Bark It Out

A Parable

About a month after Ed and I got married back in 2004, I decided I really wanted a puppy.  Ed’s birthday was conveniently coming up, so I surprised him.  I knew Ed didn’t really want a dog yet, but I figured once he saw that cute little Golden Retriever he’d fall in love.

We set up a crate for the puppy and planned to have him sleep there.  I put in a soft blanket and a stuffed animal.  Everyone told me how much their dogs LOVED their crates and how they all slept there without a problem.  Well, everyone except my parents, who have always snuggled in the big bed with their dogs (and their children).  I expected our puppy to have a rough first night but then learn to love his crate.

I was wrong.  Ed and I put our sweet little puppy in his crate that night and went to bed.  Within minutes, the formerly sleepy puppy was barking his head off.  Ed actually put on ear phones to try to get some sleep.  After a little while, I couldn’t stand it.  I went to my puppy.

He had tears in his little eyes and his nose was running.  He was sweaty and exhausted from barking.  As soon as I unlatched the cage and picked him up, he fell asleep in my arms.  I waited a few minutes and then tried to put him back in the crate.  He woke up immediately.  At that point, I realized it was going to be a long night.  I was on summer vacation from school, so I spent the night with the puppy on the couch, letting him sleep on me and then trying to put him in the crate.  It didn’t ever work.

We spent two nights like this and then I lost it.  I screamed at Ed: “If you want him in that crate, then YOU put him in there!” 
The puppy would cry as if he was in pain and sometimes even wet himself.  He’d fight going into the cage and dart out before we could get the door closed.  Ed tried once to put him in and then agreed with me: our puppy could sleep in our bed.

Our puppy, who we named Duke, cuddled up on my pillow above my head.  He slept peacefully and was happy to snuggle up to us. 

At the next vet appointment, I told the vet that I let him sleep in our bed, with shame on my face.  I explained that I couldn’t understand why everyone else’s dogs seemed to love their crates and ours hated his.  The vet explained:

“Puppies are like children.  No two are alike.  You need to do what works for your puppy.”

I let go of the guilt of thinking my puppy was “controlling” me.  We were all happy and sleeping, and that was what mattered.  In a few months, Duke had grown too big to sleep comfortably in our bed so he happily moved to the floor, despite constant warnings that he’d ALWAYS want to sleep in our bed. 

Looking back, I’m happy to have had these nights to cuddle with Duke, as it was a short time in his life.  We left Duke with my parents when we moved off the farm, as you simply can’t take a farm dog off the farm.  We still visit Duke often and love him just as much, but we knew we did what was best for him.  I’m also very happy to have learned these lessons before adding Joshua to our family.

hammonasset 038

Where do your dogs sleep? Did parenting a dog or other pet impact how you parent your children?

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Bark It Out

  1. Erica

    Both of our dogs are crate trained, but they ALWAYS slept next to our bed in their crates. For us, the crate was more of a protection for our house, our things, and our sleep schedule! Aussies are notorious for getting into trouble when bored so the crates were a life saver there. And if we allowed our dogs to choose- we would be feeding them at 5am. ;) Even now as adults, both of our dogs feel safe and cozy in a crate, although they sleep on doggy beds next to our bed now.

    However, I am a firm DISbeliever in letting children “cry it out”. Just my 2cents. :)

  2. The golden puppy I had as a kid slept in a crate but I slept on the floor next to it for the first several nights until he got used to it. The crate stayed in my room until he stopped wanting to sleep in the house. He got to the point where he hated to sleep inside, I had another golden that was the same way and one that loved being in the house. They are all so different haha.

  3. I’m not anti-crate, just like I’m not anti-crib. I just don’t think either will work for all families :)

    I would have loved it if Duke loved his crate, but he didn’t. Just like I would have loved it if Josh loved his crib, but he doesn’t!

