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Ideas to get Diesel to like his crate?

February 7th, 2011, 01:11 PM
Hi all, :)

It's been about 6 months since we adopted Diesel and we still can't get the big guy to like his crate. He tolerates it - he won't hurt himself or anything like that in it, but he makes it very clear he doesn't want to go in. Once he's in, he immediately starts to bark and cry. By the time we come home, he is usually just sitting or laying down, patiently waiting to come out.

We have tried both the wire/fold-down crate and the plastic type. He seems to like the wire crate better. We have it placed beside Brynn's, so they are right next to each other. We leave music playing while we are gone. We feed him in it. I even give him his raw bones in it (with the door open), but unless I am standing there beside him or he can see me, he leaves his crate and the bone in it. We usually give him a kong stuffed with goodies which he will empty while we are gone. He doesn't touch the other chews we have in his crate. We've tried leaving toys, etc. in there but it doesn't seem to help.

We'd like to leave the door open while we are home so he can go in it as he pleases, but we are afraid this will cause some issues with the other dogs. The dogs seem to be pretty protective over their private spaces and we are weary to try leaving the door open - if another dog walked in, we are concerned it would start a fight.

We're pretty sure this stems from him being abandoned. He really likes to be by our side and I think it's safe to say this is his way of showing his anxiety towards us leaving. It's not a super big deal that he barks or cries - we live in a house by ourselves so it doesn't disturb the neighbors, still I feel so bad for him - I'd love for the little guy to enjoy his crate :rolleyes:

Oh, and we never use his crate as punishment. Its possible I suppose he has had a negative experience with a crate in his past, but we don't have any other options. We are pretty sure our house would be in 2 X 4's if we left him out alone. We do try to exercise him and Brynn a fair bit before we leave in the mornings, but thats been more difficult with this cold weather. We are looking at trying out a doggie daycare for him, but obviously can't afford to do that every day of the week that we work.


February 7th, 2011, 01:22 PM
Buy and watch the Crate Games DVD by Suzan Garett. It is the holly bible of crate training :) and goes well beyond just getting your dog to like his crate. It's an entire regiment of games and exercises using a crate that not only make your dog love the crate, the crate actually becomes a very useful training tool. Plus it's a very fun and productive way to spend time with your dog, great for rainy afternoons.

February 7th, 2011, 02:05 PM
Thanks choochi, I will look into that!

February 7th, 2011, 02:07 PM
Leo still doesn't like his crate or being left alone after a year of having him. He slept in the kennel at night for the first 6 months or so and now only goes in when we leave. He barks, cries, goes wide eyed and panicky, drools and scratches at the door. luckily my neighbor doesn't mind barking, but we have since gotten a citronella collar because we plan to move and don't want to be evicted.
We have a plastic kennel because as a child I had a wire kennel for the dog and he would pee out the bars and I didn't want a repeat of that, especially since the apartment has carpet. I would try a wire because he would probably like more visibility but I don't feel like buying a second one.
We have tried games etc, but he knows the difference when it is a game and when we are going out. Sometimes he won't even eat his kong when left alone in there, even if it is filled with cheese and sardines and other delicious things.
I find having a bit of a consistent routine has helped. I had more classes in the morning this semester so after about a month of basically having to put him in the kennel he now knows he has to go in in the morning, but he is slow to get in and starts shivering as soon as he knows it's time... Some dogs just hate their kennel/being alone if you find anything that helps let me know...

February 7th, 2011, 02:10 PM
This isn't about the crate - this is about separation anxiety.

Sounds like you are doing a lot of things well, but we would add more to your list.

It is important for him to learn that the crate doesn't mean you are leaving. So the very thing you need to do is put him in the crate when you are home. He currently associates the crate with you leaving but he needs to learn that crate happens at any time. So it would be great if you could help him practice being in the crate randomly throughout the day with the door closed. Short times to begin and growing to longer and longer times.

The other part of the picture is that he needs to become desensitized to your coming and going. Every time you leave the house do not create drama by saying "bye, be good, I'll be be home soon!" and do not come in the house with " I'm home! miss me?", (don't even look at him) your energy and attitude feeds into your dog and creates drama around your leaving the house.

You also need to come and go a lot. Pretend you have a project outside and all of your tools are inside. So you are constantly coming and going - never acknowledging the dog when you do so. You need to do this until he barely lifts his head when you come and go. Then he's actually starting to get over it.

