogs are happily crating themselves.
That means, their crate doors are wide open and they are choosing to lay in there on their own.
So for those who think crates are mean, you should speak with my dogs… because they throw fits if they can’t get into their crates.
Anything can be abused, but crates are a great tool and a space that is all their own.
Shouldn’t we all have a space that is all our own?
What do you think?
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.