This is Part Four in our series on fostering, written in hopes that it helps more people say 'Yes.'
New guy Huck was very very naughty in his foster home. While his people were away, he rammed his big fat head against his crate and chewed and squeezed and pushed until he was free, free, FREE! to piss! poo! chew! and otherwise rampage to his heart's content.... Wheee! Needless to say, this did not go over well with his hosts, who promptly bounced him back to BR headquarters for problem solving.
Some dogs just hate having a barrier in front of them. Occasionally these are dogs that have lived their lives on chains or tethers, and/or dogs that have been locked up (in a shelter, for example) until they build an aversion to confinement that just won't quit. If you're a tenacious lil' pit bull - or a dog with a head the size of a bowling ball like Huck - a little piece o' vari-kennel plastic and some bendable bars ain't nuthin'! Especially if you have eight or more hours to spend on designing your perfect crate-escape.
Many people mis-diagnose dogs with crate aversion as having separation anxiety. That may be true in some cases, but if you're dealing with an otherwise well-balanced dog - a pit bull especially - crate fussing is generally connected with 1) a bored, under-exercised dog 2) who is more than happy to spend his unused treadmill or spring pole calories on destroying that obnoxious barrier that's getting in the way of his fun.
Huck is not what you'd call an energetic dog, but he's happy to use that big head to get what he wants...Namely, freedom. Stuffy vari-kennels were a no-go for him. A reinforced wire crate was more his style, but first we had to get him over his funk about the whole mess. Lucky for us, he's accepting the tie-down with no more fuss than this classic "Woe is me" face. He's not obsessing on a barrier in front of him so he's happier, and since he can't graffiti our house with urine, we're happy too. Tie-downs are a rescuer's best friend. They give us a valuable alternative to crates so we can build up a dog's tolerance for confinement while fine-tuning their exercise needs and basic house manners.
Dog trainer Shayna Stanis wrote one of the best how-tos for tie-downs that we've seen, back when we worked together at the East Bay SPCA. It's a few years old, but the info is still good. We only have two exceptions: Some recommend against leaving dogs on tie-downs when no one's home to supervise. While that's good advice for new adopters, experienced foster homes can usually make that decision at their own discretion. We do it all the time. The trick is to use a tether that can't be chewed - we like a plastic coated cable - and make sure the dog is 100% comfortable and relaxed on this set-up before leaving the house.
To secure the tie-down, plug a heavy duty eye-hook into the hardwood molding of the room. If you're a renter and are afraid of causing damage -- don't fret. You can plug that hole up with wood paste before you leave and your landlord will be none the wiser. Give the dog the coziest bedding you can find and turn on the telly or radio. You'll also want to make sure that your dog can't reach any illegal chew items, and have that lovely stuffed kong all frozen and ready to go.
Tie-downs are also a great way to help dogs that don't know each other get acquainted. You might've read that in Yvette's blog about: Dog/Dog Intros
Good luck! And please share any favorite tips you've found for helping your dogs stay safe and confined while they acclimate to life in a house.