    • Aunt Sara

      Woolly Bear sleeps upstairs, downstairs, on the bed, under the bed…where ever he feels comfy. He is very similar to my daughter in her infancy/ toddlerhood. Sometimes she slept with me, sometimes she slept in her cradle( handcrafted by your great grandfather Chet) and sometimes she slept in her crib. Never did she go to bed crying. Nor has my 15 month old Airedale pup, Woolly Bear. A pet, or a child, being happy tromps everything else!!!

    • Yeah it wouldn’t have worked for me if I hadn’t slept on the floor lol.

  4. I want you to know that I cried through that post… we brought our dogs home two nights apart. Vito (the pug) was the first home and while he was thrilled with the crate during the day, he whined himself into a frenzy at night. That first night, I slept on the floor of our bedroom with my hand through the door of the crate to comfort him. Nunzio (dachshund) came from the pound and didn’t make a peep about her circumstances. We then moved them to the mudoorm with a baby gate set up since they weren’t house trained yet. I bought them fancy beds, but they slept on the rug, after whining for hours. I couldn’t take it… they’ve been in our bed ever since. In the summer, Nunzio will sleep elsewhere since it’s hot, but Vito is constantly with me. Even when I was in labor with Liam. Once Liam was born, I will admit, I was nervous about the dogs in bed with us, but they took great care to not step on him. Can’t wait to find out how they feel about this baby!

  5. I don’t have a dog, but this story sounds very much like a co-sleeping with babies story. Which I can very much relate to. :)

  6. Wonderful parable, Abbie!

    What can I say, but you’re your mother’s daughter, although you may not want to hear that . . . or perhaps your father’s daughter.

    As you have learned and so wonderfully conveyed, everyone must do what is right for THEM, and it really is no one else’s business!

    You know that I have NEVER been a proponent of “cry it out,” and Dad has never been a proponent of “bark it out.” (You know what a pushover he is with his animals and how much he loves them!) Too bad we didn’t invent the term “co-sleeping” because you know that Dad and I practiced that before it was in vogue, with you and your brothers, and at times, with our dogs, who are so much a part of our family. Somehow, and I don’t even really remember when, you all slept in your own beds, in your own rooms, but you were always welcome back to the “big bedroom,” especially when we all camped there on hot summer nights because that was the only place we had AC when you were growing up.

    Likewise, our dogs have slept upstairs, downstairs, on our bed, on the couch, on the floor, whatever worked. We are so fortunate that Duke lives with us and you were so generous to leave him on the farm because you know that your father pretty much could not live without him! Dad always says that he’s the best dog we’ve ever had and I think it’s because you, Ed, and we have “parented” him together!

    Your brother’s Bloodhound, who loved his crate when a puppy, stayed overnight with us a while back. Of course, without a crate here, Dad invited him (you know where) on the bed and your brother exclaimed, “You’ve wrecked him!” Truth be told, Jake is now happy to be on his huge doggy bed right next to Nate’s bed because he’s actually outgrown his crate (which Aunt Sara so generously lent him).

    Again, whatever works for everyone is what’s best!

    Love,
    Mom

  7. My “pet:” was a Belgian Draft horse filly. She helped me learn the importance of consistent behavior on my part, that she sees everything I do, even though she doesn’t always know what to do with the signals I thought I sent.

    Affection has it’s place, but not at the cost of discipline.

    Always expect “misbehavior” is due to ignorance, not disrespect – until proven guilty.

    No learning takes place when either of us is angry or upset. Training requires attention, respect, and security – on both our parts.

