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Letting Go of Puppyhood Things …

Koala, a black Labrador, rests on her hammock-style dog bed
Photo by Deni Elliott

When should a dog stop sleeping in a crate?

Most people, when faced with this question, will think about whether the dog can be trusted in the house unsupervised: Will she sleep through the night? Can I leave her alone without worrying that she’ll chew on things? Does she know that she’s not allowed on the sofa (and does she follow that rule)?

Some think about convenience: The crate is big, unattractive, in the way. It’s got to go.

Or they think about convenience: I like being able to crate my dog. I feel more secure when she’s crated at night / when I am not home. She should be comfortable in a crate in case I need to kennel her.

Here’s a different perspective: What does the dog want?

How do you know? Offer her an alternative bed. A comfy, attractive bed, if you are hoping to ditch the crate. She might choose the bed. She might choose the crate. She might, as Koala was, be reluctant to give up the crate at first, then happy to see it go once she was ready.

She might give it up, then regret that choice when she didn’t feel well. (Koala’s crate reappeared when she needed a comfortable place to rest after a particularly trying afternoon at the vet’s.)

Dora, the sister of my dog, Cali, loves her crate. She also loves the big, cushy bed in the living room. She likes the one in the dining room as well. When she comes to visit, she loves sleeping with me … She’d be very disappointed if her crate disappeared, but she doesn’t need it.

Cali hasn’t had a crate since she was about five months old. I often wonder if she’d like one. If we ever live in a space larger than 450 square feet, I might find out.

The point is, the dog’s point of view matters. When it is possible to ask the dog what she thinks, and it’s possible to accommodate her, why not? Isn’t that what relationship is all about?

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