Limits Are Your Friend – Good for the Dog; Good For You

I hate Honey’s crate.

When she first came home with us, it was in front of my dresser. When I wanted clothing, I’d have to move the crate, get what I wanted, and put the crate back in front of the drawers.

Then my husband moved the crate in front of his dresser. Same problem.

Recently we moved it to the foot of the bed.

Now, every time I get out of bed, I have to squeeze through the small space left between the bed, two dressers, and the window.

Honey the Golden Retriever rests in her dog crate.

First you call it a crate. Then you call it a limit. Which is it, woman?

Shouldn’t this dog be able to sleep on her bed on the floor without the crate? You’d think so. But…

A Dog Needs Limits

We crated Honey from the beginning to help with house training. A puppy is less likely to soil where she sleeps.

It worked. Honey never had an accident in her crate. And she learned quickly to let us know when she needed to go out.

Now we use the crate because it’s a secure place for Honey and to keep her from sleeping on the bed.

But what if we just trained her to sleep on her bed? We could get rid of the crate, right?

Here’s what happens:

  • Honey lies down on her bed for three or four minutes.
  • She decides she needs a toy so she goes looking for one.
  • Once she returns to the bedroom with the toy (usually one that squeaks), Honey looks for someone to play with.
  • She finally lies back down on her bed before deciding it’s not the right place to sleep.
  • Honey circles the room looking for the perfect place to sleep.
  • Finally, she gives up and jumps on the bed.

And then we give up. We put Honey in the crate where she settles right down and falls asleep.

The world is too big for Honey when she’s sleepy. She needs limits so she can settle down and rest.

Honey the Golden Retriever poses on some tree roots.

Good thing I’m limited by this leash. Or I’d have to think about climbing this tree.


A Person Needs Limits

I’ve worked some crazy hours in my jobs over the years.

I’ve been in the office past midnight. I’ve counted hookers on the street on my way into work at 5:00 a.m.

And when I work like a fiend, I tell myself, “If only I could get a few days off. I’d finish all those things needing my attention at home.”

But does it happen?

Never. I actually get more done when my schedule is tight than when I have hours of open time.

Here’s what happens when I get some time off:

  • I debate with myself whether I should catch up on housework, start a new project, or finish an old one.
  • I make a list.
  • I do something not on the list.
  • I dart back and forth between projects getting none of them done.
  • I run out of time and gratefully return to my job where at least I know what I have to do and when.

When I don’t have limits on my time, I’m like a dog who can’t figure out how to settle down and go to bed.

Too much freedom gives me puppy brain.

Gratitude for Limits

I’ve been guilty of wishing my life away at times. If only I had…

  • more money
  • more time
  • more…

But when I look at my life, I realize that limits help me. They improve my creativity. They teach me what’s most important and what I need to ignore. They focus my attention.

Honey the Golden Retriever stands next to a fire pit.

It’s a good thing I’m limited by my lack of opposable thumbs. My people would probably make me start the fire and cook the food.

Honey doesn’t think about limits this way. But her body knows that the limits of the crate make life easy. She has no choices to make about toys or where to bed down. She just goes to sleep.

I need to switch from puppy brain mode to puppy in a crate brain. Limits are my friend. After all, if it’s good for the dog, it’s probably good for me too.

Your Turn: Do you benefit from having limits? Does your dog?


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  1. Limits and rules are good but with us dogs, it is what we learn as puppies. We were never crated, we slept in a dog bed on the floor next to mom’s bed from day one on. We are not allowed on furniture, never were help on a lap as a puppy if mom was on furniture, she sat on the floor to hold us, so we never have thought about the furniture and we don’t think about the bed either. For us our dog beds are our “safe spot”. Mom would like me to sleep in bed now but it is not working. She tried putting me there with her a few times but I keep getting up and going into my bed. If a crate is what honeny is comfortable with then that is great and stay with it. A dog having and knowing the rules is the main thing.

  2. I definitely benefit from having limits. With too much freedom, I also get overwhelmed… I tend to make endless lists as it is. When I have a huge block of unscheduled time, I start doing something on the list, then stop to add three more things to the list, then get distracted and start doing something else… basically, I’m Honey without a crate. 😉

    I have also found that I really benefit from deadlines. I tend to hate open-ended assignments at work for the same reason – I always ask for a timeline if at all possible, as having a set amount of time to complete something helps me stay on track.

    As for the pups, I think certain “limits” help them to feel comfortable and secure.

  3. I need limits, can’t let this dog loose without limits. :-)

  4. Sue @ The Golden Life says:

    Callie and Shadow never slept in a crate…as puppies, they were confined to the kitchen, and then the yard when we were at work (they had a dog house big enough for both of them). With Callie it worked great. Shadow was another story. She was our little Houdini when it came to getting out of the kitchen…I usually ended up holding her squirmy-wormy self next to me on our bed to keep her from having accidents in the house. I didn’t get much sleep in those days. Thank God Ducky spent her early days in a kennel so she felt safe in her crate downstairs when she came to live with us. She still considers it her safe place at bed time, and when we’re not home. We let the girls on our furniture…heck, it’s their home too. Besides, we don’t have much floor space to spare, so we just make do.