If he complains you have two choices, the first is to ignore the behavior and he will learn it doesn't work and he will stop. The other is to correct him and this makes sense if he is barking too much (creating too much drama in his head). If he respects you then a simple "quiet" in a firm tone should suffice, but if that doesn't work then you might have to add a startle to empower your word. You could walk to the crate and pop your hand down on the crate to create a startle sound which snaps your dog out of his barking and empowers your word. Do not look at him or chat with him before or after you startle him, just walk away. But if he complains again you will have to repeat until he gets the message. Most dogs will challenge you 3-5 times before they comply.

You might also have to gradually create more distance between you and the crate as he calms down. If he is good with you being 10 feet away then practice 20 feet, then 30 feet etc. This should go fairly quickly.

When you are home try not to spend too much time just loving/coddling him, he needs to work his mind as well. He needs to learn to do long stays and hold them while you are wandering about the house. He needs to learn how to be away from you even when you are in the house.

The problem is that then we get a wonderful new dog we tend to lavish so much love on the dog and not enough structure or schooling. Everything must be balanced - it is always a balance of love, trust and respect. Love is the easy part but it can set a dog off balance if it is not EQUALLY balanced with trust and respect. He needs to TRUST that you will always return and he needs to RESPECT your request to be good in his crate which will come naturally to him as he is given opportunities to practice being in his crate.

February 7th, 2011, 08:05 PM
Excellent feedback everyone! Tenderfoot thank you for all the info, we will try some of your ideas, thanks!!!

February 9th, 2011, 06:53 PM
Tenderfoot I wish it was so easy, my dog came to be at 9 months old with separation anxiety, he was dumped at the animal shelter because he had separation anxiety. He spent the first 7 months of his life in a petstore and the 2 months before that assumingly in a puppy mill.
So not all cases are as cut and dry as far as just how they are treated after you get them. I did everything recommended, don't give him loads of attention, set out rules for him, and he is perfect in every respect except for loosing himself when we go out.
After a year and he is not much better, he has ups and downs but in general does not want to be left alone. He OK as long when SOMEONE is around. Since I have no idea how he was housed initially in the store it is possible he is simply use to NEVER being alone, and therefore suffers anxiety like some ex-racing greys who are use to constant proximity to other dogs.
I wish separation anxiety was something simple to train out but even desensitization didn't help and when we try randomly putting him in his kennel he started becoming very anxious because he never knew when he would be told to go in the kennel.
I am thinking of switching to a wire kennel and getting DAP spray while i transition him into that...

February 9th, 2011, 10:06 PM
Absolutely some problems are tougher to fix than others.

I like this analogy - think of your dog always being used to having someone near by, as though he had an umbilical cord plugged into another being (dog or person) at all times and he believes that he will die if he isn't plugged in. Each time that being leaves he panics, believing he won't survive. If we stretch that cord too far and too fast he thinks it has snapped and panic ensues.

So we need to work hard at desensitizing him slowly to our coming and going, by stretching the cord in little increments just enough that he feels a little concerned but not enough to panic him, until he acclimates through repetition. Each time we need to stretch the cord just a tad further until he accepts the new distance. Then keep extending it until he no longer worries, i.e. you are able to be out of sight, then out of the house.

With a dog who had such an unnatural start this can take time.

February 10th, 2011, 11:59 AM
Ya I'll have to agree with Tenderfoot, stick to your guns. Some dogs are harder to deal with then others, but the longer you "give in" and make up excuses the more your dog is used to the current routine and the harder it will be in the long run to get him over his anxiety.

I have a client who adopted a 7mo husky mix who had horrible separation anxiety, I mean HOOORIBLE!! The dog would actually hurt herself, howled and acted out as if she was being skinned alive any time she was even left out of sight never mind actually alone and never mind in the crate. They worked extremely hard and her retraining included a 24/7 regiment of very long hikes to tire her out, structured crate games, gradually introducing her to being separated and eventually alone, and it has all paid off immensely. If you met this dog today you would think she is a perfectly well adjusted angel. They stuck to their guns, provided her with lots of structure, I know they paid for this with plenty of sleepless nights, and I'm sure lots of inconvenience, but their dedication to retraining this dog has been exemplary. With dogs you often do get out what you are willing to put in. No body said taking care of dogs is always easy.

The key thing is taking incredibly tiny steps, remaining positive, patient, and above all persistent and consistent.