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The saga of Ozzy & his crate continues...

Mgue
October 14th, 2008, 12:39 PM
Ozzy is about 19 weeks now, and still having problems with being crated and being left home alone.

Most days he isn't left alone at all, so he's only in his crate overnight. He has no problems with his crate overnight.

When we leave, he goes in his crate. We distract him with a Kong & PB, but as soon as it's done, it's high-pitched whining, barking, banging around, etc. He does it for about 5 minute intervals every 30-60 minutes or so.

Occasionally, I put him in the crate when I'm home (like when I clean the floors), and he still whines & cries to be let out. He does NOT like when that door closes on him.

I think he has a bit of separation anxiety. Also, leaving and crating are two over-lapping issues for me.

#1) How should I go about getting him used to being in his crate even when I am at home? I want to get him used to his crate so he doesn't associate being in his crate with being left home alone. Also I feel like it will make him more comfortable when we have to leave the house while he's in his crate.

#2) How do I go about making him feel comfortable with us leaving? I've read a lot about leaving for just a minute or two, and slowly building up. However, I think the first obstacle is making sure he's okay in his crate, and then making sure he's okay with us leaving. Right now, he isn't left alone much but he still gets very anxious!

Finally, a third issue is that Ozzy had soiled his crate a couple times. On Saturday night - he was alone for 5 hours. Either he couldn't hold it, or he did it out of anxiety.
He actually soiled the black fuzzy mat that covers the crate's plastic floor, but he doesn't soil his bed which sits on the mat. I think he actually moved the bed to soil the mat underneath.

So, we got him a smaller crate now since that one was too big. Then yesterday it had been only 90 minutes since his last pee (he usually goes every 3 hours) and he had to go again. Both of us weren't able to take him out that very second, and he ended up walking into his smaller crate and soiling the black mat again (his bed was out of the crate). He got a big "bad boy" and a timeout.

We know its our fault - we should have taken him out. But we're also wondering why he'd choose to soil his crate rather than anywhere else... We've decided to take out the black mat entirely and just put his bed in there. I can't bring myself to leave him on the plastic floor only...

So #3) How do I get him to stop soiling in his crate???

tenderfoot
October 14th, 2008, 02:45 PM
First go to our article on crate training - for a brush up. http://www.tenderfoottraining.com/crate.htm

Some how we have either rewarded him for his complaining or we have asked too much of him too soon. At 19 weeks I would not expect him to be able to stay in a crate for 5 hours (night time is different). I know a lot of trainers who say 1 month equals 1 hour, but I think its more like months = hours minus 1 hour. So he might be a 4 hour limit. He also has to learn how to hold his potty until you let him out. Strength of bladder and bowel count for a lot here.

You need to back track a bit - you have left him too long for his comfort zone and forced him to soil in it so now he thinks its okay to soil in it. You have disciplined him for soiling the house but not for the crate because when he did it you weren't around. He thinks 'no one seemed to mind that, so I guess I should keep going in there' Oh, and I don't think he intentionally soiled under the mat - dogs dig the ground and scatter their feces, so he might have been just trying to do that and upended the mat in the mean time.

#1 - This is combination of getting him used to the crate when you are home and stopping his complaining. Think of teaching a child to spend time doing homework in their room - you can make it a punishment and no fun or you can ease them into it and make it a habit - homework happens - no options. Crate happens - no options. You need to put him in there when he is sleepy and (as in the article) lay down with him outside of his crate while he is in the crate. Act like you can't be bothered because you are tired, but you need to relentlessly put him back into the crate (stop him at the entrance before he can actually get out of it) until he stops arguing (usually 3-5 attempts). When he relaxes to sleep then you can shut the door and go about your business. If he wakes prematurely and whines, then you can go up to the crate and give the crate a good pop on the top with your hand and at the same time you say 'quiet' in a firm, sharp tone. It needs to be enough to startle him but not scare him. You might need to do this 3-5 times. The startle empowers our word 'quiet' so that once he understands you should just be able to say 'quiet' and he will settle down. You are creating pressure (the startle) to correct his whining, after he is quiet for 5 mintues then you can let him out and give him CALM praise. Too often we over praise our dogs and create drama around things that should be a non-event. The crate needs to be a non-event.

#2 - He gets anxious because he doesn't get left alone very much - he has no coping skills. Once he is accustomed to the crate you need to start getting him used to your coming and going. You can start by going for the triggers that would signal your leaving - pick up your keys and put them down, go to the closet and get your coat and take it out, pick up your purse and put it down. You are desensitizing him to the triggers. I know a dog who can tell by the shoes his mom puts on - what is going to happen next - sneakers mean walk, heels mean crate, slippers - no change. Then you need to come and go A LOT. Do not say hello or goodbye as you leave and return. Pretend that you have a project outside but all of your tools are inside and you keep needing to get them. You might only make it to the door when you return for a tool, then you might make it out the door when you have to return. The point is you need to come and go at short intervals and then lengthen them to longer and longer intervals and then add the triggers.

#3 - Soiling the crate can be a stress issue, a bladder issue, a puppy issue, but they are all resolved by taking the above steps and getting him used to his crate, getting him used to your coming and going, and making it a part of his everyday life.

I highly recommend you read the article and think of today as a fresh start. Otherwise you are going to be dealing with this problem for too many months to come - then that can lead to negative feelings towards the pup and this really isn't his fault. He's just a pup who needs a bit more patience and consistency of your part.