  5. We never had a crate for any of our dogs but it really is horses for courses…whatever works. Too much time is never a good thing as we too get easily distracted. Have a marvellous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  6. I definitely do better with limits. When I don’t have a deadline (whether self-imposed or not) I do the same thing – make a long list, get distracted, do 3 things not on the list, etc.

    Rita does well with limits too, although a crate is not one of them. She came to us already house-trained and supposedly a lover of her crate, but she didn’t seem too thrilled with it the few times we tried to put her in. We got rid of it, and she’s fine about going to bed. She loves to sleep – it’s one of her best qualities. :)

  7. Yeah, limits help me, too! On my days off, I get so little done and it always vexes me, but I never seem to do better!

  8. Ahhh, so very happy to know that someone else behaves the same way I do when overwhelmed! Makes me feel better. I’m a big believer in routine and consistency for our dogs and consistently using a crate is right up that alley. Our 11 year old Labrador retriever craves her crate. We’ll find her there sometimes in the middle of the day. Just napping. Or just getting a moment of quiet time to herself. Whatever it is, I’m glad we have it there for her, as she tells us that she needs it! :)

  9. I have one of each- a crater and a non-crater. My non-crater will settle happily in her bed every night, but the crater will pace the bedroom until I close her in, at which point she happily snuggles into her blanket. One of the best purchases I ever made: a sort-of pretty “wicker” crate to serve as my nightstand. It has served us well for 8 years; now I’m thinking about upgrading to a DIY wooden variety.

  10. I need limits to get anything done. When I have expanses of open time, I fritter it away without accomplishing anything. Deadlines and to-do lists keep me in line. While my dogs aren’t crated, they do have limits that keep our days running smoothly. For instance, before I let them out in the yard, they have to wait by the back door in a sit. It’s a tiny, narrow, concrete set of steps that lead outside, so I have them wait, then I go down the steps, then I release them. That way, they don’t knock me over in their excitement to get outside and it gives me a couple seconds to visually check that the gate is closed. That type of limit helps us all stay in control!

  11. How interesting. I have been thinking about needing some limits myself. I am at my desk for many hours and often wonder what the heck I did all day. Unfortunately I am the mistress of moving my tasks to the next day on my calendar. How disturbing! haha

  12. Gizmo has few limits, but he does respect the ones that I’ve set out and it makes our relationship run smoothly. I could definitely benefit from a few myself, but they’ll have to be self-imposed and that’s hard

  13. Sage knows her limits and respects them. Of course, it’s taken a while! She hated the crate at night, even though we spent several months working on it. But as soon as we ‘opened the door’, she was perfectly happy and sleeps all night. In fact, I’m up before she is every morning!

  14. goldenrescue says:

    “Too much freedom gives me puppy brain.”
    I love that sentence! And yes, I experience it. Almost daily, since I’m retired, but less so on the days I volunteer for a variety of things, since then I have those limits.

  15. Limits are good. I’m the type that when I know something needs to get done like cleaning my kitchen, I know it will eventually get done. It always does, at the weirdest possible time.

  16. What a great reminder as I write this at 1:30am (after taking a vacation day from work) as Kayo sleeps in her bed next to me and not in her crate! I’m the same way and so is Kayo. I sometimes think maybe I should loosen up the structure just a tad since Kayo is doing so wonderfully, then I remember that dogs love structure. She’s never sad or depressed when I give her structure and some boundaries, and those limits helped us find great balance and strengthened our relationship. Great post!

  17. Thought provoking. Maya is the only dog I’ve crate trained. It has worked out well, for the most part, but oddly, she will pee or poo in her crate before she will go anywhere else. I’m not sure where I went wrong on that one. But her crate is her safe place. She goes in there to get away from Pierson when he pesters her to play too much. Or when there is too much activity going on and she wants to get out from under our feet.

    I know what you mean about puppy brain. I get to make my own schedule. It is very difficult staying on task because the only boss telling me what to do is myself. It is so easy finding excuses. Hmmm. Maybe if I put a huge crate around my desk and had my husband lock me in before he goes to work! 😉

  18. This is SOO true! I complain about work, but then when i’m on holiday, I get anxious with the lack of routine and don’t quite know what to do with myself. I’m far more sane with some limits.

  19. I do much better with structure and lists. If I have total free time I end up doing nothing and stay on the computer. I get more done when I have structure or a due date.

  20. I recently retired our crate to the basement as Lady is such an easy breezy thing, but I’d have to agree that dogs and humans do well with limits. I’m like you–happier and more productive when I’m busy and have a more structured existence.

    I’ve thought of it in the context of music too-the best improvisers are those who know the structure really well before they start improvising.