Dogs love dens. They go together like kids and candy. They’re meant for each other. My wolfy babies love to stretch out under tables and scrunch under bureaus and beds if they can squeeze in. When outside, they curl up under trees with low-hanging branches, big bushes, and the small space under the back stoop. When my pups are three weeks old, I put chairs and small, doorless crates in the play room, and consistently find the kids snuggled under and in these “man-made” dens.
In my family room, a Great Dane crate with the door open is a permanent fixture. When the gang comes in after dinner, my new-to-the-household guests are amused and fascinated to watch four adult German Shepherd Dogs trying to cram into the crate first, to claim ownership. Many years past, the advent of the crate as a housebreaking tool revolutionized early potty training. Most “raised in the home” breeders like myself, introduced the little ones to nighttime crating at seven to eight weeks of age. My pups were put to bed on newspapers and a soft towel, accompanied by their bite-sized shank bones. Each animal had his or her own “den.” Whimpers alerting us to “the call” were responded to by lights on, followed by the potty run. With luck, we’d all settle in for another 2 to 3 hours of shut-eye. Occasionally there was a “miss,” the misses were ignored, the not-so-silent signal to go was consistently rewarded, and our overachieving canine kids were well on their way to learning the intricacies of bowel and bladder control; i.e., to hold it!
Complementing this bedtime management system, were occasional brief stints in crates during the day. Canine professionals were always quick to point out that in addition to a positive and effective housebreaking tool, most crate-trained pups grew up to be relaxed and reliable housedogs, with or without access to their youthful, cherished dens. Unless — and here comes the inevitable “unless” — this practice was carried to the extreme: the old “too much of a good thing” motto. Like the delicate juggling act which must be rehearsed daily for us to maintain balance in all things, responsibility must be assumed by us for our beloved companions, especially where crating and time decisions are concerned. Those beautiful, accurate, visual images of a den of wolves, coyotes, foxes and more, instinctual by nature, can be tainted by inappropriate and excessive confinement decisions made on behalf of our domesticated dogs.
God’s blessings to all the generous souls who opened their homes to 10 dogs and 17 cats at our open house in June. What a fabulous group of adopters approved who blessed both our halls, and the lives of so many deserving felines and canines. Thank you!
Charlene Marchand is the Chairperson of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA Board of Directors. She may be contacted at email@example.com.