@rubybasenji I don't "do" crates. Primarily because it just wasn't something that was normal for dog owners to do (when I was a young adult). Of course, back then we let the dogs out the back door to roam at their leisure. They always came back and it was never a big deal. We didn't carry plastic baggies to clean up after them. And we didn't see any reason to fence the back yard. The only time you needed a crate was for the airlines if you were flying somewhere. And there was really only one kind that you could buy .Life was just different "back then".
I missed out on doodle's puppy-hood. I brought her home at 18 months (almost 3 years ago). She was already trained (housebroken, familiar with a leash, etc.). I really only had to accept that she needed to adjust to her new home and family. It took a couple months, but I started to realize that she was trying very hard to tell me what she needed (or wanted). I just had to figure out what she was saying.
She will stare at the window if it's sunny out and the shades are down. She's telling me to raise them so she can enjoy the warmth of the sunlight.
She will sit by the door if I am getting ready to leave. She's telling me she wants to go with me. And,
She will walk back and forth between my office and bedroom to tell me it's time to go to sleep.
I've opened my home to numerous dogs. Mutts, pure bred, rescues, adoptions, foundlings. They were all great dogs, but doodle is the first dog I've had that "thinks". I swear she does math calculations in her head when she has to jump off the curb, over the puddle, and land on the car seat! She figures things out, she really does. So I can't take any credit for training her... she figured out how to tell me what she needs. She trained me.
As for the visual cues, it's just something I tried that worked. It took an afternoon and then she was bored with the whole thing. Of course, every day and every time I leave = reinforcement of the lesson. And I think that reading "Inside a Dog", by Alexandra Horowitz, helped me look at her differently.