I always meant to get Obi acquainted with his dog crate, but it just never seemed like the right time. The first night my boyfriend, Bill, and I brought him home, Obi was trembling so bad we could hardly fathom leaving him downstairs in his cage.
“It’ll be exactly like the dog pound he was just in,” Bill said, frowning. “Can’t he sleep with us?”
Well, when you put it like that …
Let’s be clear: I was just as smitten as Bill was with our new puppy, and I didn’t want Obi downstairs any more than Bill did. But I also knew it was important that Obi come to think of his crate as his home, a place of comfort, so that later it would be easier to train him, and it would be handy if we ever needed to briefly detain him. Also, if Obi was anything like me, having a space of your own is just kind of nice.
Plus, I knew it was important because the slew of dog books and websites I’d read before we got a dog told me so, and I’m obedient. Woof.
After letting him sleep with us that first night, we promised ourselves we’d work really hard over the next few days and weeks to get him to like his crate.
And, we tried. Gosh, did we try.
For those first two weeks we had Obi, one of us would work from home so we could spend time with him. In between checking emails and writing or designing, we’d plant ourselves by the crate, fist full of treats, and gently try to coax Obi into his cage.
It sort of worked — until it didn’t. Obi would tiptoe to the crate and grab the cookie, only to dart away. After a while, he felt comfortable enough going inside just long enough to eat his treat. Then he’d hightail it out of there.
Most of the literature I’d read told me it could be a while before our puppy became acclimated to his crate. In the meantime, we weren’t using it to punish him (not that we were punishing him), and we kept praising him whenever he’d voluntarily go inside of the crate. Eventually, we also introduced five-minute stays in the crate, followed by immense praise.
“We’re getting there,” I’d say, trying to be encouraging.
The best feeling came when Bill would send me photos of Obi in or near the cage with captions like “success!” or “working hard!” If Bill couldn’t understand why I was obsessed with getting him to like his crate, he never let on, and he was right there with me cheering Obi on when we thought he even glanced in the crate’s direction. We did everything short of dressing up in dog costumes and trying to go into the cage ourselves.
When we upgraded to a large indoor playpen for Obi, Bill did get inside with him to show him there was nothing threatening about it. He also did it to make me laugh. It made me giggle, but it did nothing to make Obi want to hang out in the playpen. In fact, when we tried to leave him inside for a few short hours one day, we came home to find that he’d managed to pry the playpen apart and escape. That was the end of that.
We were stumped. Why wouldn’t Obi at least entertain the idea of enjoying his crate? I tried swapping out his bed not once, not twice, but three times. Nothing. I left things that smelled like us inside the crate. Nope. I decorated it like a palace, complete with all the toys a dog could ever desire. Obi preferred to chew on my shoes. I would put his favorite dog bed inside, and he’d rather say farewell to the bed than get inside the cage.
I guess I can’t blame him. Who’d want to hang out in the crate when you get to sleep in a lush bed with your favorite humans?
But all I wanted was for him to feel like he had a little place of his own. I don’t know why it was so important to me, but it was. I almost felt like a bad dog-mom because I couldn’t get him to embrace what is supposedly an Important Puppy Thing. (I think that’s the scientific term.)
The desire subsided after a while. Who cares if he liked his crate? It’s not like we spent a lot of money on them (we did) or that most other dogs used them (they do).
Yet, a conversation I overheard at work ignited the fire in me again. A co-worker was talking about how much his dog loooooved his crate, and I bitterly thought: Why not my dog?!
In a last-ditch effort, I bought a different type of crate for Obi. I thought perhaps he wasn’t a fan of the one he had because he couldn’t see out of it. After spending a good 15 minutes sitting on the floor putting it together, I transferred all of Obi’s things to the new crate, put a few treats inside, told him he was a good boy, and dashed out to meet a friend.
When I returned home, I half expected to find him nestled inside, secretly thanking me for not giving up on him and suddenly being so in love with his new crate that he couldn’t bear to part with it, not even to give me a welcome-home nuzzle.
What I found instead, of course, was Obi lying on the floor watching Bill use the exercise bike.
“Did he go in the crate at all while I was gone?” I asked, peering in his cage and hoping to find the treats gone. (They weren’t.)
Bill, ever-so-delicate when delivering bad news, looked over at me. “Nope.”
I give up. Maybe I’ll sleep in his crate instead.
Got any other ideas getting Obi to like his crate? Let me know in the comments!
Got a Doghouse Confessional to share?
We’re looking for intensely personal stories from our readers about life with their dogs. E-mail email@example.com, and you might become a published Dogster Magazine author!