    Intervention, when rebellion or disrespect break out, has to be quickly started, have an emotional impact, and be *done. One form of intervention with horses is called the “10 second rule”. At an act of disrespect (for a horse that includes crowding, stepping on you or kicking, or biting – all acts the senior mares in a herd use to discipline the younger horses – these are signs that the horse doesn’t respect your “senior” herd position of authority), you have four seconds to begin – if it takes longer, drop it and schedule a training session focused on attitude and polite behavior. Once you start, you have 10 busy seconds. Use no weapon (on the horse) but an open hand and voice; use lots of voice. The horse, during that 10 seconds, has to *know* he is being killed. At the end of the 10 seconds – it is over. Done. You aren’t allowed any late hits, no further punishments or penalties. Keep an eye on the horse – both of you will be excited and stressed, and safety comes first, but get back to the activity that was so rudely interrupted.

    I am convinced that the 10 second rule (without the open hand) and “no training occurs when either of you are angry or upset” both apply with the children I have known.

    Kat (the filly) taught me that it can be really easy to inadvertently teach the wrong lesson, if I am careless, forgetful, distracted, or forget to pay attention to her. Actually, my Hackney pony, Little One, is the one that really brought this one home to me. Then I tried substitute school teaching, and I am convinced this is an important point to keep in mind.

    Most of what I learned from the barn cats, is when I see them it is feeding time. For the rest, I don’t understand them, and if they understand me, they have kept it secret.

    • I agree that discipline is extremely important when talking about draft horses, though I wouldn’t demand the same sort of unquestioning obedience from my child as I would from my Percheron! :)

      • In some part I agree – your working, mature Percheron should be held to a workmanlike standard of disciplined behavior and willing attitude. I would compare that to a late-twenties adult, though, at age four or order for the draft horse. I think of the yearling as just entering the teen years, and age four being a dramatically different, mature head and mind.

        On the other hand, I have seen a lot of young people cause themselves and other harm and damage to possessions and surroundings, when discipline, respect, and honesty are missing from their home life.

  8. Dawn

    Haha! I’ve always said that what I learned from my dogs has helped me immensely with raising my kids! Especially when it came to discipline. Because of this, I’ve focused on distraction techniques (when they’re babies or toddlers) and positive reinforcement (when they’re older). But it was also what I learned about dog food that got me interested in learning about human nutrition and cooking from scratch.

    On a different note, we just lost our Golden last week. She was a great dog and lived to be 15. She was my husband’s dog before we got married. A sad time in our house…

  9. Jonathan

    I adopted an English Stafford shire terrier about 3 years ago. She was my rescue, and she needed a lot of work in the human relations department. She didn’t trust most humans, and she was very skittish. I visited her at the shelter a few times before finally making up my mind. The workers told me that she would probably test my patience to its threshold, but reassured them my level of compassion towards animals (particularly abused ones) surpassed that level. Roxy immediately became assimilated to my house and the people that visited (my mother and young sisters), roommate, friends, etc.
    Being a teacher, I applied many of the same principles with her that I do with my students–setting daily routines, having specified areas for her use, giving her a sense of autonomy within boundaries, the opportunity to explore and learn her surroundings, and to most of all feel important and special. Roxy only once tried to sleep in my bed, clearly to test limits, and I quickly showed her living space. I did crate train her while I was housebreaking her (she was 3 yrs. old at this point). Eventually, she was able to be trusted to stay outside of the crate for extended periods of time, and now doesn’t need it.
    I guess the point of this all, is that the way we raise and care for our pets is in a sense, an indicator of how we might treat our own children. While I don’t have my own children yet, Roxy is dependent of me, and many of the same responsibilities for a pet and child fall on top of one another. Child raising and pet care are not synonymous, but very similar and both impact the other.

  10. Susan

    When we brought our labrador retriever puppy home at 5 weeks, she slept in the bed with us from the first night. She now “snuggles” for awhile each night, sleeps for an hour or so on the pillow above my head, then curls up on the floor (her choice) next to my husband.
    Our golden on the other hand, continues to sleep on the bed most nights, on his back with all 4 paws in the air.
    Whether human or animal, children have different parenting requirements even in the same family. You are so right that one must do what works for them. As long as there is safety, structure and predictability within the individual approach, then it is all good.

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