Crates? Sit? What’s still okay?
We all know there are a lot of conflicts within the training world and it’s not just the obvious punishment verses reward based techniques.
As trainers we should always be expanding our knowledge and studies are always shedding new light, so it’s actually a good thing if you find your trainer sometimes changes their mind.
I‘ve heard a few things lately suggesting against the use of crates and against asking your dogs to sit. So I thought I would write my opinion. The short story, it‘s always going to depend on the dog and owner.
Looking at the sit, I need to look at everything as a whole. I do teach sit in puppy class, however if there is a dog who isn’t a natural sitter, then we will obviously work on an alternative. I don’t encourage a sit at the road in puppy class, we just work on a wait.
However if I’m working with and assistance dog, then I need a more reliable and stationary behaviour therefore it‘s probably going to be sit.
If I have an owner that just doesn’t have the time to train, we can just work on one behaviour. Get a sit or down solid enough and that can be the answer to recall, ask for sit, walk over and clip on. Stay. Ask for sit, release when finished. Not jumping up, ask for sit as an alternative. There are of course alternatives to the sit such as hand touch if we need one, but the benefits of sit? The dog likely already knows a sit. Even less work for the owner.
I encourage you to look at your own dog and make the decision from there. My dog prefers a sit to a stand, that’s his default mode. Some dogs will prefer to rest in a down in which case use that. Some sighthounds can’t sit. If your dog is suddenly reluctant to sit when they are usually fine then that’s a big red flag that something might have changed or needs to be investigated.
So go ahead and use sit but use it mindfully.
And as for crates, I will always love them. Yes, to some dogs, they just won’t be beneficial and that’s fine. But if you have ever seen your dog hide under the bed, in a corner, under a duvet when they are scared. Then you know they like a bolt hole. And a crate can be a safe haven.
They were a game changer for some dogs in rescue, a crate with a blanket over the top, door left open. That muffled sound, cosy space to hide was what made some dogs feel secure again.
Other reasons why I love them, perfect if you have kids or are expecting them. It’s clear for everyone that it’s a place they aren’t to be disturbed.
Stranger danger, when someone comes into the home, they are extra safe as most dogs can clear baby gates if they really want to. Plus you are encouraging your dog to make a better choice. Multi-dog households, so they can eat and enjoy enrichment in peace. Less chance of food issues developing. They get them comfortable in that environment so that if they ever need to travel or stay over night at the vets it’s less stressful for them.
Great for toilet training and keeping puppies secure and safe when left. Plus you can easily tie chews and Kongs to them to build independence.
This of course is only true if introduced slowly, positively and your dog is always showing signs they are happy and relaxed.
The most important thing is ask yourself, will it improve my dogs life? Will it improve my life?
My dog loves to work for me, he’s loves to get it right and we like to train together. That for now involves a sit in lots of different scenarios.
The main thing is to avoid becoming too kind, because for me that can also be cruel. In rescue, it’s actually more common now to see overweight dogs than starving ones. Which comes with so many joint, health issues and pain. Some people feel it’s not fair to ask our dogs to work for treats, but then we are withholding their desire to work and use their brains. To use the traits we have bred into them for so many years. They become bored, confused, lack confidence.
As long as we aren’t forcing our dogs to do anything or causing them to weigh up their options between food or something they don’t want to do. Then we know we are helping them live their best lives.