A Night in the Box: Crate Training the Convict Dog

How different the rules for crate training a dog would be had the Constitution of the United States been signed by Thomas Jefferson’s hound, Monroe Doctrine.

JEFFERSON: “Good and reasonable gentlemen, with the signing of this treatise we forthrightly express the unity of Americans to cast off the oppressive collar that is the tyranny of Britain!”


JEFFERSON: (Stoops to affectionately cradle sleeping dog’s head) “And also cast off the oppressive collar that Monty’s wearing. Who’s a GOOD boy? You’re not a tyrant! No, you’re not! Oh, no you’re not!”

BEN FRANKLIN: (Quietly to John Adams) “Has he had any sleep?”

ADAMS: “I’ll get him more coffee.”

JEFFERSON: “Ohhhh, Monty’s a GOOD American! Go fetch the quill! Can you get the quill?”

Crate training can be a very effective way to acclimate a new pet to your home. The method works better with dogs than, say, fish due to the porous nature of the bars. First-time puppy owners are sometimes reticent to crate train, thinking it cruel. However, dogs tend to take well to crates because by their natural instincts they are “den-dwelling” animals rather than “seed-bearing” or “conservative-leaning.”

Budleigh doing a 3-to-5-year stretch. Or 21-to-35 in dog years.
Budleigh doing a 3-to-5-year stretch. Or 21-to-35 in dog years.

Properly implemented, crate training provides your pooch with its own safe, secure, well-defined space from which it can control its vast, off-shore financial empire. A crate also aids in housetraining, as dogs are averse to soiling their den – a stimulus-response reaction behavioral scientists refer to as “shitting and pissing all over themselves.”

Patience and consistency are the most effective approaches to crate training. Also, the crate should always be associated with something pleasant for your pup – a soft towel or blanket covering the floor, a favorite toy, small food treats, cable.

Never, never use the crate as a punishment because:
a. Who the Hell do you think you are! And,
b. Get out!

We’ve enjoyed great success crate training our succession of dogs. As a puppy, Oxford, our formerly alive, bunny-killing terrier mutt, quickly took to the crate kept downstairs in the kitchen. But that changed when he realized life was more fulfilling upstairs in our bed, which had been true until he joined us.

Brisby, our good-hearted schnoodle also known as Saint Brisby of the Martyred Bunnies, would have stayed in his crate forever, locking himself in at night then tossing the keys onto the kitchen table. But the inequity troubled me, so when he came of an age he joined Oxford, who grudgingly relinquished the northeastern-most corner of our bed, an area referred to as Sinai.

With Budleigh, our year-old rescue dog who chiefly is constructed of bits and pieces from unpopular terrier breeds, I planned to get this crate training just right. I know nothing of Budleigh’s past. We adopted him from a shelter after police in Waukegan, Illinois picked him up on the streets, charging him with shoplifting and prostitution.

Within our safe place Budleigh would have a safe place of his own. His Fortress of Solitude with a rubber bone. The Bat Cave featuring a faded pink blankie. Switzerland behind skinny, little bars.

We named it The Budleigh Box.

As a humorist writing a dog blog I meet a lot of convicts. They all confide that the first night in The Big House is the hardest.

When that cell door slams behind you, your life is over, they say. You’re just another number wearing a rabies tag with yet another number. And maybe an ID chip. You know, in case you get lost?

Help transition your new dog to a crate through a series of small, gentle steps, the first of which is to figure out how to put the crate together. This represents an excellent bonding opportunity between Canine and Giant.

GIANT 1: “Is this the bottom panel? I think this is the bottom panel.”

GIANT 2: “No, that’s the top or a side. Or maybe just packaging.”

BUDLEIGH: “Can I eat this?”

GIANT 1: “Aren’t these supposed to snap into place? I heard no snap.”

GIANT 2: “There was definitely a snap. Or a snappish kind of click.”

BUDLEIGH: “I’m just gonna eat this!”

GIANT 1: “Well, was it a click, like a bat’s echolocation system, or a snap, like when the Alien’s teeth tear through a space helmet?”

GIANT 2: “Dave, I don’t know what that means. No one knows what that means!”

BUDLEIGH: “I’m eating this!”

GIANT 1: “The top panel connects with a black rubber strap. Where’s the strap?”

GIANTS 1 & 2: “Budleigh! NOOO!”

BUDLEIGH: “Definitely a click.”

Terriers are naturally inquisitive, even those that have been convicted. Once the Budleigh Box’s structural integrity was secured and the Chicago building inspectors paid off, Budleigh climbed in to explore his new space. When he flopped down for a nap, I closed the door but stayed nearby to keep an eye on him.

Brisby also kept tabs on Budleigh. Having long ago graduated from a crate, Brisby now served as a prison trustee, wheeling his library cart past Budleigh’s cell and preaching The Word of the Lord.

All day, Budleigh seemed very comfortable in his crate, coming and going in accordance with the terms of his work-release agreement. At bedtime, he climbed in without complaint and, with visiting hours concluded, the rest of us headed upstairs to bed.

Whining is a common practice by dogs to test your resolve. In that way they are much like telemarketers. The challenge comes in knowing how long to ignore them and when to give them your credit card number.

GIANT 1: “Hon, he’s crying.”

GIANT 2: “That’s a car alarm, Dave.”

GIANT 1: “Nonsense! How could he set off a car alarm? He’s too small. He has no thumbs. He’s locked in a dank, rat-infested Hell hole. How long is this torture to go on?”

GIANT 2: “Listen! It’s stopped. Budleigh’s fine. So is the car.”

GIANT 1: “Wait! You hear that? That’s definitely a dog crying.”

GIANT 2: “That’s the NCIS opening theme. We’re watching NCIS. They also play a kind of warble before commercials. That also won’t be a dog crying.”

GIANT 1: “Unless he warbles when he cries. I’m going to check on him.”

GIANT 2: “Dave, he’s been in his crate six minutes. Do not disturb that dog!”

After the other giant had fallen asleep I snuck out of bed. She was awake when I returned.

GIANT 2: “Is that Budleigh?”

GIANT 1: “No, no! I checked on him, but he was asleep. This is just a big piece of chocolate cake with white frosting on the paws and the chest.”

GIANT 2: “You woke a sleeping puppy and brought him up to our bed?”

GIANT 1: “I was worried he’d warble.”

Crate training was going to be tricky.

Sleeping Between Giants explores life – if you can call it that – with a terrier.

Your feedback is welcome, probably. dj

Permission to re-use this material for non-commercial purposes is granted provided that Dave Jaffe, www.sleepingbetweengiants.com, is appropriately credited as the author and source. Please feel free to link to this page.

3 thoughts on “A Night in the Box: Crate Training the Convict Dog

  1. 1. Love the photo. 2. Crate training is the best but only works when the human is compliant. 3. Why is that dogs won’t pee and poop in their own crate but they think your bed is the right place to puke?

  2. It took me a full 30 minutes for my laughter to subside after reading “Night in the Box”. I be thinkin’….
    1. I had no idea that Budleigh was a relative to Buster Keaton.
    2. Watch out! Giant #2 is going to call in a debt….I never get away with “giant” in whatever context!
    3. You omitted bill collectors from the whining context. I mean why are they so important as crate, treat and collar expenditures!

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