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Using dog crates/cages

I'm pet sitting for a friend this week. He has a 17 month old German Shepherd. He and his girlfriend keep the dog in its crate a great deal of the time. I've owned dogs most of my life and I've never used a crate until now. I'm using this one - mostly - because my friend has left me instructions on how he wants his dog taken care of. Also, the crate is kept in a spare bedroom with the door closed so the poor dog can't even watch what's going on in the household.

My thoughts on dog crates are that they MAY be a good tool for house training/breaking a puppy.

However, beyond that, IMHO if you want something to play with when it amuses you to play with it and then you can put it away when you're tired of it. Maybe you should just get one of those robot dogs.

Real live dogs have feelings, get lonely, need love, affection and attention. A robot dog would just sit in the corner until you decided to turn it on.

My 2 cents,
This would make me very unhappy. I have horrors of anything cooped up. Especially for a big dog, but probably all birds and animals. Would be nice if you could report back afterwards to give us feedback. As who knows, maybe this is something that may work? But my instant reaction was the same. Horrified. I cannot understand why a dog of that breed and calibre needs to be caged, once it has been trained. As they are super super intelligent animals. They could even be taught to open the cage. Thinking about it though along those lines, who knows, maybe he can open the cage. I could be overreacting and this is a puppy thing? The dog loves the cage? I truly hope so as German shepherds are truly amazing dogs.
Dog crates are wonderful - we use them all the time.
Our dogs have their own crates in the house (and they have separate crates built-into our camper for transport to and from agility shows).
Their crates are their 'safe haven' - when they want to be alone they can walk into their crate and not be disturbed (we rarely close them).
Obviously they should not be used a prisons - that is cruel - but if you start with a crate when the dog is young it associates the crate with its 'safe area' - you should never disturb the dog when it goes to its bed in the crate.
I keep my two dogs in a crate, two cocker spaniels. They were, as stated, trained young to be in the crate, but only at night for sleep. They often go to their crate to sleep in the day or to get away from things.

I reinforced this behavior by giving them treats when they enter their crate at the assigned time - which I never stopped doing - ok, so they are spoiled. It's a big crate, and they beg to go inside at night, waiting at the door till you get the treats out.

It's an effective way of telling them 'time to go to sleep', and keeps them from tearing up the house. Usually, keeps them from barking too (not always) during the night hours.

The owner you speak of is abusing the crate system, however.. keeping the dog in there when 'not needed'? Dogs are group animals, and without their group they will develop mental problems. I would say that dog - already at risk because of the breed - will never form a proper bond with the owner and will eventually turn on them and end up destroyed. Worse, it could end up killing a smaller person or one caught off guard.

Plan of action? I'd find and print out proper procedures on crating, 'because you didn't know how to do it right and wanted to find out'. Also print out the breed info - German Shepard can and will turn on people. Add that to the package.

Don't confront the owner, in fact - you might just have it laying on the coffee table, crumpled a bit like you were reading it. Compliment the dog and seem amazed at he crate system. Pick up the paper, let them ask about it, and don't say anything negative. That will only lead to problems and stubbornness. THEY must think THEY are making the decision to be better at it.. with some helpful but not pushing nudges from you.

If that doesn't work, call the local SPCA and ask for advice. I'm not sure about the laws in your state/community.
Done right, crates are great, but this one seems overdone.
Both previous dogs I have experience with were raised from puppies with the crate being their 'den'.
Both of them would go and lay down in their crates whenever they felt like it, even if the door to the crate was left open all the time, and if you moved or cleaned their crate, they would be paying close attention the whole time, as if asking 'hey, what are you doing to my house?'. Once we put the crate outside to dry out after washing, then let the dog out. Later we found the dog sitting inside the open crate in the middle of the yard.

You might consider asking the owners of the dog why they have a dog in the first place. If they don't like him enough to spend time with him and train him right, why do they keep him around? Unless they are complete dirt bags, that should guilt them into taking better care of him. (If they are complete dirt bags, recommend adoption rather than destruction or abandonment!)
I don't think either of my friends would consider having the dog put down or just abandoning him. I do think he would do a lot better as a police dog or an army dog. That's just his how his personality seems to be.

Thanks for the good ideas and suggestions.

They don't have a printer hooked up so I can print out some notes to just leave around 'by accident'. But what I think I'll do is go ahead and bookmark several Internet sites about those topics. I've noticed they don't have many pages bookmarked so I'm sure they would notice them. They gave me permission to use the computer before they left, so that's not a problem.

I actually fell asleep on the sofa today and when I woke up the dog was sleeping on the floor by the sofa, totally behaving himself.

This dog really craves affection. When ever I say a 'good boy' or something like that, he gets overly excited and jumps around. But he is smart and does listen. Around here there are ducks and geese (who have babies right now) and when I take him out for a walk he will glance at them but he doesn't try to go after them or anything and he hasn't tried to go after any of the other smaller dogs that get walked around here also. So he really is a good dog. Just needs proper training, love and care.

Thanks to you Chad and Chris, GoldWyvern and Ocalhoun as I have learned something valuable too. Was not aware of the concept of crates, but can see that it would have great benefits, if used appropriately. Must be the same principle as with a small puppie in a shoebox with a little blanket and tiny clock. A safe haven. Hope things will turn out good for everyone around as it would seem that you friends are caring as well. This must be a great challenge for them.
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