Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Crate of Doom



Sorry!  Apparently Lollie wanted to say, "Hi!" while I was away from my desk.

Anyway, we have another question today.  Today's question is about a dog who is scared of his new, wire crate.

When we first got Ruger we "crate trained" him. I use "" because I know we could have done a much better job of it but he was happy to go in his crate (that we kept getting larger as he got larger) but about 4 months ago he outgrew the largest airport/carrier crate they made so we had to go to a larger metal collapsible crate. He is TERRIFIED of it, we put him in with treats, we've tried putting his food in there but he won't eat it (days on end), we've tried covering it more like a "den" but he brings the blanket in between the slats and starts chewing on it, we've never put him in there as a punishment (same as his old crates) and whenever we had put him in any of his crates we always put a bone for him to chew on as well as a treat. It's reached the point we are having to full on carry him in the larger metal crate (and at 100lbs it's not easy). What else can we do?

This is a surprisingly easy fix, but it does require a little bit of time and effort.

Step 1: Teach him to simply go in the crate.
The key here is not to force him to stay in it, but to teach him that going in it is fun.  Really, you can do this a number of ways.  You can have him follow a trail of high-value treats into the crate, you can try to get him to take a running start and lead him into the crate, or you can throw his favorite toy into the crate (I would try to avoid simply forcing and shoving him in).  Once he goes in (and this may take some time) give him a huge reward.  I prefer to use a handful of hot dogs or cheese, something my dog really like.  I'll make a big deal of how good he was for going in, give him the treats, and let him out.  Repeat this for a while until Ruger is happily entering the crate.  Remember, he doesn't have to stay in there for any length of time.  He just has to go in.

Step 2: Lengthen his stay.
Once he's happily entering his crate, encourage him to stay in the crate longer by giving him more treats.  I'll generally use an initial command like "go to bed" to get him to enter, and then I lengthen by treating and saying, "Good, good bed."  Of course, you would not go from 0-5 minutes right away.  You may start by having him remain in the crate for just a few seconds, and gradually lengthen his time in there to a minute or two.

Step 3: Shut the door.
Once his time in the crate has lengthened to a minute or so, take it back a step.  Have him go in the crate, treat him a few times for staying in there, then shut the door.  Leave the door shut just long enough to give him a treat through the wires, then open the door.  Once he seems OK with this, return to lengthening his time in the crate, this time with the door shut.

Step 4: Put it all together.
Now is the moment of truth.  See if he will enter the crate, stay in there, and allow you to shut the door all without panicking.  Instead of simply feeding him treats at this point, I would give him something to occupy his time (a Kong or some other puzzle toy is helpful).  He shouldn't stay in there long, maybe just long enough to finish his toy, but by this point he should be able to stay without panicking and without you right next to him.

After following all these steps, Ruger should be able to enter his crate with ease, and you should quickly be able to leave him in the crate while you leave for bouts of time.  I will say, though, if Ruger has issues with even going near his crate, you may need to start with one step earlier.  If he won't even go near the crate, teach him to walk in a heel next to the crate and around the crate until it is no longer scary.  You can also have him down-stay next to the crate and reward him for that.

For most dogs, this a fairly short process and may only take a few days to a week to really get down (depending on how much you work with him).  I have full faith that Ruger will get the hang of things quickly and life will return to somewhat normal soon.

Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. I need help with my 2 year old miniature long haired dachshund. She is trained to go on a wee wee pad but recently has come over to me when I am sitting on the floor to play with her and peed on me before I realize what she is doing. Tonight I was sitting on the phone and she sat at my feet and peed. Can you help me understand this behavior and possibly eliminate it? Thanks so much