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Party Animal

Party AnimalHi John

We have a five-month-old yellow Labrador Retriever, four-year-old beagle, and two cats. The question is regarding the Labrador Retriever when we go out and leave them brood home. He thinks it is party time and gets into anything and everything. We will give him a rawhide before we go even. He ate the corner off the lazy boy recliner last night. Even if we go downstairs and he thinks we have gone out, you can hear him within minutes running in the house. Terrorizing. No, he is not crate trained and do not want to use that option. We have a wood stove and from a safety, perspective do not want that. We have a dog door for them to go in and out to a fenced yard.

Any suggestions.



Dear Betty,

A five month old dog is the approximate equivalent of a 5 year old child and I suppose that Labs being Labs then you also have the equivalent of a a 5 year old child with attention deficit disorder that also has been eating way too much sugar. Child or dog, they don’t raise themselves. Give either too much freedom and they have the freedom to make bad decisions as well as good ones and develop bad habits that to one extent or another will ultimately effect their freedom as adults. Nature has a template and if you try and circumvent the associated responsibilities of a parent rest assured there will be some degree of future consequence for the dog.

If you don’t want to crate him you’ll have to find some way to structure his alone time before he becomes addicted to the party life but I think not crating him is going to cost you both in the short and long run. Introduced and used correctly crates have two main purposes. The first is to provide a den like sanctuary for a puppy and if used throughout life it has it’s uses as a touch stone associated with home for overnight visits on unfamiliar territory and for an older dog needing it’s down time. Secondly it provides a means to keep a puppy out of trouble when the owner is not in a position to provide guidance. Some people resort to room specific confinement that is as puppy proof as possible and it works out okay. The problem I have with that is that down the road the touch stone component that a transportable crate provides isn’t available.

I explain to new dog owners that a young dog left alone is going to do one of two things. For most of the day the dog will lay down and sleep until the owner comes home or it will do the same with periodic episodes of devilment. A puppy is more likely going to do the latter.

I understand your concern regarding the possibility of a fire due to the wood stove but it seems more likely that an undisciplined puppy alone and loose in the house is tempting Murphy and his law a little too much and in my view strengthens the argument of crating him. Even loose, in the event of a fire the doggy door won’t necessarily be the first thing on a panicked animal’s mind.

I have yet to meet a dog owner that at some point in their dog’s life didn’t regret not properly crate training their dog. The obvious advantages in the early stages of life are an acceleration in sleeping through the night, the house training phase, an increased likelihood of teaching constructive chewing and discouraging destructive chewing. However later in life, for some dogs due to a medical problem, crate rest is required to recover from an injury. A dog unfamiliar with a crate is going to compromise its recovery not only through re injury but also the stress of confinement coming out of the blue. Should dog and owner move from one home to another the transition can be easier for the dog.

Crate training should begin long before a puppy is adopted. Breeders should be using crates as sleeping areas, feeding areas, treat areas. As well as the training advantage ultimately resulting in house hold freedom, a crate can make the transition from breeder to owner less traumatic. This commonsense imprint can improve the odds of a successful life yet oddly is rarely a standard part of the average breeder’s protocol. I recommend people check with the breeder whether they have begun this process. If not, a red flag should go up. If need be I’d suggest buying a crate and lending it to the breeder while the puppies are young.

True some dogs are naturals and outgrow their mischievousness but enough get into trouble and develop bad habits beyond the owner’s ability to cope with mentally or financially and off to the shelter they go. I really feel that many dogs end up in shelters and/or are euthanized due to the breeders failure to begin the crate training and/or dog owner’s believing that using a crate to structure their dog’s day is somehow emotionally detrimental. When the process is done incorrectly particularly late with dogs with naturally low stress thresholds it may never be possible to help the dog appreciate the crate as a haven.

Now that your dog is older, if you decide to crate him you’ll have to go slower but it is doable. Otherwise you’ll just have to hope for the best.

– John

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